Who can claim unemployment insurance

To be able to claim unemployment insurance, one must first be insured under the same scheme for at least 12 months in a 2-year period before becoming unemployed. A “month” is calculated as 11 days worked per 30 days or receiving a salary for 80 hours of work under the same period. The benefit is open to Japanese and foreign residents in Japan. However, those unemployed but have no plans to get a job anytime soon cannot receive the benefit. Those without a proper work visa, foreigners working part-time, or under a working holiday visa are also not eligible for the benefit.

Requirements to claim

There are a few requirements to submit when applying for unemployment insurance. 

  1. Employment Insurance Insured Separation Form (雇用保険被保険者離職票), which is provided upon your resignation from your previous employer (see photo 2)
  2. Employment insurance card from your previous employer (雇用保険被保険者証) (see photo 3)
  3. Two recent ID photos, size 3 cm x 2.5 cm
  4. Valid identification, such as your resident card, My Number, etc
  5. Your bank passbook or cash card 
  6. Personal seal or hanko (if available)

The overall process to claiming unemployment insurance

Step 1: Prepare the necessary documents and requirements. 

Step 2: Go to the Hello Work (the Japan government’s employment service center) branch with jurisdiction over your residence.

Step 3: Apply for unemployment insurance benefit and receive details on the mandatory briefing session (7 days from your application date, which is also considered the waiting period).

Step 4: Attend the seminar and receive your unemployment eligibility certificate

Step 5: Attend Hello Work’s unemployment recognition days (once a month).

Step 6: Wait for the benefit to be deposited into your account while actively looking for a job in the meantime.

Step 7: Inform Hello Work regarding your job hunting, re-employment, and other work-related changes, as this greatly affects your status for receiving the benefit. There are forms to fill out and submit at the back of the booklet for such things. 

How much unemployment benefits will you receive?

In general, those who are eligible to receive unemployment benefits will receive about 50-80% of their last salary for the six months before retirement/resignation/termination of work. The higher one’s previous salary, the lower the benefit amount because the government assumes that those who were paid more should have more emergency savings. 

Take note that regardless of eligibility, one can only claim up to one year of benefits from the start of unemployment; hence, it is best to apply as soon as possible. How long you will receive the benefit depends on the grounds of unemployment, such as voluntary resignation (up to 150 days), company bankruptcy or layoffs (up to 330 days), and so on. 

If you manage to get a job sooner than later, you can still apply for a re-employment allowance, which is a maximum of 30% of your unemployment benefit, if approved. 

Our personal experience claiming the benefit

In our case, my husband had to resign from his full-time job to pursue another career. However, his plans to study abroad were diverted due to an accident resulting in a minor surgery with a long rehabilitation period. 

He had paid over three years of employment insurance at his previous job, so he definitely fits the base requirement of having paid into the system enough times in order to claim the benefit. 

At first, we thought he would not be eligible to receive anything due to a six-month delay from his last day at work to the time we tried applying. He had a rather long recovery period, which hindered his ability to work. However, no questions were asked regarding the delay when we submitted the documents and applied.

First visit to Hello Work

The approach may be different depending on the Hello Work branch, but the overall process should be the same. For our first visit to the office, we submitted the requirements. We filled up a form at the information desk, waited for our number, and then talked with one of the staff who inputted the application into the system. This took about an hour, and we finished our turn with a completed Hello Work application form indicating that my husband is “actively searching for a job.” 

Up next was a rather long wait (around 3 hours in our case due to a long queue) for the date of the seminar or briefing on the entire process. The staff gave us a lot of brochures, as well as a booklet with the date and time of the seminar. 

Second visit to Hello Work

The seminar is mandatory, and failing to attend will cancel your eligibility to claim unemployment benefits. It is also advised to arrive at least 30 minutes early for the registration. During the seminar, the staff will explain the entire process once more, explain where and how to look for jobs, and you should walk out with your Employment Insurance Eligibility Certificate (雇用保険受給資格者証) (see photo 5) and Unemployment Certification Report (失業認定申告書) (see photo 6).

The eligibility certificate should contain vital details such as the amount of the benefit allowance, the duration, the payment restriction period or waiting period before you can expect the financial assistance to arrive, the bank details you registered, and so on. 

Following visits 

From there, my husband had to return to Hello Work once a month to prove that he had been “actively looking for a job” to continue receiving the benefits. Note that there are certain criteria to meet before you can say you were job hunting. Merely scrolling through job posts online or asking a friend for a referral does not count. You must submit resumes, go to interviews, or even attend training and examinations to further boost your career in order for Hello Work to accept your minimum of two job-hunting attempts each month.

You also need to be brutally honest in reporting any form of work, even if it’s simply helping a friend move houses, and you got paid for the job. As long as it’s a form of work, it must be included in your monthly unemployment certification report submitted to Hello Work. 

Failure to comply with such rules, including falsifying job search accounts, can result in a penalty twice the amount received plus an annual 5% fine until the full benefit has been repaid. Fraudulent actions can also lead to prosecution under Japanese law. 

The entire process might seem complicated at first but rest assured that Hello Work will give you everything you need to know in advance. The staff were also quite accommodating in providing assistance.

If you ever find yourself in a financial pinch between jobs, hopefully, this guide helped give you some direction on a possible option for claiming some monetary assistance.