Japan eyes up to 800,000 more skilled foreign workers over next 5 years

Photo: Kyodo

Japan is set to sharply increase the number of foreigners it accepts under its skilled worker visa with plans to receive up to 800,000 people in the next five years, a source familiar with the matter said Tuesday, Kyodo reports. 

In an attempt to cope with an acute labor shortage, the government is considering adding the road transportation, railway, forestry and timber industries as targets of the visa system, which was introduced in April 2019, the source said.

The projected figure for the five years from April this year is more than double the up to 345,150 workers the government had expected to accept through fiscal 2023 ending March in its estimate when the system was created.

As of the end of last November, there were around 200,000 working under a resident status called Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 that currently covers 12 sectors such as construction and farming for up to a total of five years.

Meanwhile, there were 29 holders of No. 2 status that allows them to bring in family members and has no limit on the number of times they can renew their visa.

Although the number of foreigners with skilled worker status saw only sluggish growth during the coronavirus pandemic, it has gradually increased due mainly to applications by technical interns.

In its review of the system, the government also plans to add operations related to textiles in the manufacturing industry, a sector already covered under the program.

In the next five years, the government expects to accept around 34,000 workers in the four new sectors under consideration for inclusion, with 24,500 projected to work in the road transportation industry, a sector set to face a manpower shortage.

The railway industry is expected to receive 3,800 workers, while 1,000 and 5,000 people are estimated to work in the forestry and timber sectors, respectively, the source said.

The government plans to make a decision by the end of this month on expanding the scope of the industries.

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