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Japan to accept more foreign workers by creating new visa

Japan is finally set to make a further step to tackle for its chronical labor shortage: accepting more low-skilled foreign workers.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told labor-related ministers to speed up plans that bring in more low-skilled foreign workers to Japan at a July 24 meeting. Agriculture Minister Ken Saito attended the meeting.

In June, the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, chaired by Abe, approved a set of labor policy. That includes creating a new working visa status for non-professional foreign workers in five sectors by April 2019.

The five sectors, which have been suffering from chronic labor shortage, are farming, construction, accommodations, ship-building and nursing elder care.

Foreign workers in those sectors can acquire work permits for up to five years on certain conditions, which include passing occupational and Japanese language skill tests.

But workers in the new visa system are barred from bringing family members to Japan.

The government is also considering expanding the scope of the new visa status to other sectors such as fishing and food processing, as businesses have asked for more labors. The government will likely finalize the list later this year.

Japan started accepting unskilled foreign workers from developing countries as trainees in sectors such as agriculture and nursing elder care for a short period.