Japan Health Ministry to collect Data on Insurance Premium Payments by Foreign Residents

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The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will conduct its first survey on how much foreign residents are paying in health insurance and pension premiums to analyze their current and future impact on Japan’s social security system.

The ministry, which currently has no data on payments made specifically by foreign nationals, will conduct the survey soon and is now working on the details, said an official at the office of General Policy and Evaluation.

The move comes as the nation prepares to accept more foreign talent, both skilled and unskilled, to make up for its severe labor shortage.

It also comes on the heels of last week’s clearance by the Lower House of a bill to revise immigration laws, including a clause to revoke the permanent resident status of foreign nationals if they deliberately dodge taxes.

The clause, which some rights groups have protested against, saying it is discriminatory, is part of a wider revision to the immigration law. The revision includes replacing the technical intern training program with a new system that will allow foreign workers to switch employers and stay in Japan longer.

The health ministry official said the decision to collect data on foreign residents’ social security payments is based on an exchange in a Lower House committee meeting earlier this month, during which health minister Keizo Takemi acknowledged the need for more data. He was responding to a question from Yasushi Adachi, a member of parliament from Nippon Ishin no Kai.

Adachi argued that the burden on the social security system from accepting more foreign residents remains unclear but needs to be weighed against the need to bring them in.

In response, Takemi cited a sample survey taken by the Immigration Services Agency of 1,825 foreign nationals who applied for permanent residency between January and June of 2023, in which 235 people were found to have missed payments on their taxes, insurance, or pension premiums.

Of the 235 people, 213 had not made pension payments, 31 had missed payments of residential taxes and 15 had missed payments of national health insurance premiums.

There were no details that made clear how many of the payments were missed and for how long, an ISA official told the Lower House committee.

Takemi admitted that the survey was not comprehensive as it only covered a fraction of Japan’s permanent residents, who numbered 892,000 as of the end of last year. He said more data needs to be collected.

“The breakdown shows a trend — that the payments missed most often are those for pension premiums,” Takemi said. “Long-term residents, not just permanent residents, have the right to receive social security services, so it feels only natural for them to fulfill their duties by paying premiums, just like Japanese nationals.”

As of December 2023, the number of foreign residents in Japan stood at 3.42 million, up 10.9% from the previous year, according to the ISA.

The largest group, by nationality, of such residents were Chinese nationals, who numbered 822,000, followed by 565,000 Vietnamese nationals, 410,000 South Koreans and 322,000 Filipinos.

Image by: Pixabay

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