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Ready for Japan: Foreign workers can prove skills with test

Questions include ways to take out garbage and social etiquette

Foreign students take a nursing care training session in Tokyo. The new test will assess job seekers' basic skills, such as Japanese language ability. (Photo by Koji Uema)

TOKYO -- As Japan continues to grapple with its labor shortage, students and other foreign individuals eager to work in the country will have a chance to prove their fitness through a private-sector exam to be made available in September.

The exam will assess job seekers' basic skills, such as Japanese language ability, social etiquette and workplace communication, and is expected to make it easier for employers to discover suitable non-Japanese talent.

Technology powerhouse SoftBank Group, furniture retailer Nitori Holdings and apparel company Aoki Holdings have reportedly shown interest in using the test as a criterion for hiring foreign nationals.

The Test of Employment Aptitude for Foreign Nationals will ask questions about garbage disposal rules, common business practices and proper ways to welcome clients and handle telephone calls. The multiple-choice quiz will grade individuals on a 10-point scale.

The Japan Association for the Employment of Foreign Nationals, made up of experts in the field and corporate representatives, will hold the test.

Additional testing tailored for hospitality, food service, retail and other industries will begin next year. Corporations could use that as part of their training program for foreign employees.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government plans to establish next April a new residency status that would allow workers from abroad to stay for a total of five years. The permit will likely be applicable to the construction, agriculture, nursing care, shipbuilding and lodging industries -- five sectors suffering sever labor shortfalls.

One way foreigners can obtain the new work permit would be to pass exams administered by relevant government agencies. The Japan Association for the Employment of Foreign Nationals has asked the government to make its test a requirement as well.

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