Japan Aiming for the World’s Fastest Permanent-Residency Cards for Skilled Foreign Workers

Brendan Walsh July 29, 20163 mins read

In June 2016 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revealed an annuals list of new policies, including a pledge to deliver the world’s fastest permanent-residency cards for skilled migrants.

While this promise was not the most highlighted in of the many policies, it is still significant for foreigners wanting to come or stay in Japan while working. According to a labor ministry official, currently around 30% of foreign students stay in the country after finishing their studies. The government is aiming to raise this proportion above 50%.

Japan lost nearly a million people between 2010 and 2015. The reason behind these policy changes is simple: Japanese workforce is insufficient, particularly in the skilled specialist job markets, and this is causing negative effects in the society and businesses across the country. LDP sees that increasing foreign workers is a solution to this problem. The Japanese population, however, often has thought this could possibly increase crime or social unrest. While the statistics behind this doesn’t show such thing, and in fact the crimes committed by foreigners are falling, Japan still needs to address the well-known problem of population shrinkage and the problems this is causing to the job markets. Japan lost nearly a million people between 2010 and 2015.

Many have called for more immigration, particularly meaning skilled workers (such as finance and IT specialists), as a solution, but bringing this workforce to Japan has been challenging. This is mostly because the both immigration and social structures in place do not favor migration. Particularly, those without specific skills have founded the historically foreigner unfriendly country hard to enter. On top of this, foreigners have often had a hard time navigating in the Japanese job markets without proper language abilities, which is still true today. Even the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Menju, said in 2015 that “Perhaps Japan isn’t attractive enough as a place to live permanently.”

Regardless, Japan is putting effort in trying to solve these issues. For example, job-matching services for foreign students who work in Japan nearly 30 hours a week has been expanded. This raised the number of foreign workers by 15% to 907,896 as of October 2015, according to labor ministry figures.

The fastest such system in the world. Despite some of the efforts by the Japanese Prime Minister and the Government, Japan still lacks in comparison with more international countries when it comes to foreign workforce. Only 2% of the workers are foreign. For example, in the US 17% are foreign born (including naturalized citizens) and in the UK the figure is around 11%. While currently skilled workers need to stay in Japan for five years before they can even apply for permanent residency, the new system should be much faster. In fact, Mr. Abe has said it would be the “the fastest such system in the world.” How and why this Japanese green card system would work, is yet to be seen.

Chief executive of beer and beverage maker Suntory Holdings Ltd., Takeshi Niinami has recently said in a speech the following: “Increasing labor will stimulate demand and combat the labor shortage, which is very acute in this country.” Niinami-san, among many Japanese business leaders admitted the need for foreign workers in Japan.

Brendan Walsh's picture
Associate Director | HR and Finance & Accounting Recruitment
bwalsh@morganmckinley.co.jp

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