Japan to Require All Foreign Residents to Enroll in National Pension System

In a move that will impact hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals residing in Japan, the Japanese government announced plans this week to strengthen efforts to ensure all foreign residents are enrolled in the country’s public pension program.

Under current regulations, all foreign nationals aged 20-59 who live in Japan are required to pay into the national pension system, either through self-enrollment or registration by their employer. However, government sources estimate that a small percentage still fall through the cracks and remain unenrolled.

To close this gap, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will upgrade its pension database system beginning around October 2024. This will allow the ministry to automatically obtain data on newly-arrived foreign residents and verify their enrollment status.

For those found not to be enrolled, the ministry will first send a letter requesting they sign up for the pension program. If no action is taken after this notification, the ministry will have the authority to automatically enroll the foreign resident.

“The aim is to ensure all foreign residents contribute premiums and are able to receive full social security benefits like the pension payment once they reach retirement age,” a government source stated.

Foreign residents enrolled in the pension system must pay monthly premiums of 16,980 yen (approximately $108 USD) for the 2024 fiscal year. In exchange, they become eligible to start receiving pension payments from the government at age 65.

This policy change will impact foreign students, technical trainees, long-term residents and any other foreign nationals living in Japan. With the country’s foreign resident population continuing to grow, the government views expanding pension enrollment as critical for funding the social safety net and allowing immigrants to sustain themselves in old age.

Foreigners in Japan or those considering a move to the country should make preparations to compulsorily enroll and contribute to the national pension system under the new regulations taking effect later this year. Failure to do so could result in penalties or potential loss of residency status.

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