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At the end of 2018, Japan passed an immigration law that will make as many as half a million visas available to foreign workers to address the intensifying labor shortage that the country is facing. A rapidly aging population—paired with extremely low birth rates—has left Japan with a workforce that continues to shrink.The goal of Japan’s new immigration law is to assist industries that are experiencing severe labor shortages, such as caregiving, hospitality, construction, health care and agriculture. A move to allow large-scale immigration is a substantial change for Japan, a country that has generally relied heavily on domestic labor. As one of the world’s largest economies, any changes to Japan’s immigration policies will have an influence on mobility.
Japan’s immigration law will create two new visa categories.The first category would be for semiskilled workers to fill the need in one of 14 different sectors struggling with labor shortages. These workers would initially be allowed to stay for five years, with the possibility of applying for permanent residency. These visa holders are not permitted to bring their families with them to Japan.The second visa category will be for high-skilled workers. These visa holders will be allowed to bring their families and stay for an unlimited period. Earlier this year, Japan also implemented a new online immigration system to help modernize the process. These new visas and online system will be implemented in 2020, and Chinese workers will have first access. This has the potential to drastically change the mobility industry and the movement of employees into Japan.Historically, Japan is known for being an isolationist nation, and these recent changes represent the most drastic overhaul to the country’s immigration system in decades. While there are thousands of new visas available, it remains to be seen how quickly Japanese businesses will adjust to the idea of hiring more foreign workers. Studies have indicated that even if all new visas are filled, it will not solve Japan’s labor shortage. This could lead to even bolder action from Japan on immigration in the next few years.Worldwide ERC® will continue to keep members up to date on how this policy impacts the mobility industry in Japan. For the latest information from industry leaders in Japan, join us at WERC®’s Tokyo Summit 2019 on September 5, 2019.
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