If you are a full-time freelancer, you have a slightly harder road ahead when applying to the public system (ninka) simply because you have to do more groundwork to prove that you’re actually working 40 hours a week. This proof can come as copies of work contracts, tax forms, bank statements, or any other documents that help show how much you are working. It’s important to understand that for the public application, how much you make is not as important as how many hours you work each week. You need to be able to show that you work at least 40 hours a week by proving you have enough contracted work. Income-wise, full-timers only need to make a minimum of 860 yen an hour in Shinjuku-ku, which works out to 34,400 yen a week and 137,600 yen a month (based on a 4 week month). You don’t need to be making a lot, and it doesn’t make a difference if you do make a lot as far as the application process goes–what matters is how many hours you work.
Freelancers can fall into a couple of different categories on the point scale. Remember, the number of total points you have determines your position on the waiting list, so it’s key to get the maximum 20 points for your work situation. The ward office determines your point total based on your work and life situation as presented in your application. You can pick up additional points here and there (as well as lose them) depending on your family’s life circumstances, but the foundation of your point total will come from your work situation. If you work full-time for a company, and have this verified by your company’s seal on the employment page of the application, the conversation stops there and 20 points are rewarded to you. This is why it’s so much easier for corporate workers to get into the public system. It’s just easier to prove the hours that you work.
The work situation of freelancers, on the other hand, is not as straightforward. You have a few options as to how you present yourself in the application, but each affects your point total. If you work for a number of different companies, you can present yourself as a part-timer at each. In this case, you need to make copies of the employment page of the application (usually there’s only one page for each spouse) and have each of your employers fill it out with your work details and sign/stamp it. In this case, though, you’ll be presenting yourself as an employee. And if your categorized as a employee who works part-time at multiple places, even if your total work hours add up to 40 hours or more (ie full time), you will fall into the freelance employee or contract worker category and you don’t get 20 points. Even if you work 40 hours a week for a variety of places, you will only be rewarded 19 points if you work in an office (or on sight at the business) and 18 points if you work from home. This is where it gets tricky being a freelancer. (It’s also tough for those working in family businesses because unless you are the owner, you are considered an employee and subject to these rules as well. So even if you work full-time, you’ll only get 19 points if you work in an office and 18 points if you work at home.)
However, if you declare yourself as self-employed, and present these places where you work as your clients, then you can get the full 20 points as long as you work at least 40 hours a week and make more than 860 yen per hour. But you have to be seen as independent, i.e. a self-employed individual who has clients—and not be seen as someone’s employee. This requires that you fill out the employment page of the application with your name (or your business name if you have one) and your address (or if you have an office, that address) in the fields designated for employer information. You write and sign the form as your own employer. And then you attach documentation to prove that you have enough clients and work to warrant at least 40-hours of childcare a week. Most likely, this will be copy of work contracts and/or proof of income. The latter can be tax forms or bank statements or any other proof that’s current. You need to prove that you make at least 860 yen per hour (this is the minimum income amount in Shinjuku ward at the moment but this figure probably changes often and may differ per ward, so make sure to double check). Finally, you are required to fill out the weekly work schedule form included in the application with a sample of your weekly work schedule—ie what clients you work for or what projects you’re working on each day. The schedule will show that you always work at least 8 hours a day, and what you’re working on. (The application for Shinjuku gives you two schedules to fill out, one is to show what your current work schedule is without full-time childcare and the other is what it will be once you have full-time day care. If your child is already in private day care, you only need to fill out the schedule for those with childcare. If you are working without childcare right now, fill out both schedules.)
A final note for freelancers who work for companies outside of Japan: you should include a basic translation of your work content and contracts. By basic, I mean simply translate the company’s name, the type of work you do for them, and the important dates or information in the contract that show how much you will work for them. Make it as easy as you can for the ward office to understand your work situation and see that you are indeed working at least 40 hours a week as a freelancer.
This may seem a lot of work for an extra 1 or 2 points, but it can really make the difference. In Shinjuku ward and probably most of Tokyo, it’s pretty hard to gain admittance to public day care if you don’t have at least 42 points. This means you and your spouse need to first get 20 each for you work situations, and then pick up an additional 2 points somehow. For most families, this is done by gaining admittance to a private day care first and enrolling your child full-time to show the ward office that you are truly in need of full-time care. Although there are other ways to get extra points. See here for more on the point system and scale (scroll down to the third and last chart for details on how to pick up extra points).