Japan eyes expansion of corporate pension and insurance schemes to cover more part-timers

JIJI

The government plans to allow more part-time workers to join the corporate pension and health insurance programs, hoping it will reinforce the financial base for Japan’s overall pension and health insurance systems, sources said Monday.

Currently, part-timers who put in at least 30 hours a week, or who work less while still meeting certain wage conditions at companies with at least 501 workers, are covered by the employees’ pension (kosei nenkin) and insurance (kenpo) programs.

In addition, part-timers working at smaller firms can join the programs if their employers conclude relevant accords with labor unions.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is considering lowering the 501 personnel threshold to instantly expand the number of policyholders, and hopes to change the rule in fiscal 2020, a source said. To this end, the ministry plans to set up a panel of experts and employers in September, the source added.

The government also hopes that making more part-timers eligible for corporate pension benefits and health insurance protection will encourage women to join the workforce.

Employers, however, may oppose the proposal on the grounds that the move will increase their financial burdens, as they have to shoulder half of pension and insurance premiums, people familiar with the issue said.

The government adopted a basic fiscal and economic policy in June that states its intention to create pension and health insurance systems that cover all workers.