According to The Nikkei Asian Review, the Japanese government plans to ease restrictions on unskilled foreign nationals seeking to work in Japan, Nikkei learned Tuesday, as the country grapples with a serious labor shortage.
The new policy, which will ease Japanese language requirements for overseas workers, will be incorporated into a work permit system and included in draft economic policy guidelines to be finalized by June.
The change marks a significant shift in Japan's policy regarding overseas workers. Under current rules, work permits are issued mainly to skilled professionals.
The government hopes to attract more than 500,000 overseas workers by 2025 to five industries especially hard hit by a lack of unskilled labor. Japan had 1.27 million registered foreign workers last year, according to health ministry figures. The change aims to bolster the country's dwindling pool of workers, especially unskilled laborers.
The new work permits will apply to construction, agriculture, lodging, nursing care, shipbuilding and related manufacturing. Applicants will be required to take occupational and Japanese language tests designed for each type of work by industry associations.
The draft guidelines, called the Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform, will call for creating a new class of work permits valid for up to five years. Details are still to be fleshed out.
Under the existing Technical Intern Training Program, foreign nationals are required to complete a three-year training program.
The new qualification system will lower the hurdles for foreign nationals. They will be allowed to work immediately if they pass the required tests. Those who have finished the Technical Intern Training Program will be exempt from testing.
As for the Japanese language requirements, foreign nationals will have to be "capable of understanding slow conversations," in principle.
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