In advance of the one-year anniversary of the revised immigration law enacted in April 2019, 12 local newspapers across Japan, including the Tokyo Shimbun, conducted a joint survey of about 300 foreign workers. Regarding the new “specified skills” visa, the centerpiece of the revised law, 41% of respondents said they did not know about the visa. Only 43% said they wanted to obtain the visa. The survey showed publicity and preparations for the new visa have been inadequate.
The specified skills visa targets 14 sectors that face a severe labor shortage, such as nursing care and agriculture. Workers who have sufficient Japanese skills and pass a ministry-specified exam can obtain this visa. Technical intern trainees can also switch to the specified skills visa. The Japanese government expected up to 470,000 workers to apply for the new visa in the first year of the law, but the actual number was 1,621 at the end of December 2019.
Over half of the respondents said that they were satisfied with their current wages (62%) and satisfied with the working environment (85%). Most of the respondents said that they either “liked Japan” or were “glad to have come to Japan,” but 33% said they “did not have any close Japanese friends,” showing that foreign workers have minimal interaction with Japanese people.
About half of the respondents wished to obtain permanent residency in Japan, and 60% wanted to bring their families to Japan.
Asked if they would like to switch to a specified skills visa, 72% of technical trainees said yes, while just 32% of international students gave that response.
A 24-year-old Nepalese man who studied at a vocational school passed the exam for a specified skills visa but opted for the engineer/specialist in humanities/international services visa. He cited the five-year limit as a reason for not selecting the specified skills visa, saying that he wanted to work in Japan permanently.
A 19-year-old Indonesian woman who works at a bread factory as a technical intern trainee said that she was satisfied with her monthly 150,000 yen income, but she showed interest in the specified skills visa because it would give her higher wages.
Tokyo Institute of Technology Associate Professor Yuriko Sato, who cooperated in the data analysis, commented that the specified skills visa has low appeal for international students because of the five-year limit, but many technical interns have no other options to remain in Japan.
The survey was conducted from December 2019 to February 2020 using a joint questionnaire and targeting technical intern trainees who have lived in Japan for less than five years and international students who work part time. A total of 305 responses were received. (Abridged)