What is the Japanese National Pension System?
“The (Japanese) National Pension is a public pension system participated by all persons aged 20 to 59 years who have an address in Japan, which provides benefits called the “Basic Pension” due to old age, disability, or death.”
– Japan Pension Service
The Japanese national pension system (日本年金) is essentially Japan’s social security. In general, all residents from the age of 20 to 59 (20 is the legal adult age in Japan) are required to pay into this system.
This article covers:
- 2 Types of Japanese Pension
- Who is required to register?
- How do I register?
- Double Pension and Social Security Agreement
- Will I get any of the money back?
Related article: Guide to Health Insurance in Japan
The 2 Types of Japanese Pension
There are 2 types of Japanese pension: the National Pension (国民年金), and the Employee Pension (厚生年金).
The National Pension is divided into 3 categories.
- Agricultural workers, self employed persons, students, fishery business operators, etc.
- Company employee, civil servant (those enrolled in the Employee Pension Insurance system or Mutual Aid Associations).
- Spouses of category 2.
The Employee Pension joins with the second category outlined above. In other words, additional insurance.
The company usually covers half of the Employee Pension payments. It is usually deducted from your monthly salary by the company – so you don’t need to actively worry about making these pension payments if your company is handling it for you.
You can look at this chart here to calculate roughly how much will be paid to the government each month based on your salary.*
*As of writing this article, August 2020. The above chart is for September, 2020, paid out of employees’ October 2020 paychecks.
Who is Required to Register for the Japanese Pension System?
According to the official website, anyone in Japan between the ages of 20 and 60 with a Japanese address is required to be insured by, and pay into the system – unless they are otherwise unable (such as individuals with disablities).
The only people who are excluded from the pension system are foreign nationals who have a visa for either long term sightseeing or medical stay.
All long term residents in Japan need to enroll in either of the 2 types of pension systems depending on their status.
Do Students Need to Pay as Well?
The wording on the official website is misleading as they use the term “exemption.” However, students are not exempt from this system – but they can apply to postpone the payments until after graduating if their income is below a certain threshold.
You will need to apply for the exemption for every year you are 20 or older.
If you are currently a student but have not yet registered with the national pension system yet, it is in your best interest to do that as soon as possible.
You can still apply for the student postponement “exemption” for the previous years that you were in Japan over the age of 20, so long as you can prove you were a student during those times. A student ID in addition to the other documents with dates of enrollment and expected graduation should be sufficient (if it is not enough you may need to prepare a “certificate of enrollment” – 在学証明書 from your school.)
How Do I Register?
If you are coming to Japan as an employee for a Japanese company, your company is most likely enrolling you into the Employee Pension. In this case, your company will handle most – if not all – of the registering work. Check with your employer if you are not sure whether you have been registered into the Japanese Pension system or not.
However, if you are registering with National Pension, you can do so at your nearest Japan Pension Service branch office. Access the full list (categorized by prefecture) on the official website here.
You can register at the closest Japan Pension Service branch, it should not take too long if the municipal office is not busy.
You will need to bring your passport, residence card, and My Number card if you have one. If you are a student you will need proof that you are a student (such as student ID – 学生証).
Within a few weeks you should receive your blue 年金手帳 (Pension book) in the mail.
Double Pension and the Social Security Agreement
If you have concerns about being double charged for social security – Please read below.
Japan has social security agreements with several different countries to ensure that foreign expats are not double charged for their pension. You can view the current list via this link on the nenkin.jp website. Last updated August 2020.
Japan’s social security agreements exist to eliminate the “dual burden of contribution payments” into multiple social security systems. The Japanese Pension Service recognizes that some social security programs can have “gaps” that are difficult to fulfill in both countries in order to receive the benefits. This is why they have these agreements in place.
You can check if your country is on this list by clicking the link above. However, please research the conditions of your home country’s agreement with Japan to understand the requirements and qualifications.
