Are You Ready for the Change? October 2024 is Coming Soon

Most General Union members work in irregular or part-time employment. We now have some important news that could significantly impact your coverage in the Employees, Health and Pension Insurance system, commonly known as SHAKAI HOKEN.

Since the early 2000s the GU has been tremendously active in fighting for coverage for language teachers at companies such as Berlitz and ECC and even at many colleges and universities. It was a time in Japan when many employers simply ignored or evaded enrolment responsibilities and spread lies that either migrant workers were not obligated to be enrolled or that the system was too expensive and inadequate to meet the needs of migrant residents. The GU challenged this narrative leading negotiations and strikes against companies that failed to enroll as well as demanded government action to curb the non-enrolment problem. This led to a giant probe of language schools in 2005 and more muscle for the union in demanding enforcement.

To provide some background to these upcoming October 2024 changes – back in 2016, the law was changed to require enrolment in SHAKAI HOKEN for those working at least 20 hours per week at companies with 501 or more employees. This was expanded in 2022 to cover companies with 101 or more employees.

And starting this October, the threshold will be lowered further to companies with 51 or more employees. This means more of our members working at smaller workplaces will now be eligible to join SHAKAI HOKEN.

Unfortunately, the government has also recently proposed a revision to the Immigration Law that would allow them to revoke the permanent residency status of foreign nationals who deliberately fail to pay their taxes. While officials claim this will only target malicious cases, it has caused significant anxiety among foreign residents in Japan. As a union that has long advocated for ensuring migrant residents are properly covered, we are glad the government is finally taking steps to address this problem, though they are far too late in doing so.

The government is now taking further action to strengthen enforcement and ensure all foreign residents are enrolled in the national pension system. Starting this October, the Japan Pension Service will obtain data on new immigrants and automatically enroll them if they fail to sign up voluntarily. They are also working to enroll the estimated 4% of existing foreign residents who remain unregistered. We believe the focus should be on holding employers accountable for properly enrolling their staff, rather than penalizing vulnerable workers.

Over the years, we have seen many cases where employers have willfully refused to enroll their workers in the mandatory health and pension schemes. In these instances, the burden has unfairly fallen on the workers, who may not have even fully understood the system due to lack of information from their employer. We believe the government needs to impose severe penalties on any employers who fail in their duty to properly enroll their staff.

We encourage you to stay informed about these upcoming changes. Our union will be closely monitoring the developments and advocating for policies that protect the interests of our non-regular members. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Together, we can navigate this transition and work towards a more inclusive and secure health and pension system for all.