National

Japan to regularly release figures for foreign workers by region and sector under new visa system

Kyodo

The government said Thursday it plans to regularly release data on the number of foreign nationals working in Japan under a new visa system from April, as part of its efforts to avoid having them concentrate in large cities.

Regional communities face more severe labor crunches than metropolises. To prevent the excessive concentration of foreign workers in Tokyo and other big cities, the Justice Ministry plans to make it publicly known how many foreign people are working under the new system by prefecture and industry once every three months.

The ministry unveiled the plan in a meeting with ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers, who adopted a set of government steps to accept more foreign workers under the revised immigration law that was enacted earlier this month.

The government is expected to formally endorse the measures, which also include support for foreign workers, on Tuesday.

Japan plans to accept up to 345,150 blue-collar workers from abroad across 14 business sectors, including construction, farming and nursing care, over five years from 2019 under the new visa system.

The move marks a major policy shift for the country, which has typically granted working visas mainly to doctors, professors and other highly skilled professionals.

The government has rushed to come up with concrete steps to accept foreign laborers amid criticism that the legislation, which was railroaded through the Diet by the ruling parties, lacks specifics, including what types of jobs the foreign workers would engage in.

Under the draft basic policy, Japan would accept foreign workers in sectors that suffer from manpower shortages despite their efforts to improve productivity or secure human resources domestically.

The new visa system calls for the creation of two new resident statuses. The first type allows people to engage in work that requires a certain level of knowledge and experience, while the second type is for workers with a higher level of skill.

Applicants for the new working status will be required to pass Japanese-language and technical skill exams.

The industry-specific draft policies stipulate the estimated number of workers to be accepted by sector and when Japanese-language assessment tests for hopeful applicants can start.

The technical exams are expected to be conducted from next April in only three sectors: nursing care, accommodation and restaurants.

The remaining 11 industries are likely to initially take in interns that possess visas under the existing government-sponsored technical training program, which doesn’t require such tests, and start conducting technical exams later.

Support measures for foreign workers may include the creation of one-stop consultation centers, and the provision of administrative services and multilingual natural disaster information.