Japan Makes it Easier for Foreign Workers in Key Industries by Expanding its Skilled Worker Visa Programme

Japan Makes it Easier for Foreign Workers in Key Industries by Expanding its Skilled Worker Visa Programme

In a significant move to address its critical labour shortages, particularly in the transport sector, the Japanese government has disclosed plans to extend the scope of its Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 Visa. This strategic expansion aims to encompass more industries, including road transportation, railways, forestry, and timber. This initiative is a proactive step to streamline the process for foreign workers seeking employment opportunities in Japan, thus easing the path for work migration.

The impending implementation of this policy, as yet to be enacted, represents a notable enlargement since its last update in 2019. This expansion will increase the count of industries covered under this visa category to 16, a development detailed by Kyodo News. The decision to broaden the eligibility criteria for skilled worker visas emerges in response to the acute labour shortages Japan is grappling with.

Addressing Labour Shortage in Specific Sectors in Japan

Labour Shortage in Japan

Japan's authorities have identified a pressing need for foreign personnel in several roles within the road transportation sector, including taxi, bus, and truck drivers. Similarly, the railway sector needs more skilled workers such as train drivers, conductors, railcar builders, and station attendants.

Highlighting the urgency of this situation, The Asahi Shimbun has pointed out that the labour shortage is poised to intensify following the introduction of stricter overtime regulations in April. This forthcoming change, expected to be met with some resistance, will likely amplify the demand for foreign workers in the country.

Labour Shortage in Japan’s Food & Beverage Sectors

Moreover, the Japanese government is contemplating further expansion of visa eligibility to additional professions, addressing labour gaps in other sectors like food and beverage production. This includes a growing need for workers to prepare ready-made meals for supermarket sales and the textile industry.

Opportunities for Foreign Workers

With these changes on the horizon, there is an anticipated surge in applications from foreigners for skilled worker visas to Japan. This projection aligns with the recent data showing a record-breaking increase in the number of foreign workers in Japan. As of the end of October 2023, Japan recorded 2,048,675 foreign workers, predominantly in industries experiencing labour shortages. This figure surpasses the 2021 statistics by 12.4 per cent and sets a new high, reflecting the country's evolving workforce dynamics.

Given these developments, it is expected that the current year will witness an even higher influx of foreign workers in light of the ongoing sectoral labour shortages across Japan.


What recent changes has Japan made to its skilled worker visa program?

Japan has significantly expanded its Skilled Worker Visa Programme to make it easier for foreign workers to enter and work in critical industries. This expansion is targeted explicitly at industries experiencing severe labour shortages. It now includes roles in transportation, railways, forestry, and the timber industry. This initiative is part of Japan's broader strategy to address its labour market challenges and diversify its workforce.

What industries are now included under the Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 visa?

The Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 visa, a key component of Japan's foreign labour policy, has been expanded to include several critical industries. This includes road transportation, railways, forestry, and timber industries. Foreign workers can also participate in Japan's ride-hailing service industry under this visa program.

How does this expansion benefit foreign workers?

The expansion of Japan's skilled worker visa program opens up a plethora of opportunities for foreign professionals. It allows skilled workers from various sectors to live and work in Japan, contributing to and benefiting from one of the world's most dynamic economies. This helps address the labour shortages in Japan and provides a platform for foreign workers to enhance their career prospects in a highly developed market.

What are the challenges faced by foreign workers under this program?

Despite the opportunities, foreign workers in Japan may face several challenges. These include navigating cultural and language barriers, understanding and complying with Japan's regulatory environment, and integrating into the Japanese workforce. However, with Japan's increasing emphasis on foreign labour expansion and reform, efforts are being made to ease these challenges.

How is Japan addressing the integration of foreign workers into its workforce?

Japan is actively working on reforming its foreign worker program to ease the integration process. This includes improvements in language support, cultural assimilation programs, and regulatory reforms to make it easier for foreign workers to understand and adapt to the Japanese work environment. The government's efforts to overhaul Japan's visa program and foreign employment policies signify a commitment to creating a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

What impact does the skilled worker visa program have on Japan's economy?

Expanding the skilled worker visa program is expected to impact Japan's economy positively. Addressing labour shortages in critical sectors not only aids in alleviating workforce gaps but also contributes to long-term economic stability and growth. The influx of skilled foreign workers can increase productivity, innovation, and diversity in the workplace, all of which are crucial for a robust economy.

Who is eligible for the Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 visa, and what are the requirements?

Eligibility for the Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 visa generally requires individuals to possess specific skills and experience relevant to the sectors included under this program. Requirements often include proficiency in the Japanese language, relevant professional qualifications or work experience, and passing a skills assessment test. The exact requirements can vary depending on the industry and role.

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