Low numbers for Special Skills Visa
Despite the Japanese government pushing for success, the fact remains that not even half a year after the new Special Skills Visa category was implemented, less than 400 applications have been approved. There currently remains roughly 2,000 applications under review. This visa was expected to help labor shortages in many of Japan’s sectors that typically did not allow for unskilled labor. There are 14 allowable industries under this category, such as nursing homes and restaurants, and those who qualify can stay up to five years without additional testing. Though the first year goal for this new category is 40,000, the current numbers aren’t looking good.
Many applicants so far are from South Asian countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Myanmar. On October 15, fast food chain Mos Burger announced that they had plans to hire 350 Vietnamese workers on the special skills visa in the coming years, with at least 50 candidates by 2020. Mos Burger’s parent company is also working with universities in Vietnam to offer a one-year program that will focus on Japanese language learning and skills in the fast food industry. After five years–the maximum work period allowed by this visa–those hired by Mos Burger will return home to take senior positions at a joint venture with a local company.
Although programs like this will surely provide training and jobs to those who need it, and thereby bring in more foreign workers to Japan, more companies need to step up to the plate if the government is going to make its first year goals. Unfortunately, many small and mid-size companies balk at paying foreign workers the same as their Japanese counterparts, which is a requirement of the special skills visa. In addition, without raising employee salaries– especially those in the industries affected most by the labor shortage–there could be little interest from foreign applicants themselves.