Japan considers widening long-term foreign worker visa scheme

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan is considering expanding the areas in which skilled foreign workers can receive long-term work visas to 12 from three, possibly including the food service industry, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Monday.

Rapidly-ageing Japan suffers from an increasingly severe shortage of labour in a number of sectors but remains reluctant to allow a widespread immigration of foreign labourers.

The change, which could allow workers to stay for extended periods and bring their families with them, could include sectors such as food manufacturing and could take effect as early as June, the Nikkei added.

An official at Japan’s Health and Labour Ministry said a change was being considered, but that he could give no further details.

Most migrant workers in Japan currently come from countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Under a law that took effect in 2019, a category of “specified skilled workers” in 14 sectors such as farming, nursing care and sanitation have been granted Japanese visas.

But stays have been limited to five years and without family members for workers in all but the construction and shipping sectors, with those in care for the elderly allowed extended stays under a special permit system.

The revision would expand the long-term work visas to sectors including farming, fishing, food manufacturing and food services, the Nikkei said.

Talks are underway with the aim of having the revisions approved by the cabinet as early as June, it added.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alexander Smith)