New immigration rules to stir up Japan’s regional rentals scene -- if they work -- Mar 26
On April 1st, 2019, major new immigration reform will take effect with a new “Middle Skilled Worker” (tokuteigino) visa status for foreign workers in Japan.

This new class of visa is designed to alleviate labour shortages due to Japan’s shrinking population in a wide range of industries — including nursing care, cleaning, factory work, construction, hospitality, agriculture, fisheries, and restaurants. If it works, it could lead to a modest influx of foreign workers to Japan with a subsequent need for housing and other support services.

The scheme aims to bring in more than 345,000 migrants to Japan over the next 5 years. The target for the first year is a much more modest 47,550 workers. The new immigration status differs from the much-criticised Technical Intern Training Program in that foreign workers are considered regular employees and there is a path to permanent residence status. Another difference compared to previous efforts to plug Japan’s labour shortages with foreign labour is that applicants need to pass both a language test and a skills test to qualify for the new visa status.

The language component seems to be a nod to concerns about integration of new immigrants. The specific requirement is Level N4 or higher of the Japanese Language Proficiency test. That level requires applicants to be able to read 167 kanji characters, to understand some basic sentences and to have some elementary listening skills. One potential problem is that the total number of people that passed the Level N4 or higher last year was only 154,000 (100,000 when restricted to examinees outside Japan). While that sounds like a lot more than the approximately 70,000 workers needed to meet the targets, a large number of those examinees will either slot into the highly skilled category or they may not have an interest in the industries for which Japan is seeking workers. The question is whether additional people will take the exam (approximately 6 months of study would be required) with the specific goal of fulfilling the requirements of the new visa.

News source:
Sep 19
The operator of a private-sector English proficiency test began accepting applications Wednesday for its tests that will serve as a component of Japan’s new standardized university entrance exam. (Japan Times)
Sep 16
A Japanese government survey shows the number of people aged 65 or older, and their proportion to the overall population, have both marked record highs. (NHK)
Sep 15
A survey shows that Japan's public spending on education as a percentage of GDP was the lowest among OECD countries. (NHK)
Sep 15
Almost 70 percent of married women in Japan believe that same-sex marriage should be legalized in the country, a government survey of around 6,000 married women showed Friday. (Kyodo)
Sep 12
Japan remains the second most-represented country behind the United States in a list of the world's top 1,400 universities, but trails other countries in hosting elite institutions with only two listed in the top 200, a global survey showed Wednesday. (Kyodo)
Sep 11
A private-sector survey showed Tuesday that 61.6 percent of freelancers in Japan have experienced work-related power harassment. (Japan Times)
Sep 10
A 15-year-old boy who had previously complained about being bullied at school has died in an apparent suicide after falling from a building in Saitama Prefecture, investigative sources said Monday. (Japan Today)
Sep 10
He sits in an office of a major Japanese sportswear maker but reports to no one. He is assigned odd tasks like translating into English the manual on company rules like policies on vacations and daily hours, though he has minimal foreign language skills. (Japan Today)
Sep 07
The number of children waiting to enter authorized day care facilities fell to a record low of 16,772 as of April 1, down 3,123 from the previous year, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday. (Japan Times)
Sep 06
It’s not an exaggeration to say many Japanese have a complex about speaking English. Most Japanese study English for three years in junior high school as a requirement, and those who graduate from university will have studied the language for 10 years. Yet many Japanese say they’re not good at speaking English. (Japan Times)