Japan to Add 4 Industries to Foreign Workers Program

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi speaks at a meeting of relevant ministers regarding foreign workers on Friday at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Tokyo, March 29 (Jiji Press) — The Japanese government Friday decided to add four industries to the list of sectors covered by its program to grant medium- to long-term resident status to foreign workers with so-called specified skills.

The addition of the four sectors—automobile transportation, railways, forestry and lumber—will bring the total number of industries covered by the program to 16.

The government also set the maximum number of foreigners to be admitted under the program over the five years from fiscal 2024, which starts in April, to 820,000, up 2.4-fold from 345,150 set for the previous five years. As of the end of 2023, the number of foreigners staying in Japan under the program stood at 208,462.

The government sets an upper limit on the number of foreigners that can be admitted over five years by industry, in order to curb the impact of the program on the domestic employment situation.

After seeking public comments, the government will revise related ministerial ordinances and notices.

The government introduced the program in 2019 to tackle serious labor shortages in Japan.

Under the program, Type 1 workers with certain skill levels and experiences are allowed to work in Japan for up to five years, and Type 2 workers with higher skill levels can effectively work in the country permanently.

Foreign workers will be given only Type 1 status in the four new industries.

In the automobile transportation industry, foreigners under the program will be allowed to work as bus, taxi and truck drivers.

But they will be required to acquire a Class 2 driver’s license needed for passenger transportation and complete a legally required training program for those planning to work as bus or taxi drivers for the first time.

To foreigners hoping to work in the industry under the program, Japan will grant the so-called designated activities resident status to allow them to stay in the country for one year, so that they can acquire a driver’s license.

Japan faces a serious need to increase truck drivers as stricter overtime rules come into effect in April, worsening driver shortages further. The situation is called the 2024 problem.