Japanese people are proud of their reputation for devotion to work and it is not uncommon for employees to work 60+ hours a week. Despite reports of employees suffering karo-shi, literally translated to mean ‘death from overwork’, these cases are rare and most workers enjoy excellent conditions. Dedication to career progression and loyalty to employers are the main motivations for working extra hours.
Holiday entitlement in Japan is shifting in line with much of the developed world with employees entitled to around 18.5 days paid leave per year. However, according to the Labour Ministry, the average worker only uses 9 of the days entitled to them. In 2015 the government announced plans to force employers to grant workers a minimum of five days of paid leave per year. Workers generally use holiday entitlement to cover sick days. Maternity leave is considered generous in Japan, with new parents being entitled to 14 weeks - six weeks prior to birth and eight weeks after - with up to 67% of their wages covered by social insurance.
Japan has 16 public national holidays, almost twice the number of UK and the rest of Europe. The Public Holiday Law, first introduced in 1948, enshrines holidays in the constitution. May is considered the busiest holiday period, when there are three consecutive holiday days in a row. Certain events of either celebration or mourning relating to the Imperial family are also regarded as national holidays.
Public holiday dates
New Year’s Day: 1st January
Coming of Age Day: 11th January
National Foundation Day: 11th February
Spring Equinox: 21st March
Showa Day: 29th April
Constitution Day: 3rd of May (observed on 6th if falls on Sunday)
Greenery Day: 4th May
Childrens’ Day: 5th May
Marine Day: 18th July
Respect for the Aged Day: 19th September
Autumn Equinox: 22nd September
Sports Day: 10th October
Culture Day: 3rd November
Labour Thanksgiving Day: 23rd November
The Emporers Birthday: 23rd December
New Year’s Eve: 31st December
Visas and eligibility to work
In April 2015 a Highly Skilled Professional (HSP) visa was introduced to make it easier for people from certain countries to stay and work in Japan. To qualify, workers need to achieve at least 70 points based on academic achievement, salary, age and work experience. Workers will qualify for a HSP if their skills are proven to benefit the Japanese economy. This preferential visa allows workers to stay in the country for five years. A permanent visa can also be applied for after three years. Other foreigners intending to work in Japan must apply for the appropriate visa by submitting a Certificate of Eligibility. Working visa holders must also apply for Resident Registration at a local government office within 14 days of moving into an address. Workers moving to Japan with an existing company can apply for intra-company visas if they have worked for more than one year in the overseas office. There are 27 visa types in Japan, separated into three main groups; working, non-working and family-related.
In Japan the tax year runs from 1st January to 31st December. There are three categories for people living in Japan; non-resident, non-permanent resident and permanent resident. Japan’s tax system is based on a combination of self-assessment and withholding taxes, which are contributions automatically taken from salaries. The amount of tax you pay will depend on your income. If you earn less than ¥1.95million (£10,464) per year you will pay a rate of 5% tax. Top earners are taxed 40% on earnings more than ¥18million (£96,605). Tax returns must be submitted to your local zeimusho (tax office) either in person, by mail or online, between 16th February and 15th March of the following year. Permanent residents who have lived in Japan for at least five years are taxed on all income from Japan and abroad.
Since 1st January 2010 the Japan Pension Service has managed pensions, known as Kokumin Nenkin, which requires all residents, including foreigners, aged 20-60 to make contributions. Contributions can be paid either at banks, post offices, convenience stores or deducted automatically from pay packets. You must contribute to the national pension scheme for at least 25 years to qualify for the basic pension. Pensions are paid when a person, whether living in Japan or not, reaches 65. Lump-sum payments are available for foreigners who have paid into the pension scheme for at least 25 years if certain criteria are filled. Enrolment onto the national pension scheme can be done by visiting the municipal office in person. For more information, visit the http://www.kochi-kia.or.jp/ website.
Since 2013, the rights of disabled workers in Japan have been protected under the Act on the Elimination of Disability Discrimination. This prohibits discrimination against any person for reasons of disability. This commitment to equal rights was further underpinned by the government of Japan ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in January 2014. Employers are expected to make appropriate provisions to accommodate disabled workers in workplaces.