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News Japan expanding specified skilled worker visa


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
According to Nikkei, Japan plans to expand its "specified skilled worker" visa program by adding four new fields, including road transportation and rail, to alleviate labour shortages in industries that have been hit hard. This would be the program's first expansion since its introduction in 2019. The new additions are expected to accommodate tens of thousands more foreign workers. The initial program covered 12 fields; the latest additions would bring the total to 16. The other two fields are forestry and timber. The road transportation category includes bus and taxi operators and truck drivers, while rail encompasses conductors and station staff and those working in equipment maintenance.

Each of the four industries had made requests to be added to the list. Trucking companies face overtime caps on drivers that take effect in April, which some worry could slow down shipping. Adding road transportation to the visa program would allow recipients to work as drivers for ride-hailing services, which Japan is allowing on a limited basis at certain times and areas where there are taxi shortages. The government is preparing to offer tests for the necessary commercial driver's license in 20 languages. As of the end of November, Japan had 201,307 people with No. 1 skilled worker visas, which last up to five years, and 29 people with No. 2 visas that can be renewed indefinitely. When the program launched, the government set a cap of 345,000 recipients by spring 2024.

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Yesterday, the Cabinet decided to include four additional job categories in a program that welcomes foreign workers to tackle the labour shortage: these new categories—automotive transportation, railways, forestry, and the lumber industry—will be incorporated into the Type 1 specified skilled worker visa. This visa allows workers to reside in Japan for up to five years without bringing their families. The policy aims to accept 820,000 overseas workers over the next five years, marking a 2.4-fold increase compared to the previous five-year period.

As of the end of last year, 208,462 people were living in Japan under this visa status. The expected number of incoming workers over the next five years is 173,000 for industrial manufacturing, which is the largest group, followed by 139,000 for food and beverage manufacturing, 135,000 for nursing care, 80,000 for construction and 78,000 for agriculture.

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