In an attempt to alleviate labor shortages amid an aging population and falling birth rate, Japan is opening its doors to large-scale immigration with the Japanese government recently announcing that it will implement two new residency visa statuses which will open the doors to an estimated 345,000 international workers into its local job market starting April 2019.
As The New York Times points out, over the next 25 years, Japan’s population is set to shrink by 16 million people, or 13 percent. During the same period, the number of old folks in Japan will increase to make up 1/3 of the population. This leaves an incredible vacuum of caregivers, laborers and other positions that must be filled.
Under a bill approved by Parliament’s upper house, more than a quarter-million visas of five-year duration will be granted to unskilled guest laborers for the first time, starting in 2019.
Under the new measure, between 260,000 and 345,000 five-year visas will be made available for workers in 14 sectors suffering severe labor shortages, including care giving, construction, agriculture and shipbuilding.
The measure also creates a separate visa category for high-skilled workers, who will be allowed to stay for unlimited periods and enjoy greater benefits, including permission to bring their families to Japan.
TYPES OF WORK PERMITS INTRODUCED
According to the law, the work permit category has been distributed into
two new visa statuses: “Specified Skills No. 1” and “Specified Skills No. 2”
How are the two new visa statuses alike?
- Minimum level of Japanese language proficiency. Under both new visa statuses, workers have to have a minimum level of Japanese language proficiency equivalent to “N4” on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Some industries may set different (higher) requirements. Workers who have completed three years of practical training would be exempt from the Japanese proficiency exam.
- Industry-specific exams to certify skills/knowledge. The government will task the ministry responsible for the specific industry with creating the exam.
- Remuneration equal to or greater than Japanese workers. Employers employing workers under the two new visa statuses would be required to compensate workers at a level equal to or greater than Japanese workers.
“Specified Skills No. 1” Visa Status
- This work visa type will allow international workers to work in 14 sectors of middle and lower level of labor skilled jobs including farming, nursing care, construction and different others.
- You must have a certain level of industry-specific skills. This is in addition to the Japanese language requirement to apply for this visa status.
- You are not permitted to bring your family with you.
- You can stay in Japan for a maximum of five years under the “Specified Skills No. 1” visa status.
- It’s possible to switch to the “Specified Skills No. 2” visa from the Specified Skills No. 1 visa, if you have obtained a higher level of specialization during your stay in Japan.
- It’s possible to switch to from the Technical Intern Training visa status to the Specified Skills No. 1 visa if you meet all the eligibility requirements.
“Specified Skills No. 2” Visa Status
- This is a type of highly skilled visa type which will allow international workers to apply for only two streams, construction and shipbuilding.
- You must have an additional level of specialization. Workers staying in Japan on the “Specified Skills No. 1” visa can apply for the “Specified Skills No. 2” visa if they attain higher level specialization in their field.
- Indefinite length of stay in Japan possible. This is a significant difference from the “Specified Skills No. 1” visa. In principle, workers staying in Japan on the “Specified Skills No. 2” visa may be able to continuously renew their visa status, essentially giving them a way to stay in Japan indefinitely.
- You are able to bring your family with you. The “Specified Skills No. 2” visa status allows workers to bring family members with them to Japan.
Not everyone is thrilled with the country’s fresh, welcoming approach to immigration, but critics acknowledge the country’s need for foreign workers. The main debate is expected to focus on whether the government can ensure that foreign workers will be able to work under proper conditions and will be integrated into the host communities.