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Japan expects to accept up to 40,000 foreign workers under new residency statuses

Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita answers questions about a bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act during a House of Representatives Budget Committee session on Nov. 1, 2018. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Japan is expected to accept up to around 40,000 foreign workers under two new residency statuses in the fiscal year following their introduction, according to individuals close to the government.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to introduce the new measure by the spring of next year to alleviate acute labor shortages in certain industries, such as construction and nursing. The Cabinet has approved a package of relevant legal revisions to be submitted to the current extraordinary session of the Diet.

The number is based on estimates by government ministries and agencies overseeing 14 industries being considered to accept the workers, they said. Many of those workers are likely to be foreign technical trainees already in Japan who could switch their residency status. Under a bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, foreign technical trainees who have completed three years of on-the-job training could obtain the new "category 1" residency status without passing Japanese language and job skill tests.

Under the new system, workers with certain knowledge and experience could apply for category 1 status allowing the holder to work in Japan for a maximum of five years, unaccompanied by family members. Those with expert skills could get the renewable "category 2" status, which also allows accompaniment by spouses and children. Applicants for these categories must pass the language and skill tests.

Some of the job skill tests, to be prepared under the supervision of relevant government offices, may not be ready in time for the first fiscal year of the new statuses. The government projects that this will mean many initial category 1 status applicants will likely be qualified foreign technical trainees already in the country.

(Japanese original by Takeshi Wada and Shunsuke Kamiashi, City News Department)

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