Vol.40-No.4 April 1, 2001
Now that Japan's economy is becoming increasingly globalized, the number of Japanese who work abroad and the number of people from abroad who work in Japan are increasing. As this occurs, various problems are arising in terms of social security for Japanese working abroad. For example, the Japanese employee sent to work abroad on the assumption that their overseas duty will be short term, often has to pay premiums to pension schemes both at home and in the country abroad. However, due to his or her short stay, the worker in question is not qualified later to receive payment from the scheme abroad. This will oblige not only the worker but also the company to bear the burden of those pension premiums. The problem occurs because the scheme in each country is designed for the citizens of that country and not for foreigners who happened to be residing there on a short-term basis. To ameliorate the situation for foreign employees, it is necessary for the countries involved to conclude a bilateral agreement so that the double payment of premiums can be avoided. One approach is to arrange for the payments in each of the two countries to somehow be counted or created in one of the systems. The Japanese government now has such agreements in place with Germany and the U.K., and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has embarked on negotiations with its counterpart in the U.S. for a similar agreement.
The Japanese government has been discussing the issue with various countries since around 1970. With Germany it commenced negotiations in September 1995 and signed an agreement in April 1998. That agreement came into effect in February 2000. With the U.K. negotiations began in 1998, and an agreement was signed in February 2000. That agreement came into effect in February 2001. Under the agreements, workers in the other country are exempt from payment of pension premiums if their stay in the country does not exceed five years. If the stay exceeds five years, the worker is entitled to a further exemption for a maximum of up to three years. Furthermore, a self-employed person working in a country within a certain period is treated as an employee, and they continue to be counted as being enrolled in the pension scheme at home while contributing abroad.
Since the 1980's, the Japanese government has been calling on the U.S. for discussions to reach an agreement on social security services. However, plagued by financial debt, the U.S. needed to think carefully about the income from premiums paid by long-term Japanese residents. However, with the U.S. economic turn-around in the 1990s and the increasing number of Americans who are working in Japan, the U.S. government has begun to respond to Japan's request for negotiations, and the first round of talks was held in November 2000. So far the discussions have not yet come to focus on the possible content of basic agreements. As a result of the change of U.S. presidents, the date for the second round of discussions has not yet been set.
The government also held preliminary negotiations with the French government in June 2000. In October 2000 it held a meeting to exchange opinions with an eye on further negotiations with the Republic of Korea. It has also received feelers concerning the possibility of negotiating bilateral agreements from Canada, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, and the Philippines. It intends to advance the negotiation process in due course.
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