Cool Biz campaign begins across Japan – Nationwide
The government’s annual Cool Biz energy-saving campaign for late spring and summer kicked off across Japan on May 1st, Monday. Some employees at the Environment Ministry wore Okinawa’s kariyushi summer shirts, Kyodo News reported.
Cool Biz, which will last until Sept 30, encourages workers to dress down, ditching their suits and ties for open-necked, short-sleeved shirts in their offices. It also suggests office air conditioners be set at 28 degrees Celsius. Cool Biz was started in 2005 by then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi with the aim of reducing CO2 emissions and electricity use. It started on June 1 each year until 2011 when it was brought forward by a month in a bid to conserve electricity after worries that there would be a power shortage following the March 11 disaster.
Japan visitors rise to nearly 2 million in April after China eases travel curbs – Nationwide
Visitors to Japan rose to a post-pandemic high of almost 2 million in April, official data showed, benefiting from a relaxation of travel restrictions in China. The number of foreign visitors for business and leisure climbed to 1.95 million last month from 1.82 million in March, the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) said. Arrivals were still down 33% from April 2019, before pandemic travel curbs were adopted the next year.
China last month eased outbound travel restrictions that had cut off a lucrative flow of visitors during the pandemic. A record 9.5 million Chinese visitors landed in Japan in 2019, a third of all visitors. But a full recovery is likely to take time because of a lingering shortage of flights. There were 108,300 Chinese arrivals in April, according to JNTO data, a 43% jump from March but still well off of 2019 levels.
Traveller numbers have risen steadily since Japan resumed visa-free travel for many countries in October. It stopped pre-arrival COVID tests for travellers from China on April 5 and scrapped remaining infection controls on May 8. Tourism to Japan all but halted for more than two years during the pandemic until a gradual reopening starting in June 2022. Meanwhile the yen has weakened precipitously against the euro and U.S. dollar, making trips to Japan the cheapest they have been in many years.
Japan’s ruling party OKs plan to expand scope of skilled worker visa – Nationwide
Japan’s ruling party approved a government proposal to expand the scope of a blue-collar skilled worker visa that effectively allows holders to live in the country indefinitely. In a possible major shift in the country’s foreign labour policy, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government is expected to formally endorse the plan next month in response to calls from the business community seeking to secure human resources amid a chronic labour shortage. Under the plan, approved by a Liberal Democratic Party committee, the government will increase the number of industry sectors able to grant foreign workers a special status that effectively grants them permanent residency from two to 11.
Currently, proficient laborers in the construction and shipbuilding sectors can extend their stays in Japan by earning the Specified Skilled Worker No. 2 visa status, which allows holders to bring family members into the country and has no limit on how many times it can be renewed. The nine industries subject to the proposed revision include the fishery, agriculture, and hotel sectors, according to the plan. Meanwhile, care workers will not be included in the planned change as there is a visa for foreigners with national qualifications they can already apply for.
The current specified skilled workers system was introduced in April 2019 to attract foreign workers, who are needed to address the country’s severe labour shortage caused in part by a declining birthrate. It allows foreigners with certain Japanese language and vocational skills to apply for a special residential status called the Specified Skilled Worker No. 1, enabling them to work in Japan for up to five years. The number of foreigners staying in Japan under the No. 1 visa totalled around 146,000 as of the end of February, but only 10 held the No. 2 resident status, according to the Immigration Services Agency.
The government was initially wary about allowing more workers across a wide range of sectors to upgrade their status from No. 1 to No. 2. But it has received calls to expand the scope of the No. 2 residency status from companies in various industries that wish to continue employing their foreign workers.