A new visa system has been approved by the Japanese Diet in December 2018, allowing the country to formally accept blue-collar workers from foreign countries. In the past, Japan had only issued working visas to highly skilled professionals. This new legislation will change Japan’s job market. However, language skills have been a major barrier.
Jobs are limited to 14 industries, one of which is nursing/elderly care. Since 2008, Japan has received certified nurses and caregivers from Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam under the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), although the program has not seen a huge success over the years because of the language barrier. The standard route to get a worker visa would be to first complete the traineeship in Japan, pass the national exam for certification, and then apply for a worker visa through the employer. The applicants are required to have highly technical language skills on top of their profession, making it hard for them to pass. There has been much discussion as to how much of the language skills should be required in the nursing/caregiving industry.
Meanwhile, Nishinippon Shimbun (West-Japan Daily) began publishing news in easier-to-understand Japanese for the ease of communication for the non-Japanese natives. In countries such as the US and Australia where there is a long history of immigration, this kind of consideration has been already been done. Many municipalities in Japan has also been trying to provide multi-lingual translation services. However, very few attempts had been made by public services to communicate with foreigners using easier-to-understand Japanese. As the country is moving towards accepting more immigrants, the mindset of the locals will have to change to cater to their new neighbors.