As one of the most aged country in the world, Japan is always challenged by severe labor shortage in almost all industries and sectors, in which building cleaning is an outstanding one. The number of buildings is increasing year by year, while the working population is decreasing. Though Japanese government has taken measures to attract own nationals to engage in building cleaning, like hiring retirees and housewives, raising wages, adopting cleaning machines and robots, but the labor shortage still remains. So the government established a new long-term working visa called Specified Skilled Worker to attract foreign workers.
This paper is going to introduce basic information about Specified Skilled Worker visa in Building Cleaning Management industry, requirements to be eligible with the visa, skills evaluation test and Japanese language test, and work scopes for skilled workers under this visa.
The newly established working visa in April 2019, called "Tokutei Ginou" in Japanese, aims to introduce non-Japanese simple labor workers to 14 industries suffering from severe labor shortage, including Care Worker, Building Cleaning Management, Construction, etc. Japanese government plans to bring about 345,000 skilled workers in a period of 5 years from 2019, in which up to 37,000 workers can be hired by the Building Cleaning Management industry. The accepting number in each industry is decided and reduces once someone granted the visa, so it is better to apply earlier.
There are two statuses under this visa: Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 and Specified Skilled Worker No. 2. The main difference is in period of stay and whether family member accompany is allowed.
Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 has a period of stay for 1 year, 6 months or 4 months and can be renewed for a maximum stay up to 5 years in total. Family member accompany is not allowed. This status is applicable for people working in jobs that require considerable knowledge or experience.
Specified Skilled Worker No. 2 has a period of stay for 3 years, 1 year or 6 months. It has no limitation in renewal counts so a permanent residence may be possible. Holders of this visa are allowed to bring their spouse and children to Japan. This status is applicable for people with proficient skills.
Though the Specified Skilled Worker No. 2 is much more powerful, it is only open to two industries: Construction and Shipbuilding and Ship Machinery. So currently skilled workers in Building Cleaning Management can only stay in Japan for 5 years and they are not allowed to bring family members to live in Japan together. But as Japanese government is considering about adding accepting industries for No. 2, maybe Building Cleaning Management will also be involved in No. 2 in the future.
Nationals from all countries can apply for this visa if they meet the following requirements:
・Pass skills evaluation test for building cleaning management industry
・Pass Japanese language test
Compared to other working visa requiring applicants to have educational background or work experience in the field for years, Specified Skilled Worker only requires entry-level skills and language proficiency, which will be introduced later. Foreigners who have completed Technical Intern Training No.2 in building cleaning can change to the Specified Skilled Worker visa smoothly, as they are thought to be competent in skills and Japanese language and the tests can be exempted.
To be qualified with Specified Skilled Worker visa in building cleaning management industry, applicants need to pass skill evaluation tests conducted by JBMA (Japan Building Maintenance Association), which aims at examining the knowledge and skill in building cleaning management of applicants. People who have completed Technical Intern Training No.2 in building cleaning are exempt from the skill tests.
Skills test is held once a year since 2019, both in Japan and overseas (only in Myanmar and Philippines currently). Test date may change every year and every country, for example the next skills test in Japan is August ~ September 2020, while the date was November ~ December in 2019, and Myanmar held the test in July ~ August 2019. Test date and site can be checked on the website of JBMA.
Skills test has two parts: paper test and practical test. Paper test will use photos and pictures, and practical test will consist of 3 tasks like regular floor cleaning, regular window glass cleaning, daily western-style toilet bowl cleaning and judgement test.
Questions will be chosen from these subjects: preparation of work, handling of instruments, handling of materials, handling of machine, cleaning by site, cleaning by location, waste disposal work, maintenance of instruments, materials and machines.
Only a daily-life Japanese language level is required for working in Japan as a skilled worker. Applicants need to obtain N4 or higher of JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) or pass JLFT (Japanese Language Foundation Test) overseas. This level means that applicants are able to listen and understand conversations spoken slowly in daily life. People who have completed the Technical Intern Training No.2 or graduated from schools in Japan are exempt from the language test.
Generally, building cleaning consists of two types: exterior and interior cleaning. The former means cleaning the outer walls, windows, roofs and outer areas around building, which may be a little risky, while the latter means cleaning halls, passages, toilets, floors elevators, escalators, hotel rooms inside the building. Note that house cleaning is not included in interior building cleaning.
Specified Skilled Worker visa is only applicable to interior building cleaning. Building may be office, supermarket, hospital, etc. Detailed tasks may include cleaning preparation, handling and maintenancing the supporting materials, equipments, and machines, cleaning, removing the garbage.
Only direct and full-time employment is allowed for the Specified Skilled Worker visa, which means that dispatched or part-time workers engaging in the same work content are not eligible.