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Moving to Japan to work as a taxi, bus or truck driver may be getting easier soon

66 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

A few years ago, the Japanese government created a new residency category for foreign workers in Japan. Called the Specified Skilled Worker program, the initiative offers relaxed immigration hurdles for individuals coming to Japan to work in key industries that are expected to experience labor shortages as Japan’s population declines, such as nursing, agriculture, construction, and factory work.

Now the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is considering adding a new category to the list of Specified Skilled Worker jobs, which would allow foreigners to enter Japan to work as taxi, bus, or truck drivers.

▼ Yes, you could be the one pressing the button that opens the back door of a Japanese taxi for the passenger.

Screen-Shot-2023-09-14-at-6.27.57.png
Image: SoraNews24

The initiative comes as multiple factors combine to create a looming shortage of professional drivers in Japan. For starters, taxi driving isn’t a job that’s attracting a lot of young people in Japan, where the average age of taxi drivers is 58.3 years old. According to statistics from 2021, the country then had roughly 220,000 taxi drivers, which sounds like a lot until you learn that it had 340,000 taxi drivers in 2011, meaning more than a third of the workforce evaporated in those ten years. The travel downturn during the corona pandemic, in which fewer people were travelling or even going out and about in general, also has had many drivers in recent years either opting to retire or switch fields of work.

With travel, including international travel resuming, though, demand for taxi and bus services is likely to rebound. At the same time, new, stricter overtime caps for professional drivers are set to go into effect next year, meaning that even if Japan’s current drivers were willing to pick up the slack caused by the shrinking of the industry’s workforce, they might not be legally allowed to do so. This has led the Japan Federation of Hire-Taxi Associations, Nihon [Japan] Bus Association, and Japan Trucking Association to all request that professional driving in their fields be granted Specified Skilled Worker eligibility status in their most recent annual business plans, published last spring.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has expressed openness to the idea, and says it will be working with the Immigration Services Agency to determine what would need to be done for successful implementation.

Professional driving comes with some unique challenges for foreign workers newly arrived in Japan. For starters, they’ll need to acquire Japanese driver’s licenses. Taxi and bus drivers, who are commercially driving vehicles with other passengers inside, must also obtain an additional Class 2 driver’s license, the written test for which is only offered in Japanese (the standard license test can be taken in English and other foreign languages).

There’s also a language issue related to the way in which drivers generally work far away from other members of their company. A foreign office or factory worker, when faced with a question or concern that they can’t fully understand from a Japanese customer or other outside party, can generally enlist the help of a nearby Japanese-native coworker without too much delay. That’s not really an option though for a taxi, bus, or truck driver, who’s likely to be several kilometers away from the other members of their company when they encounter such language barrier-based troubles. Navigating streets and highways can also be very tricky in Japan, where most streets are unnamed and buildings are not numbered in geographic sequence, so taxi drivers often need to be able to communicate with passengers in order to get them exactly where they want to go.

Because of that, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is looking into designing educational materials and testing standards covering skill sets such as customer communication scenarios and proper cargo loading, unloading, and handling.

Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Nihon Keizai Shimbun

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Tokyo’s new pre-fixed taxi fare smartphone service reduces the guess work of travelling by cab

-- Adorable mascot bear Kumamon stars on the most popular new license plate in Japan

-- Tokyo making big changes to taxi service and fares, looking for a few “testy” drivers

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

66 Comments
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the average age of taxi drivers is 58.3 years old. According to statistics from 2021, the country then had roughly 220,000 taxi drivers, which sounds like a lot until you learn that it had 340,000 taxi drivers in 2011, meaning more than a third of the workforce evaporated in those ten years.

So they want to create new category for driver in their existing cheap labor program, what they called trainee program and tokutei ginou program. So they can import more cheap labor to Japan.

-8 ( +18 / -26 )

Conventional taxis are old fashioned these days, the rare exception the situation in Japan. I am reminded of that when I go to Thailand, Vietnam, etc., where car sharing by Grab and others has taken over. No wonder, they're cheaper and way more convenient with their apps, which bring the cars right to you, instead of waving your arm on a street for ages to having to walk to a taxi rank.

As for this initiative, it seems once again Japan trying desperately to prop up a dinosaur. It would be much easier to allow Uber, Grab, etc. Most of the Grab drivers I've hired are young.

 the written test for which is only offered in Japanese...

Yeah, that's going to go well. Remember the Indonesian nurses?

0 ( +19 / -19 )

@sakurasuki

Where is this information written?

Because you make a statement which is not matching with the article. You often reply on articles which has no content.

11 ( +17 / -6 )

It might improve the standard of driving. Taxi drivers are universally bad though those here take the cake.

Suddenly stopping with no indication

Turning with no indication

Swerving all over the road

Parking too close to an intersection

Engine kept running while waiting for a passenger

And of course a red light means 'go' 

The doilies and auto doors don't really make up for it.

-7 ( +10 / -17 )

Moving to Japan to work as a taxi, bus or truck driver 

Never, ever heard anyone say that

17 ( +22 / -5 )

It might improve the standard of driving. Taxi drivers are universally bad though those here take the cake.

Japanese taxi drivers are the best I've dealt with in any country, hands down.

The taxis are cleanest too.

3 ( +19 / -16 )

Never, ever heard anyone say that

There wasn't a visa for it before. You're putting the cart before the horse.

-16 ( +3 / -19 )

Japanese taxi drivers are the best I've dealt with in any country, hands down.

Can't have travelled much then.

