The government is considering conducting tests in seven countries in order to bring farm workers into Japan under one of its two planned visa categories, sources said Thursday.
There were some 270,000 foreign trainees in Japan as of the end of 2017, and 99 percent of them were from the seven countries of Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar.
The government therefore expects many from those countries to apply for the new working visas, according to the sources.
The government may afterward narrow down the list of countries where the tests will be held after consulting with each country’s respective government.
The tests are planned to be held in the country’s native language and will cover the two fields of farming plants and animals.
The government estimates that up to 7,300 foreign nationals will work in Japan’s agricultural sector in the first year of the new visa system, and that up to 36,500 foreigners will do so in the first five years.
The government and ruling parties aim to introduce the new system in April 2019 by getting a related bill through the Diet during the ongoing extraordinary session, which is set to end on Dec. 10.
The bill sets out the basis for establishing a new visa category for foreign workers with “Type One” designated skills, including blue-collar workers, and another category for those with higher “Type Two” skills.
The government plans to limit the eligibility for Type One visas to workers in 14 industries, which include the farming sector.
The government is also considering holding tests overseas for Type One visas for construction, fishery and other sectors.
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 applicants skills for the occupations in which they intend to work.
The Research Institute for Embracement of Global Human Resources, a newly launched think tank researching policies for accepting more foreign workers, proposed earlier this month that the government should require prospective applicants for the new visas statuses to have a college degree.
Asked whether college graduates would want to come to Japan to work in blue-collar occupations, Yohei Shibasaki, who heads the think tank, said many colleges in emerging countries teach agriculture, adding that he believes many students there would want to come to Japan.