National

Think tank says applicants for planned blue-collar visas should have college degrees

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

A newly launched think tank researching policies for accepting more foreign workers said Monday that as a condition for new visa statuses currently being discussed in the Diet, the government should require prospective applicants to have a college degree.

The Research Institute for Embracement of Global Human Resources said Japan is still an attractive destination for college graduates in emerging countries, even for blue-collar jobs.

People with lower educational and economic backgrounds in such nations tend to be slower to learn Japanese, and their overall level of Japanese language skills tends to be poorer than that of college graduates, said Yohei Shibasaki, who heads the think tank that was established last week.

“This could isolate them from the community and create areas” in which they seek out only people of the same nationality, causing trouble with other communities, Shibasaki said during a news conference in Tokyo.

Last Friday Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet approved a bill that will allow foreign individuals to work in blue-collar industries for an indefinite amount of time if they meet certain conditions.

If passed, the bill will pave the way for two new visa statuses for those who will work in industries suffering labor shortages.

The Justice Ministry said the two types do not have educational background requirements at this point but that reaching a certain proficiency of Japanese language is expected to be mandatory, along with other relevant tests to check their skills for the occupations in which they intend to work.

Shibasaki said those tests are indeed necessary but will not provide adequate screening, since the bar for Japanese language proficiency will likely be set relatively low.

Asked whether college graduates — who could probably earn quite a lot of money in their own countries — would want to come to Japan to work in blue-collar occupations, Shibasaki said there should be plenty of such people in nations whose GDP per capita is one-tenth of Japan’s or below.

“From our experience, we are pretty sure that many workers will still come to Japan,” said Shibasaki, who is also president of Fourth Valley Concierge Corp. — a Tokyo-based firm that helps other companies recruit skilled workers from around the world.

Japan is, for instance, considering looking to attract workers with the new visa statuses in the agricultural sector, and many colleges in emerging countries teach agriculture, Shibasaki said, adding that he believes many students there would want to come to Japan.

Fourth Valley Concierge established the research institute, which will research other countries’ strategies for accepting foreign workers and make policy proposals to the government.

Drawing on 11 years of data and experience in relation to global recruiting by Fourth Valley, the think tank hopes to provide data-driven proposals. It currently consists of two researchers and plans to hold a study session bimonthly.