Japan eyes expansion of workers' insurance scheme

Proposal could face backlash from some employers' segments

Japan eyes expansion of workers' insurance scheme

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

The Japanese government is reportedly discussing plans to expand the coverage of its employee pensions and health insurance programs to all workers in the country.

The proposal will be initially handled by a government panel of experts on Japan’s social security system for all generations, The Japan Times reported.

In June, Tokyo plans to decide on the direction for the insurance system covering all workers and have it reflected in its honebuto, or basic economic and fiscal policy guidelines.

This follows the enactment of several pension reform laws in May 2020. By October 2024, the government plans to expand the public pension programme to employees of all businesses with 51 or more personnel. The current minimum staff requirement is 501.

This round of discussions will be to determine whether the employee pension system can be expanded to include all workers, regardless of company size. The expert panel recommended that the government provide universal pension and insurance coverage for workers. The panel said that the pension programme must be reformed to include employees of small businesses, as well as freelancers and gig workers.

“We’re seeing diversified work styles introduced in Japan, with more people taking secondary jobs or working freelance,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said. “We have to think about ensuring social security that is neutral in terms of work styles.”

However, the proposal may see backlash from some employers, as pension premium payments are split by half between employers and employees. This means additional costs for small businesses. There are also questions about who will pay the employer’s half of the premiums for gig economy workers, freelancers and on-call workers.

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