Unemployment in Japan

Unemployment in Japan

Who's eligible for benefits and how to apply


For the past couple of months, the coronavirus pandemic has financially impacted countries around the world. Job losses due to lockdowns and failing businesses have become common, with an estimated 68 million jobs to be lost in Asia alone.

Although Japan has maintained a fairly low unemployment rate over the years, the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide state of emergency have drastically affected businesses, employees and job seekers. The national unemployment rate reached a one-year high of 2.5 percent in March, with over 3,000 people losing their jobs since the end of January. Many businesses are under pressure to lay off more workers, especially in the tourism, manufacturing and service industries where shutdowns directly affect income. 

For job seekers, the jobs-to-applicants ratio has been declining for three months straight, at 1.39 in March, the lowest since September 2016. Foreign students in Japan are also experiencing tough job hunting prospects, as companies are more keen on hiring the “safer” option of Japanese nationals. As job cuts and narrow work opportunities plague Japan and it’s foreign workers, the government’s Hello Work employment service center is facilitating online job hunting and phone consultations for job seekers.

Foreign workers in Japan hit hard by virus job losses need more help: support groups https://t.co/3BKhb9ssfq

— The Mainichi (Japan) (@themainichi) May 7, 2020

What to do if you’re unemployed in Japan

Fortunately, the Japanese government has set up a safety net for those who are recently unemployed. If you are fired, laid off or quit your job for whatever reason, you may be entitled to benefits under the government’s unemployment insurance system, known as koyou hoken (unemployment insurance).

What is koyou hoken?

Koyou hoken, also known as shitsugyou hokken (unemployment benefit), is meant to help workers, including foreign workers, who have recently been unemployed. Run by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the system offers a safety net for those in the process of finding a new job by providing unemployment benefits to former employees, freelancers and part-timers who have paid into the insurance. In order to claim your benefits, you must go through the government’s Hello Work organization, whose primary goal to help people find jobs in Japan. 

Who receives unemployment benefits?

Those who have worked in Japan for six months and made insurance payments are eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. In the case of full-time workers, unemployment insurance payments are bundled into the shakai hoken (social insurance benefits), which also includes pension and health insurance fees. Part-time or freelance workers pay the insurance independently through the kokumin kenko hoken (national health insurance) deduction.

Because unemployment benefits are intended for those temporarily in between jobs, applicants must visit a Hello Work office with proof that they are currently looking for work and sending out applications.

To be able to collect the basic allowance, it is necessary to present the proof of resignation or dismissal (rishokuhyo) provided by the company.#teate #hoken #hellowork #Japan #office #Koyou #work #jobhunting #services #employment #money #job #unemployment #insurance #allowance pic.twitter.com/aQcN6Hbg18

— ExportManga (@ExportManga) March 31, 2019

How to claim unemployment benefits 

Contact a local Hello Work office about your recent unemployment. As a preventative measure during the coronavirus pandemic, Hello Work is now encouraging phone consultations instead of office consultations. 

In order for them to assess your eligibility, you will need to submit the following documents:

  • A letter of separation (rishoku-hyo) from your previous employer showing your salary, length of employment and reason for leaving
  • Residence card
  • Bank book
  • My Number card or other photo ID
  • Hanko (personal seal)
  • Two passport-sized photos (3 cm x 2.5 cm)

Once the initial processing of documents is completed, there will be a waiting period of one week, during which you must financially support yourself. Afterward, your “basic allowance” will be determined. Keep in mind that you will have to have another meeting with a Hello Work representative one month later to show that you are actively seeking a job. You should be able to show that you are applying to at least two jobs monthly. 

How much can you collect?

Your “basic allowance,” or unemployment benefit, will vary depending on factors such as income, age and why you left your former job. Generally, benefits range from around 50 to 80 percent of your previous salary. Often, those with higher salaries are more likely to be paid a 50 percent allowance, with the assumption that they have savings. The period of receiving benefits is usually 90 days, but can differ depending on circumstances. 

For more financial support during the coronavirus pandemic, even if you’re still employed, check our article here: How to Apply for the ¥100,000 Handout and Other Aid.

Unemployment in Japan economic issues coronavirus covid-19 hello work insurance employment financial aid benefits job visa foreigners
Contact Hello Work to check for your employment insurance status and claim your unemployment benefits.

How does unemployment affect my visa status?

If you’re a foreign worker and lose your job, you will have three months to look for new one after notifying Hello Work of your unemployment. At the end of this period, your visa will be revoked. However, if you can prove that you have actively been job searching, Immigration Services may grant you an extension. 

Permanent residents, those married to a Japanese citizen, or spouses and children of permanent residents do not have to worry about unemployment affecting their visa status. 

Please note that failure to report your unemployment status within the 90 days may result in a fine of up to ¥200,000, imprisonment or deportation, as well as cancelation of residency. 

Unemployment in Japan economic issues coronavirus covid-19 hello work insurance employment financial aid benefits job visa
Foreigners have three months to look for a job after notifying Hello Work of their unemployment before their visa is revoked.

Other links: 

  • Hello Work: Visit their website (in Japanese) or call their Shinjuku branch at 03-5339-8625 for phone consultations. 
  • Free labor advice in English: Tokyo-based NPO POSSE provides free labor advice in English and Japanese.
    For inquiries related to labor laws, financial relief and other work-related concerns, email the organization’s counselors at supportcenter@npoposse.jp
  • Tokyo International Communication Committee website for foreign residents in Japan
  • Tokyo government’s multilingual phone consultation center for issues related to business and economic measures hotline: 0120-296-004 (10am – 5pm Mon – Fri)

Check this page for more updates and important resources related to COVID-19 in Japan.