The government on Friday added four new industries to its foreign skilled worker visa program as it moves to address the nation's driver shortage by allowing more people access to stays of up to five years.

The Cabinet decision brings the number of eligible industries under the Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 visa to 16. The expansion, covering road and railway transportation as well as the forestry and timber sectors, is the first such expansion since the system was introduced in 2019.

Japan's need for foreign labor has risen due in part to its declining birthrate. There are also concerns about pronounced shortages in the transportation and logistics industries which are likely to be exacerbated once a new limit to overtime hours for drivers begins in April, in what is known as the "2024 problem."