Japan considers letting more skilled foreign workers stay indefinitely – Nationwide
Japan is considering expanding the scope of fields for foreign workers skilled in specific blue-collar jobs that will allow them to stay in the country indefinitely, the justice minister said. The move aims to address a severe labour shortage in Japan faced with a rapidly greying population and declining birth rate.
If realised, the new policy will upgrade the conditions of people with a resident status called Specified Skilled Worker No. 1, introduced in April 2019, which grants working rights in 14 industry fields, such as construction, farming and nursing care. Currently, out of these 14 sectors, only those with proficient skills in the construction, shipbuilding and ship machinery sectors can extend their stay beyond five years by earning Specified Skilled Worker No. 2 status.
Under the new policy, the government aims to expand the privilege to 11 other fields, including farming and food services. The Specified Skilled Worker No. 2 status holders are also allowed to bring in family members, and if they satisfy certain conditions, such as staying in Japan for 10 years, they could earn permanent resident status as well. Other specified skilled workers can stay in Japan for up to five years in total. As for workers in nursing care, which carries a different residence status, the government will continue to discuss whether care workers can fall under the new policy.
Gov’t to ease restrictions on events, eateries – Nationwide
Japan formally decided to remove an existing spectator cap on attendance at large-scale events as well as ease rules on eating and drinking establishments, mostly relating to any future COVID-19 state of emergency, as the country has seen a sharp decline in new and serious cases of the novel coronavirus. Under the new plan approved by the government’s COVID-19 task force, full attendance at venues will be allowed under certain conditions, including putting in place a system to check whether visitors have been vaccinated or have tested negative for the virus.
Attendance at large-scale events, such as professional sports games and concerts, has been capped at 5,000 spectators or 50 percent of venue capacity, whichever is larger. But such limits will be lifted if, in addition to checking vaccination and testing status, event organisers must submit their own anti-virus plans to prefectural governments, including steps to ban loud cheering. The new rules are expected to be implemented from late November. The move comes as more than 75 percent of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated.
Restaurants and bars recognised by local governments as having taken proper measures to prevent the spread of the virus, meanwhile, will be allowed to stay open until 9 p.m. under any future state of emergency, compared with 8 p.m. under current rules, and will be able to serve alcohol. There will be no time restrictions applied for such establishments under the less strict quasi-state of emergency.
JR East launches bullet train ‘office cars’ for teleworking – Nationwide
East Japan Railway Co (JR East) launched onboard “office cars” on certain shinkansen (bullet trains) on lines connecting Tokyo and the country’s northern and central parts to meet growing demand for a new work style amid the coronavirus pandemic. For no additional charge and only on weekdays, passengers on the No. 8 cars on the Tohoku, Joetsu, and Hokuriku lines can now talk on the phone and participate in online meetings from their seats — activities that are discouraged on the rest of the train.
Media were granted access inside a running Hokuriku bullet train, where a sticker saying “office car” had been put on a door of the No. 8 car and leaflets explaining the service were placed at the seats. A JR East staff demonstrated to the media how she works remotely, using a noise-cancelling headphone. Passengers will also be able to borrow “smart glasses” that project the content of their laptop screens before their eyes. On bullet trains on the Tohoku line, they will also be able to use free of charge small dividers to put around their seat tables, with a similar measure being considered for the Hokuriku and Joetsu lines.
The remote workspaces onboard the shinkansen are also available on a different railway operator’s shinkansen line in Hokkaido, which connects directly to the Tohoku line. JR East hopes the new service will help people go on “workation” trips in which they combine working online with travel, while also stimulating demand for business trips, which has decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To avoid congestion, the workspaces will not be available on weekends, public holidays and in the New Year holiday period, among others. For the time being, the exterior appearance of the office cars and seats will not change, although JR East said that they would consider remodelling them in the future.