I have been getting a number of hits about the new Zairyu Card that the Japanese government will introduce next July. The same as three years ago, when the issue of not being in the pension and health insurance came up, the same anxiety with those is recurring because of the new card.
Let me try to assuage some of that by saying that no one really knows the future. All that you can be fairly certain of, is that the centralized nature of the new Zairyu Card is going to mean that it will be MORE likely that the government knows whether or not you are in the correct pension and health insurance.
Even when I was writing Japan-side on the issue, I encouraged people to at least enroll in these. I realize that a plurality of Japanese youth routinely dodge paying these, but they are automatically enrolled. Enrollment also saves Americans the trouble of proving that you didn’t have self-employment income while in Japan, that should be taxed by the IRS. If you are enrolled in the kokumin nenkin, you have some base evidence that the country you would owe is Japan–not America.
The Zairyu Card (let’s call it Z-card) is going to be phased in. So some of you might not have to carry the card for a while, and you can hang on to the old one. But my understanding is that the database is going to be ahead of the Z-card. (So, yes, you have your old card, but someone has got you lined up in the database for when you finally get your new one.)
So my advice stays the same: enroll in the pension and the health insurance. The first year health insurance premium is very low, because your prior year income is ZERO if that is your first year in Japan. The pension is around 15,000 yen a month, tax deductible (so maybe no more than 11,700 yen net), but the enforcement is very low.
There are totalization agreements between the various major countries and Japan, so this money is not “lost”. The years you contribute will be combined with your home country years, and you will get a partial check at retirement. I know most people don’t worry about this until their 30’s or 40’s, but forewarned is forearmed. You might not be able to go back and “get” what you let pass by.
As you should know, I am not in Japan, so I am only giving you what I know based on following the issue. I advocate, in America, for America getting tougher about people not being let in to the correct Japanese social insurances. It is a big issue, because it is really about Japanese businesses and governments cheating Americans through intermediaries (like the ALT Dispatch outfits).
The Japanese know how to grab our Social Security out of that totalization treaty, as you can see:
Japan is already the Number Two taker of the foreign countries, out of our federal pension system. This number will no doubt grow and grow.
What an embarrassment to a ministry official when the headlines come out that Japan takes, and yet denies (for various cheap reasons) Americans in Japan!
[Update #1: Here is the link to the U.S. social security administration–the source of the numbers.]