Japan Opens Up To Foreign Workers

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The Japanese government is working to make the labor market here more attractive to foreign workers, with reforms to residency requirements, hospitalization, and tax issues at the heart of the plan. IT specialists are among those most targeted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), which is currently seeking input from companies around the globe. Tax regulations and other issues will be addressed at the 2017 Diet session.

Medical interpreters and new, multilingual signage and medical forms are the principal measures being taken to improve hospital service to expats. The government will share the expense (12 million yen or roughly US$118,000 per hospital). It’s estimated that as few as 20 hospitals throughout Japan are currently equipped to deal with emergency cases involving foreigners. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare plans to increase that number to 40 by March 2017 with a goal of 100 before the Olympics in 2020.

Under present tax regulations the estate of a non-Japanese who dies in an accident is taxed on all assets, whether they are held in or out of Japan, dissuading top-management candidates with sizable assets from relocating here. The METI strategy calls for legislative reform, applying the inheritance tax only to assets held in Japan, starting in fiscal 2017.

The government will also ease residency requirements for certified foreign care workers, researchers, and other highly skilled foreign professionals. The Justice Ministry will recognize certified foreign care workers as specialists worthy of the corresponding visa status, and legislation is in the works to add this category to Japan’s Technical Intern Training Program.

Proposals to change the residency requirement from five years to less than three and cutting red tape around starting a business and investing are also expected to attract many more of the skilled professionals being sought.

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Matt Doherty

A native of Washington D.C., Matthew and his wife realized a long-cherished dream when they reinvented their lives here in Panama three years ago. Matt spends his free time writing fiction and teaching English as a second language.