Japan to Start New Language Test to Ease Labor Immigration
The new language proficiency test will be first given to applicants from Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and the Philippines before the country expands it to other countries.
By April next year, Japan will introduce a new Japanese language proficiency test with more emphasis on the practical expression used in businesses with an aim to get more immigrants to work in the country.
The test will be administered both within and outside Japan to assess applicants’ ability to understand and use Japanese in daily life and business settings, according to a report in Japanese business daily Nikkei. The examination will include tests like making telephone calls and scheduling meetings.
With a low birth rate and aging population, Japan is facing labor shortage and is trying to fill the gap with immigrants from Asian countries.
Japan’s foreign ministry is leading the project as the country plans to relaxing immigration norms to cope with its deepening labor shortage. The test will serve as one of the main criteria for evaluating job applicants. Japan has very few immigrants working in its industries as it has a very strict immigration policy but the government is warming up to allowing more immigrants now.
Applicants from Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and the Philippines will be the first to get the proposed tests. Officials are planning to administer it by computers rather than on paper to speed the processing of results, the publication said, adding that the new test will have both listening and reading components for now while writing and speaking sections may be added later.
Current tests used by employers and work programs in Japan, notably the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), are heavily weighted toward language used in academic settings and student life, and one-third of the people taking the JLPT are exchange students studying in Japan, the report added. According to critics, these tests are not well designed to assess the language skills needed by workers.
Japan is facing labor shortages in various sectors, including construction, farming, and nursing care, and with a view to fill that gap, the country will institute a five-year work permit next April that will not limit applicants to specific job categories, the paper said.
In October 2017, about 1.28 million foreigners were working in the country, the most ever and an 18 percent increase from the year before, according to statistics from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
The country’s overall population fell by 199,000 in 2017, with the number of Japanese nationals decreasing by 374,000 and this was offset by an increase of 174,000 foreigners moving to the country, roughly halving the population shrinkage, the Nikkei said in another report, citing figures from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.