Japan's new skilled worker visa program still far behind goal
Japan Times -- Aug 31
A new work permit introduced by Japan for overseas workers to help alleviate chronic labor shortages in certain industries has made an unexpectedly poor start, with only 3,987 of them obtaining the “specific skills visa” in the first year of the program, or less than 10 percent of the government’s target.

The weak start has exposed the insufficient preparations for the program launched in April 2019. With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic unavoidable, the new system is already at a turning point.

There are two ways for foreign workers to obtain the new visa. One is to pass an exam that measures Japanese language proficiency and the skills needed for the industry in which the applicant wants to work. In the other route, for the Type 1 visa for less sophisticated jobs, people who went through technical training in Japan for three years or more can change their visa status to specific skills without taking the exam.

The government expected up to 47,550 foreign workers to secure the new visa in the first year of the program.

Of those holding the visa as of the end of March, more than 90 percent obtained the status via the second route, according to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan.

The number of foreigners who came to Japan after obtaining the visa through exams in their home countries was extremely small due to delays in preparations for necessary procedures, including those to prevent involvement by malicious brokers. The agency is therefore calling for countries, especially those in Asia, to step up preparations to send workers to Japan.

In contrast to the stalled growth of specific skills visa holders, the number of foreigners in the technical intern training program has continued to increase. At the end of last year, the number stood at around 410,000, up 25 percent from a year earlier.

News source: Japan Times
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