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Entry of ‘specified skilled workers’ resumes after pandemic delay

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TOKYO >> Foreign nationals with “specified skilled worker” visa status are once again entering Japan following the easing of border control measures in March related to the coronavirus.

Foreign workers have sometimes waited years for permission to enter the country. Many have found employment at nursing homes, which have suffered labor shortages.

“Specified skilled worker” residence status allows foreigners working in 14 designated job categories — including nursing care and construction — to stay in Japan for five years. The government launched the program in April 2019.

Earlier this month Ni Made Susiyantini served food at the Kagiyamaen senior care home in Iruma, Saitama prefecture. “The meals are ready,” the 26-year-old Indonesian said to care recipients. “They look tasty, don’t they?”

Susiyantini arrived in Japan on March 12 and started work on March 17, after a three-day quarantine period.

She studied at a Japanese language school, and in April 2018 started working part time at a nursing home for two years. After deciding to return to work in Japan once more, she took and passed exams for Japanese-language proficiency and nursing skills in August 2020 from Indonesia.

In February 2021, Susiyantini was offered a job at Kagiyamaen, but because of the pandemic, she was forced to stay in Indonesia for months without knowledge of when she would be allowed to enter Japan. Faced with an uncertain future, her family advised her to find employment in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Susiyantini and another foreign worker had been scheduled to start at Kagiyamaen in May 2021, but they were still unable to gain entry into Japan. In November, when restrictions were temporarily relaxed, Kagiyamaen signed a contract on behalf of the pair for an apartment, but their entry was postponed again when infections began to spread once more.

“I didn’t expect it would take so long for them to come to Japan,” said care home director Daisuke Miyakoshi. “I want them to start by getting accustomed to the working environment and to become actively engaged with the work.”

According to the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry, since the end of January 2020 — when the coronavirus began to spread — more than 9,000 people outside Japan have taken the exam for specified nursing care skills. However, many of them have been unable to get to Japan.

Expectations are running high in the nursing care industry, which is suffering a serious labor shortage. Many facilities have been affected by the ban on the entry of nonresident foreign nationals.

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