Hello. I'm Ito from IMS Legal Professional Corporation. The implementation of the Work Style Reform-related laws, formally known as the Act on Arrangement of Related Laws for Promoting Work Style Reform, began on April 1, 2019. This led to amendments in labor-related laws, including the Labor Standards Act, and placed restrictions on overtime work.

Generally, a monthly limit of 45 hours and an annual limit of 360 hours were stipulated, with large companies subject to these regulations from April 2019 and small and medium-sized enterprises from April 2020. However, due to the specific nature of certain industries such as logistics, transportation, construction, and healthcare, a five-year grace period was granted, extending until the end of March 2024. After April, an annual cap of 960 hours will be applied.

Anticipated Challenges in the Logistics Industry

With the booming trend of online shopping leading to an increase in logistics volume, further labor shortages are anticipated. These include:

  1. Drivers leaving the industry due to reduced overtime pay resulting from decreased working hours.
  2. Extension of delivery periods due to decreased daily transportation volumes.
  3. Anticipated increase in labor costs.

Already, Japan Post has decided to revise the delivery times of Yu-Pack and express mail from April 1 onwards, delaying delivery times to certain areas from Minami Kanto to parts of Kyushu and Hakodate, and shortening the desired delivery time slot from October 1 onwards. Furthermore, due to the transfer of mail delivery for mail and post-sized parcels to Japan Post, some contracted workers' contracts ended at the end of January.

Addressing Labor Shortages

While the logistics industry is implementing digital tools to improve operations and efficiency, it remains insufficient to address the labor shortage. In this context, the government is considering adding four sectors - automotive transport, railways, forestry, and timber industries - to the "Specified Skilled Worker (SSW)" residency status. This covers occupations such as bus, taxi, and truck drivers in the automotive transport sector. To work as a bus or taxi driver, a Class 2 driver's license is required, and the National Police Agency has translated sample questions into 20 languages to accommodate multilingual testing.

While it may not seem feasible until April 1, it is indeed a positive development. The Specified Skills visa requires passing an examination in the desired field and demonstrating proficiency in Japanese at the level specified for each field. Recently, I saw a TV program featuring the president of a taxi company. Despite facing significant debts, the company managed to turn around and is now focusing on operating ride-hailing apps, implementing various reforms. One such reform is the introduction of ride-hailing services in snowy tourist areas. It seems that there have been cases of accidents involving foreign tourists driving rental cars on unfamiliar snowy roads in regions popular for winter sports. Due to limited transportation options and heavy luggage, it is presumed that they use rental cars. With ride-hailing apps, tourists can request rides, and with the addition of automotive transport to the Specified Skills residency status, having drivers who can speak in their native language and chauffeur them will be reassuring for both tourists and taxi companies.

To accept the Specified Skills residency status, companies need to establish their systems. It's advisable to start by considering whether to engage a registered support organization or set up internal systems.

Immigration Services Agency: "Specified Skilled Worker Guidebook (for Businesses)" [link] (Japanese only)

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