As reported by Workpermit.com on May 6, 2016, Japanese immigration is desperate to attract more foreign workers. Reports emerging from Japan indicate that the Japanese government is now planning to relax visa requirements for foreign ski instrcutors in a bid to revitalize the country's declining skiing industry.
However, while the relaxing of visa requirements is intended to attract more foreign ski instructors, the Japanese government also hopes that the plans will prevent foreign tourists from working illegally as skiing instrcutors when visiting Japan.
According to the Kyodo news agency – a non-profit cooperative news agency based in Minato, Tokyo – Japan's Justice Ministry is also considering granting some type of resident status to foreign ski instructors. In addition Japan intends to offer the highest-level qualification issued by the Switzerland-based International Ski Instructors Association, which has a membership of 10,700 worldwide.
Immigration Resident status in Japan
In order to obtain resident status now, the Justice Ministry stated that foreign ski instrcutors seeking work in Japan must have at least three years of experience competing in major events involving skiing, such as the Winter Olympics and the world championships. It is difficult for many ski instructors to meet this requirement.
Concerns were raised at a recent stakeholders' convention, held by Japan's Tourism Agency (JTA), that strict foreign worker visa requirements had proven to be a barrier to reviving the country's skiing industry.
A survey conducted by the JTA found that many ski schools throughout Japan were in favour of recruiting more overseas ski teachers. 25 of Japan's 129 ski schools said that they wanted to hire more than 80 foreign instrcutors.
A previous survey, carried out by the JTA in 2010, showed that tourists from Australia, China and South Korea preferred winter sports, including skiing, ahead of golf, marine sports and mountain climbing, when travelling to Japan.
Declining popularity of skiing in Japan amongst locals
The declining popularity of skiing in Japan has been attributed to an ageing population and a decrease in the country's birth rate. In 1998, the number of people skiing or snowboarding in Japan peaked at 18 million. In 2013, this figure dropped to 7.7 million.
In September 2015, Japan's Justice Ministry outlined a basic immigration policy that would look at allowing more foreign workers, with specialized knowledge and skills, to enter the country. As part of the policy, the ministry stated that it would revise the visa requirements for ski instructors based on feedback from domestic skiing schools.
Japan is thought of as a premier skiing destination in Asia, having hosted the Winter Olympics, plus the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, on two separate occasions. The country also boasts more than 600 ski resorts, with favoured venues including Nagano, which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics and the island of Hokkaido, the setting for the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. Meanwhile, the Niigata and Tohoku regions of Japan also attract thousands of foreign visitors each year.