In Japan, concerns are growing that vital foreign workers will turn away from domestic industry in the near future as coronavirus pandemic restrictions keep new entrants out.
While Japan is generally reluctant to take in immigrants, it has a technical training program for foreign workers whose official goal is to help developing countries.
Care Support in Saitama City, which operates the home care and other health care facilities, started hiring youth from Vietnam and other countries in 2019.
At present, it has 13 foreign workers in the apprenticeship program or with a “determined skilled worker” residency status.
But new foreign workers that Care Support plans to hire will not be able to enter Japan due to the pandemic.
“All nursing care facilities suffer from a chronic shortage of workers,” a company official told Nikkei Asia. “We are eager to rent [foreign workers] as early as possible.”
About 180,000 young people entered the workforce after graduating from high school in Japan last year, down 70 percent from the 600,000 in 1990.
“Since the 1990s, foreign workers have made up for it [this] dive,” said Shohei Sugita, a lawyer familiar with issues related to the employment of foreign workers.
The government has expanded its acceptance of unskilled foreign workers while remaining a closed door to immigrants who come to Japan with the expectation of permanent residence.
The trainee training program was introduced in 1993 to include unskilled workers from Asian countries on the grounds that they could contribute to the development of their home country through the skills learned in Japan.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there were an estimated 600,000 foreign workers, including illegal workers, in Japan in 1993, nearly tripled to 1.72 million by 2020.
At the end of 2020, about 378,000 foreigners were working in Japan under the in-house training program, about double the number five years earlier, although the pandemic has halted any further increase.