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Japan to admit 820,000 foreigners in transportation, logistics sectors; eases current regulations



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The Japanese government has announced plans to admit up to 820,000 foreigners in the transportation and logistics sectors under its skilled worker visa over the next five years which is more than double the previous estimation for the five years.

The country aims to alleviate the shortage of drivers by extending their stay of up to five years and to revise current regulations to facilitate the acceptance of skilled workers in the newly added sectors.

During a meeting ahead of the cabinet decision, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi requested relevant ministers to, “make preparations to accept (the foreign workers) without delay and to make efforts to realize an inclusive society.”

This cabinet decision to expand the eligible industries under the Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 visa to 16, is the first expansion since the program’s inception in 2019.

Japan’s demand for foreign labor has intensified due to factors such as a declining birthrate and significant shortages in transportation and logistics sectors, which are expected to worsen with the implementation of new overtime regulations for drivers starting in April, known as the “2024 problem.”

Under the expanded program, skilled foreigners will be recruited as drivers in the road transportation sector, including buses, taxis, and trucks, by certified companies.

Language proficiency requirements, particularly for drivers of buses and taxis who interact with passengers, include passing the N3 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

In the railway sector, skilled workers will be engaged in roles such as train car manufacturing, track maintenance, and operation as drivers, conductors, and station staff.

Additionally, operations related to textiles, iron and steel, and printing in the manufacturing industry have been included in the program.

Foreigners holding the No. 1 visa must demonstrate professional and Japanese language skills, while the No. 2 visa allows for unlimited renewals and potential permanent residency, enabling workers to bring their families to Japan.

The government’s move to expand the skilled worker visa program coincides with efforts to overhaul the foreign trainee program, aiming to address issues such as labor rights violations and unpaid wages. The new program will facilitate trainees’ transition to the Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 visa by allowing them to switch workplaces within the same industry under specific conditions while acquiring necessary skills.