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Draft plan shows gov't aiming to accept 345,150 foreign workers, to allow job switches

In this July 9, 2018 file photo, foreign visitors line up at immigration control at Narita International Airport in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. (Mainichi/Tadakazu Nakamura)

TOKYO -- The government plans to accept up to 345,150 foreign workers in 14 industries suffering from acute labor shortages over a five-year period starting 2019 under new residency statuses, and will "make effort" to prevent their concentration in major cities, according a draft outline of the new system revealed to the Mainichi by people close to the government.

These measures are incorporated in the drafts of the government's basic policy on foreign workers and ministerial guidelines for those industries that will be finalized by the end of December. Next April, Japan will begin accepting more foreign workers after the implementation of revisions to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, which were passed by the Diet on Dec. 8. Two new statuses will be introduced for foreign workers -- category 1 for the less experienced and category 2 for people with expertise and experience.

According to the draft basic policy, workers will be allowed to change jobs inside the industries they are employed in as far as their new jobs involve the same or similar tasks or required skills. Job switching across industries will also be permitted as far as jobs concerned require closely related skills. Direct, full-time employment will be the standard.

The proposed policy states that people from countries refusing to accept their own nationals slapped with deportation orders will not be accepted.

The draft ministerial guidelines for the 14 industries provide that sectors with seasonally fluctuating demands, such as farming and fisheries, can hire foreign workers on a temporary basis. As for the nursing care industry, home visitation services are out of bounds for foreign staffers.

To obtain the new residency statuses, workers from abroad will be required to pass technical skills exams, as well as a new Japanese-language test to be administered in eight Asian countries for the time being. Those who have passed the existing Japanese-Language Proficiency Test at the N4 level or above -- those who can understand basic Japanese -- will be exempt from the new test. Nursing care workers will be required to clear a separate examination checking their command of special terms needed for the job.

According to a draft Justice Ministry directive to be introduced after the basic policy and ministerial guidelines are finalized, employers of foreign workers must prove that they have never forced workers doing similar jobs to resign and they have no links with organized crime syndicates, among other conditions. They will also be required to state in employment contracts that foreign workers will receive salaries equivalent to or more than those for Japanese workers doing the same jobs. The companies will also have to promise to pay for foreign workers' return to their home countries should they be unable to afford the journey.

In addition, the ministry order would require foreign applicants to work in Japan to not pay commissions to job placement agencies or to be aged at least 18 years.

Meanwhile, a draft outline of the government's comprehensive support program for foreign workers includes measures such as placing interpreters at core medical institutions, multilingual drivers' license tests and job counseling center services.

(Japanese original by Takeshi Wada, City News Department)

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