◆ Draft of the Big-boned Policy

The government has concluded the draft of the Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Policy Management and Structural Reform (Big-Boned Policy). The aim was to create a new residency status in order to broaden the range of foreign workers accepted into Japan as a measure to counter the country’s labor shortage. In principle, the government currently prohibits the employment of foreign nationals in unskilled labor, but is actively accepting highly specialized professionals such as doctors and lawyers and also allows family members to accompany the visa-holder.

The industries that apply to the draft’s new residency status are assumed to be the five categories of agriculture, nursing care, construction, hospitality (accommodations), and shipbuilding. These are industries that experience difficulty in attracting human resources and where the acceptance of foreign workers is recognized as essential for the survival and development of the industry.

◆ Working for a maximum of 10 years will become possible

About 1.28 million foreign nationals are working in Japan. The breakdown, in order of greatest numbers, is as follows: (1) permanent residents and those married to Japanese citizens, (2) casual workers such as international students, (3) technical interns, and (4) highly specialized professionals such as researchers and doctors. Technical interns number approximately 258,000, a number that has doubled over the past five years. The draft is clear about the creation of a new status that works on the assumption of a five-year extension on employment for technical interns. If the draft is passed, interns will be able to work for a maximum of ten years. The government plans to submit a draft revision to the Immigration Control Law during the Diet’s extraordinary session this fall and aims for its introduction in April of next year. In addition, the abolition of upper time limits on status for residents under the new status who have passed examinations in Japanese language and specialized fields, together with the acceptance of their family members for residence in Japan, is also being considered under the Big-Boned Policy.

◆ Concerns that the Technical Intern Training Program will get watered down

Japan’s Technical Intern Training Program was launched in 1993 and originally aimed to transfer technology to developing countries. The longer technical interns stay employed in the Japan, the more distant become the opportunities for them to utilize the skills that they have acquired in their home countries. It has been pointed out that the draft also risks watering down the Technical Intern Training Program and there are concerns that it will become a defacto immigration policy.

◆ The central management of residency information at Ministry of Justice centers

The government aims to prevent illegal employment by having the Ministry of Justice set up Residency Management Intelligence Centers (tentative name) which will centrally manage information on issues such as employment and marriage. The Ministry of Justice’s policy is also to promote information sharing with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, which holds jurisdiction over employment insurance, in order to facilitate the newly established Residency Management Intelligence Centers’ understanding of the situation of foreign workers when they leave or change jobs. It will work to develop laws that allow for partnering with local governments to gain information in situations such as the divorce of foreign nationals who were married to Japanese citizens.
It will also strengthen its management of workplaces and working hours for international students in Japan. The policy is to cancel residency permits if foreign students exceed the work hours (up to 28 hours per week) permitted by law.