Japan looks to accept more foreigners in key policy shift
In a major shift for a country long closed to immigrants, Japan is looking to allow foreigners in certain blue-collar jobs to stay indefinitely starting as early as the 2022 fiscal year, a justice ministry official said.
Under a law enacted in 2019, a category of "specified skilled workers" in 14 sectors such as farming, nursing and sanitation have been granted visas but stays have been limited to five years and without family members for workers in all but the construction and shipbuilding sectors.
Companies had cited restrictions among reasons they were hesitant to hire, and the government had been looking to ease restrictions in the other fields.
If the revision takes effect, such workers – many from Vietnam and China – would be allowed to renew their visas indefinitely and bring their families with them.
Top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno stressed any change would not mean automatic permanent residency.
Immigration has long been taboo but pressure has mounted to open up borders due to an acute labor shortage given its dwindling and ageing population.
"As the shrinking population becomes a more serious problem and if Japan wants to be seen as a good option for overseas workers, it needs to communicate that it has the proper structure in place to welcome them," said Toshihiro Menju, managing director of think tank Japan Center for International Exchange.