Japan Plans to Add 4 Fields to ‘Specified Skilled Worker’ Visa; Including Road Transportation Fields

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

The government plans to add four new fields in which foreign nationals can work as “specified skilled workers” — road transportation, railway, forestry and timber — in a bid to alleviate labor shortages in those fields.

The plan was presented to the Liberal Democratic Party’s Special Committee on Foreign Workers on Thursday. The government aims to get Cabinet approval for the plan in March.

The Type 1 specified skilled worker visa allows a foreign national to work in Japan for up to five years. The Type 2 visa effectively allows workers with highly specified skills to stay in Japan indefinitely. In August 2023, the government expanded the number of fields covered by the Type 2 status from two to 11.

The four new fields under consideration would all fall under the Type 1 visa. Operators in these industries have been plagued by labor shortages and appealed to the government for help.

Adding the road transportation field is expected to open the door for bus, taxi and truck drivers to work in Japan. This move is aimed at addressing the so-called 2024 logistics problem, a decline in transportation capacity arising from changes in the law that will shorten the hours truck drivers can work.

In the railway field, foreign nationals would be able to work as train drivers and conductors. In the forestry field, they would be eligible to work in afforestation operations that manage and grow forests, and the timber field could welcome workers involved in jobs such as timber processing.

The government will discuss worker acceptance requirements and other details with the ruling parties. Adding the road transportation to the fields, however, may cause hesitancy against the changes as the new drivers would be required to understand Japan’s road conditions and complicated traffic rules.