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:
Jun 02
A national university in northeastern Japan on Monday ended in principle the long-standing custom of requiring documents be stamped with seals, in a bid to promote workplace efficiency and teleworking among its staff. (Kyodo)
Jun 02
Major firms in Japan on Monday fully started interviews, written tests and other activities to hire students graduating in spring 2021, with companies and students both struggling to adjust to unprecedented online recruiting methods introduced to cope with the new coronavirus pandemic. (Japan Times)
May 31
High school students learning the Japanese language in the United States have had their knowledge of Japan put to the test in an annual quiz. (NHK)
May 30
The number of foreigners staying in Japan under a new visa for workers with specified skills totaled 3,987 as of the end of March, less than a tenth of the maximum set by the government in the first year of its introduction, immigration authorities said Friday. (Kyodo)
May 28
Seventy percent of Japanese prefectural boards of education say schooling will be limited in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, despite the government's lifting of the state of emergency, a Nikkei survey has found. (Nikkei)
May 25
The threat of sexual harassment is an all-too-real concern for Japan's student job hunters, and it is sometimes university alumni who use promises of patronage to abuse their position of trust. (Japan Today)
May 24
The health ministry plans to raise subsidies for governments that bolster staff at child consultation centers to help them deal with the surge in child-support demand caused by the coronavirus, informed sources say. (Japan Times)
May 23
The government has set an additional criterion for foreign students hoping to receiving cash handouts of up to Y200,000 ($1,900) for students struggling financially amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, making only those in the top 30 percent of grades eligible. (Japan Times)
May 20
The Cabinet approved Tuesday a program to provide up to ¥200,000 ($1,900) in a cash handout to each of around 430,000 university and other students in the nation struggling financially to pay for tuition or living costs amid the spread of the new coronavirus. (Japan Times)
May 20
The coronavirus pandemic has prompted authorities worldwide to introduce entry restrictions on border traffic. But regulations in Japan have sparked a particularly strong reaction from its international community, as it is the only Group of Seven member denying entry to long-term and permanent residents and has set no clear criteria for their return. (Japan Times)