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Japan Immigration

Japan to receive 60,000 nursing helpers in new visa program

Government expects up to 345,000 foreign workers in 14 sectors

Filipina workers talk to an elderly man at a care center in Tokyo. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

TOKYO -- Nursing care is likely to see the biggest influx of foreigners under a Japanese visa program launching in April 2019 to address labor shortages, with up to 60,000 new workers expected in the first five years.

The Ministry of Justice on Wednesday presented to the Diet a breakdown of the number of foreign workers expected in each of the 14 sectors covered by the program. Overall, the country is likely to take in about 263,000 to 345,000 foreigners though a visa program for low-skill workers in five years, including up to 53,000 in the restaurant industry, 40,000 in construction and 36,500 in agriculture.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has told parliament previously that those numbers will be treated as caps.

The program would also create a second visa category for workers with advanced skills, but Tuesday's figures did not include estimates for those workers.

"We only see these [advanced skill visas] applying to the construction and shipbuilding industries at this time, and will not issue estimates on how many people we will accept," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference Wednesday.

Unlike workers arriving with low-skilled status, those who receive the second category visas by clearing tough requirements would be allowed to bring their families and renew their visas indefinitely with the chance to obtain permanent residency status.

Japan is believed to face a shortage of 586,000 workers already, which could widen to 1.45 million in five years. It looks to bring in between 32,800 and 47,600 foreign workers in the first 12 months alone of the new program, including up to 7,300 in agriculture, 7,000 in building cleaning, and 6,800 in food and beverage processing.

Opposition parties had requested a breakdown by industry of the numbers before the lower house starts deliberations on the necessary amendment to Japan's immigration control law. The debate, which will begin soon, will also focus on the possible impact on Japanese workers in affected fields, as well as other concerns.

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