Japan sets out to bring in more expat workers

View from Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, Tokyo, Japan

Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the land of the rising sun is looking to lure in foreign workers, particularly in the construction sector.

Japan has one of the world’s most rapidly ageing populations, and the Japanese government is creating measures to allow more foreign workers into the country to fuel it’s economic recovery. After the tragic earthquake and tsunami of 2011, these skilled workers are needed to quite literally rebuild Japan’s infrastructure.

Currently the expat population of Japan is around 2 million, accounting for 1% of the total workforce. The government is set to reveal new measures to bolster the expat population towards the end of March, the expectation being that current restrictions on permanent resident visas will be relaxed. As it stands you have to have been a resident of Japan for five years to obtain a permanent resident visa, this may well fall to three years.

Young foreigners (18-30) are currently permitted a one year working holiday visa, and this period may be extended to attract more young professionals.

This desire for foreign workers is evidenced by Japan’s increasing willingness to embrace the English language. Japan’s Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has started changing street signs into English to appear more foreigner-friendly. This may seem like a small step, but Japan is very proud of its traditions, history, culture and language, and this decision probably wasn’t made lightly.

As birthrates drop it’s clear that Japan will need a huge influx of foreign workers over the next few decades in order to avoid stagnation and inevitable decline.