• Reuters

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Japan is loosening regulations on part-time work for foreign nationals stuck in the country due to the novel coronavirus and having trouble supporting themselves, the government said Tuesday.

While temporary, the measures — which take effect starting Tuesday — are a liberalization of labor curbs on foreign nationals in an aging economy suffering from huge shortages of workers but where the ruling party has been reluctant to embrace full-fledged immigration reform.

A number of foreign nationals in Japan, either as students or on other visa statuses, have been stuck in Japan longer than expected due to the coronavirus pandemic as a result of circumstances such as strict quarantine rules in their home country or a lack of plane flights, leaving some without financial support.

The new rules will allow people with 90 day short-stay permits to renew their permits and receive permission to work up to 28 hours a week, while technical trainees will be able to change their visas to a “specified activity” work permit for six months, the Justice Ministry said on its website.

People on student visas will be able to work for up to 28 hours a week even if they are no longer students.

An immigration bureau official said news of the measures would be spread on social media and their duration would “depend on the situation.”

About 21,000 foreign nationals in Japan may be eligible, NHK public broadcasting said.

Labor activists said the measures fell short.

“It’s better than nothing, but these people will not be eligible for either health insurance or welfare support. If they can find jobs that’s one thing, but it’s really insufficient for those who can’t,” said Koichi Kodama, a lawyer with expertise in foreign labor issues.

“If they wanted to do it right, they should grant them permanent resident status.”

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