Japan is looking to update old policies that would allow more foreign workers into the country to help sustain their industries
By Zee Johnson
Traditionally, Japan has been one of the few developed countries that kept its immigration policies tight. But now, the nation is looking to loosen up their constraints in an effort to take on the urgent labor shortage.
The country is allowing foreign workers in varying blue collar, highly sought-after positions to stay indefinitely in 2022, an expansion on a 2019 policy that authorised some “specified skilled workers” to stay for up to five years, without their families. The current mandate applies to workers in 14 categories, whilst the change would encompass several more categories, as well eliminate the five-year restriction.
Japanese businesses are citing the current restriction as the reason they are hesitant to hire foreigners. But if the modification is implemented, these employees, who are mainly traveling from Vietnam and China, would be able to renew their visas indefinitely and bring their families along with them.
Further, Japan’s dwindling population is being recognised as a second cause for the talent shortage.
Toshihiro Menju, managing director of the Japan Center for International Exchange, says the population decline is becoming a serious issue. “If Japan wants to be considered as a top choice for overseas workers, it must emphasise that it has the right infrastructure in place to welcome them,” he says.
In 2016, official surveys revealed that the country’s population had decreased by around one million people in five years, the first time it had ever registered a population decline.
In late 2020, Japan had 1.72 million foreign employees out of a total population of 125.8 million, or 2.5 per cent. Whilst the government does not expect to open the flood gates on immigration just yet, authorities are looking for ways to bring in small numbers of workers cautiously yet increasingly without inciting country-wide controversy.