Getting the Unemployment Benefit
A reader recently asked me about the possibility of his receiving the unemployment benefit here in Japan after quitting his job. I thought this is an interesting subject which hasn't been covered much in English.
Please note that ALL the comments below only apply if you have a valid working visa. If you don't, or if your visa is soon due to expire, you need to get another job, any job, pronto - so that you can get past the renewal dates.
Firstly, so long as you have been part of the Koyo Hoken (employment insurance) program as an employee, then if you lose your job you are eligible to claim "kihon teate", (basic daily allowance) of up to 80% of your last 6 month's averaged monthly salary, for up to 6 months. Just how much you get depends on a case-by-case basis on your age, reason for losing the last job, and the period of time over which you have paid in Koyo Hoken. Just as a guideline, if you were forced to leave your job, the unemployment benefit will be paid for between 90 days and 330 days depending on the years spent in that company. If you have left the company of your own volition, then payments will be made for between 90 days and 150 days, again depending on the years spent in that company.
The process for claiming the unemployment benefit is that you go register at your local Hello Work office, the government's employment agency. They do a job viability assessment with you, and a case officer starts recommending jobs. Not that there will be many. Reading posts on the Internet, I see that less than 1 in 10 foreign applicants lands a job through Hello Work, and almost none of these jobs are in the traditional gaijin worker areas such as English teaching, research, etc. Instead, you'll find that the focus is on cleaning and construction work - much the same as government-run employment agencies in other countries. Hello Work expects that professionals will use privately run employment agencies.
As mentioned previously, whether you were fired or resigned makes a difference to collecting the benefit. If you were fired, then generally you have to wait 4 weeks for the application to be accepted and the payments to flow. The point of these payments is that they are there to tide you over while you look for another job. So that's why there is a 6 month limit to them.
If you resigned from your last job of your own volition, then the waiting period is up to 3 months. If you're still unemployed after this time, and providing you still have a valid visa, then you can go claim the unemployment benefit as well.
The reader asked me if he had to stay in Japan while waiting for his unemployment benefit application to come through. Although technically speaking he isn't collecting the benefit yet, and so could justify being overseas, in fact you have to physically be here. The whole focus of the Hello Work system is to find you work at minimal cost to the government. Thus, they want to get you work before the unemployment benefit starts, and they expect you to be around if a job pops up. During the application period in particular, they will be reviewing you regularly for jobs, you have to attend job hunting seminars, and they want to see proof that you've been actively looking for a job. Clearly you can't do this if you're on a beach in Thailand!
It may be that the job found for you is not full time. You still have to take it. In doing so however, you can receive a supplementary allowance called a "job starter's allowance" so long as the job runs for more than 1/3 of the hours in a normal working month.
Lastly, an important footnote; anyone is eligible for unemployment benefit regardless of their visa type, so long as they have paid for their Employment Insurance. However, as stated earlier, I would suggest that before saying "I quit!" to that tyrannical boss, you'd best check your particular situation with Hello Work, as well as making sure that your visa is current!