Will I Get Any of the Money Back from Japan?
You will get at least some of the money you put in back depending on how long you are staying in Japan. If you leave, you can apply for a “lump sum withdrawal” – or if you retire in Japan after paying into the pension system, you may be eligible for the “old age” pension benefits.
Lump Sum Withdrawal
If you plan on staying in Japan short term (less than 10 years), you may be eligible to receive some of your pension money back from Japan via lump sum. However, there are some conditions to fulfill. You can only apply after having left Japan permanently. Additionally, you will only be eligible for up to 36 months of pension money back, as 36 is the maximum amount the Japan Pension Service will give back for a lump-sum withdrawal.
Japan provides you up to 2 years after leaving Japan to request a lump-sum withdrawal payment.
To be eligible for a lump-sum withdrawal, you must fulfill the following requirements:
- You are non-Japanese.
- You have coverage periods, i.e., you have/had been covered, under the EPI for six months or more. Or you have six months or more of coverage period in total under the NP (as a CategoryⅠ insured person), including;
- Number of your coverage periods (months) for which you paid full amount contribution
- 3/4 of your coverage periods (months) for which you were exempt from 1/4 contribution payment
- 1/2 of your coverage periods (months) for which you were exempt from 1/2 contribution payment
- 1/4 of your coverage periods (months) for which you were exempt from 3/4 contribution payment
- You no longer have a address in Japan registered to the municipal office.
- You have never been entitled to Japanese public pension benefits including Disability Allowance
Via the Japan Pension Service Lump-sumWithdrawal Payments application PDF.
If you fulfill the above requirements, you can apply for the Lump-sum withdrawal for up to 36 months of pension.
In order to apply, you will need the following documents:
- Photocopy of your passport pages (showing name, DOB, nationality, signature, status of residence).
- Documents showing that you no longer have an address in Japan. (such as a JOHYO. Read more via this link. You do not need this if you have already registered your departure from Japan with your local municipal office)
- Documents including your bank’s certificate. Showing your bank’s name, name and address of branch office, your bank account number, and proof that the bank account holder’s name is your own.
The Japan Pension Service also must receive your application after your departure from Japan. Please note again, that the maximum lump-sum withdrawal period that the JPS will calculate is 36 months (3 years).
Additionally, pension under the “Employees Pension Insurance System” is subject to income tax of 20.42% (as of September 2, 2020) which will be deducted when the Pension Service pays you.
To get around this, you may claim a tax refund if you no longer reside in Japan. You will need to designate a tax agent in Japan to represent you. Please do this before leaving the country. File a “SHOTOKUZEI SHOHIZEI NO NOZEI KANRININ NO TODOKEDESHO” (tax agent designation) to the tax office registered with your last address in Japan. Any person residing in Japan can be your tax agent. Please refer to the nenkin.jp Lump-sum withdrawal PDF to read the fine print.
For more information, please refer to the nenkin.jp web page regarding lump-sum withdrawals.
Alternatively, if you decide to retire in Japan, then you will be paid back monthly out of the pension money if you are eligible for “old age pension”.
To be eligible, you must be at least 65, and have at least 10 years under “valid coverage periods”. You may be eligible even if you have lived in Japan for less than 10 years if you are covered under the Social Security Agreement in an eligible country for a 10 year period.
You can read more about the requirements on this PDF leaflet, in both English and Japanese.
In short, regarding the Japanese pension system:
- All foreign residents are required register with the Japan pensions service. (Either national pension or employee pension insurance.)
- You can register at your nearest Japan pension service branch office.
- There are Social Security agreements with certain countries to prevent double charging.
- You can apply for a lump-sum withdrawal of up to 36 months after leaving Japan.
- The requirement to be eligible for old age pension is 10 years.
This information last updated September 2, 2020.
Got Questions About Japan Visas?
Check out our article about applying for a Japan work visa – Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International studies – here!