In April 2019, Japan set into motion its plans to welcome more foreign workers to the country over the coming years. With the new “Specified Skills 1 and 2” visas, foreign laborers will have the opportunity to join the Japanese workforce in 14 industries. These include Nursing Care, Food Service, Construction, Custodial, Agriculture, Food and Drink Manufacturing, Hospitality, Materials, Ship Building, Fishing, Automotive Parts Manufacturing, Industrial Machinery, Electronics and Electrical Equipment, and Aviation.
Those eligible for the visa will be allowed to stay in Japan for 5 years with the possibility to renew or upgrade to permanent resident status. It is believed that the estimated 345,000 – 500,000 foreign workers brought into the country will alleviate Japan’s looming labor shortage.
- What are the qualifications?
The qualifications for each industry are different, and all exams are being prepared to release within 2019. The first industries to implement their exams are Nursing, Food Service, and Hospitality, starting from April 2019. The situation is still developing as the government decides when the other exams will be ready. Stay tuned to hear when and where the exams in your country will be announced.
Workers will also be expected to have a certain level of Japanese. At minimum, conversational Japanese is required, though some industries, for example Hospitality, need more advanced language skills. The most common exam is the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), which consists of 5 levels from N5 (lowest) to N1 (highest). Applicants must have passed JLPT N4 to be eligible for working, and some industries may have their own specific language exam to ensure workers are prepared for the job. There are online study programs available, include the intuitive Japan Work Live courses.
The Japanese Government has also decided to establish a new standardized language exam called the Japan Foundation Japanese Basic Test. This exam is used to measure the degree of language proficiency more specifically for working and daily communication. It will first hit the desks in the Philippines, but will later be released to more countries.
- Details of the Specified Skills Visas
A university degree is not required to apply for the new “Specified Skills” visas, as most of the work will be physical or have their own training methods. However some previous related experience may be needed. There are also some restrictions. For example, visa holders are unfortunately not allowed to bring their families with them, unless they also obtain a “Specified Skills” visa on their own. Workers especially from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Viet Nam, China, Myanmar, and Cambodia are encouraged to apply.
As previously stated, the “Specified Skills 1” visa allows workers to stay in Japan for a maximum of 5 years. However, it is possible to upgrade to a “Specified Skills 2” visa if you can prove that you meet a higher standard of work and experience. This visa can be extended indefinitely, providing you obey the law and keep up with your taxes and other social responsibilities. Then, like other visas, after 10 years, you may also apply for permanent residence status in Japan.
- Quality of Life Changes in Japan
Similar programs in the past have been criticized for not monitoring for abuse or pay gaps enough. Fortunately Japan will now be enforcing the same wage laws, which will ensure that foreign workers are paid the same as their Japanese counterparts.
The government also plans to set up at least 100 new facilities around the country to help foreigners adjust to life in Japan. These one-stop life consultation centers along with other efforts to ease the difficulties of opening a bank account, finding housing, learning the language and culture, and more will make the transition to Japan a much better experience for foreigners.
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