Japan slowly starting to open up to foreign workers

Recent figures show that there are a record number of foreign workers currently in employment in Japan.

The figures show that there are approximately 1.3 million foreign-born workers employed in the Japanese workforce. While this only accounts for around 2 per cent of the country’s entire workforce, it is nevertheless more foreigners than have ever worked in Japan before. As recently as 2012, there were only 680,000 overseas workers in Japan.

A skilled worker shortage in the country has encouraged the government to relax the rules on foreigners entering the country in recent years – both for work and study purposes.

Indeed, only last month the government announced that it would create a “designated skills” visa in order to accept 500,000 new workers by 2025, in agriculture, construction, hotels, nursing and shipbuilding.

There has also been an influx of temporary workers arriving to help with preparations ahead of the 2020 Olympics which will be held in capital Tokyo.

Applicants for the new visa will need to pass skill tests and have some degree of Japanese language proficiency – a potential sticking point for the program’s success. Technical trainees who have already worked in Japan for three years can also apply. If they pass additional tests, they could be allowed to invite family members to Japan.

However, support for this increased immigration remains mixed. A poll conducted last year found opinion evenly split about whether Japan should admit more foreign workers. Forty-two per cent of respondents both agreed and disagreed that more foreign workers were needed. Younger residents tended to be more supportive. Some 60 per cent of 18-29-year-olds, were in favour of increasing immigration. This was more than double the share of over-70s.

Article published 6th June 2018