7 ( +18 / -11 )

If

taxi driving isn’t a job that’s attracting a lot of young people in Japan

then let's make this be a Specified Skilled Workers and seek foreign people!

This drastic way of thinking makes Japan different from the others. I believe once Uber or other ride sharing services become available a lot of young people wound be happy to work there.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Can we please hire some taxi drivers who actually know where they're supposed to be going?

5 ( +18 / -13 )

The other day, Kishida suggested to implement some car sharing services, such as Uber. But many here are against. Protectionism

6 ( +16 / -10 )

agree with JeffLee and didou

-8 ( +8 / -16 )

The foreign drivers had want to become exceptionally high level in business Japanese before applying for this new visa. I would say 2 to 3 years full time study in their home nations. Plus when they arrive, they will need probably 2 more years of study of ALL areas of Tokyo/Osaka etc. in order to pass the taxi license. It is common for Japanese taxi drivers to know every street in Tokyo by heart.

So around 5 years of study will be required before a passenger is accepted. Challenging, but not impossible if they wish to immigrate permanently to Japan.

-5 ( +12 / -17 )

Nihon Enigma

I prefer taxis in Aussie, NZ or the UK where they are just as clean, but you don't get the smell of tobacco and they often chat with you in a friendly way, something Japanese drivers rarely do.

There is no smoking in Japanese taxis.

3 ( +10 / -7 )

It is common for Japanese taxi drivers to know every street in Tokyo by heart.

Tell us you know nothing about Japanese taxi drivers without telling us you know nothing about Japanese taxi drivers.

10 ( +18 / -8 )

My Aussie licence was enough to get me a Japanese licence.

However, talking to an American lad at the Traffic Department, he was failed in his test because he "didnt check under the car before starting " LOL!!!

Bombs, lazy cats, the mind boggles at the reason for this requirement.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

There is no smoking in Japanese taxis.

They still reek from the previous stinky salaryman though.

-6 ( +9 / -15 )

Yeah,many questions to be answered on this subject.

Firstly, why aren’t younger Japanese taking on this ‘specialized’ but not well paying job which according to Fighto requires in depth knowledge?

Could it be that there is a disturbing lack of interest from the indigenous population?

In the 21st century most of the taxi drivers are using car navigation systems to find their way around so it’s becoming less specialized, right?

Still, how much money can be made from a population which is becoming more and more impoverished?

And what are the career prospects for a taxi driver?

Not the best in Japan.

-6 ( +10 / -16 )

they often chat with you in a friendly way, something Japanese drivers rarely do.

I had the opposite problem in Japan. It's pretty clear when I give directions that I speak Japanese, and not just 'me likey Japan and sugoi sushi', and often they would keep talking to me when I just wanted to read my phone.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

Plus when they arrive, they will need probably 2 more years of study of ALL areas of Tokyo/Osaka etc. in order to pass the taxi license.

Drivers take about 6 months on average in Tokyo to pass the test; Osaka is much smaller so I would imagine the average is faster.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

I thought the easiest work for foreigners to obtain was manual labor like construction and factories! Followed by elderly care.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

It is common for Japanese taxi drivers to know every street in Tokyo by heart.

Tell us you know nothing about Japanese taxi drivers without telling us you know nothing about Japanese taxi drivers.

They literally have to pass a test showing they know all the streets in Tokyo by heart. Then they drive those streets daily as part of their job.

I think your comment may have been pointed in the wrong direction...

-11 ( +4 / -15 )

Or they could make it a more appealing profession with better pay and flexible hours. There is a lot of civil and criminal liability being a professional driver in Japan.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I did see a foreign taxi driver yesterday here close to my home in Nagoya...I was a bit surprised...but I am glad!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I have just spent two days taking taxis and didn't have any problems with any of them. Also more younger drivers these days.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

I prefer taxis over Uber/ride sharing. The ride sharing apps are useful, but the service is hit and miss, and I hate having to try to maintain a rating. With a taxi I can get in, get out, and never think about the ride again.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

Nihon Enigma

It's many many years since I have been in a taxi which allowed smoking. I prefer the new modern taxis to the standard car type which are difficult for me to get in and out of. But most of the taxis in our location are the car type.

If you don't want to respond to a post then just ignore it.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

I agree with Wally.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

We don't have a shared ride service in our location so I have never used them. Probably London taxis are the best in the world. Don't fall asleep in a Paris taxi, he will go around the block several times to increase the charge.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Eastman

If you have a problem with spelling and grammar I recommend you install Grammarly on your browser. Works a treat.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

all of us have own opinions,lives,experiences.let us express freely all here.with respect to each other.

using Grammarly would improve that sentence.

"All of us have our own opinions, lives, and experiences. Let us express freely all here. With respect to each other."

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

For starters, taxi driving isn’t a job that’s attracting a lot of young people in Japan

Driving everyday in Tokyo, I guess I see 1 young taxi driver (below 35 years old) once a month, 1 female driver every couple of months.

But I got to say this is the best gateway for people over their 50/60s that don't have the stamina to work in other physically demanding jobs or are tired of the typical japanese "ningen kankei".

I have a neighbor in his 70s, he has his own taxi (very difficult task, you need many years working in taxi companies to achieve that), he leaves his house around 8pm-9pm to return 1 or 2 hours later. Best gateway when you're bored in your house.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Because the pension system in Japan doesn't pay out much, being a taxi driver is one of the few ways for these elderly gentlemen still healthy enough to drive to make a decent living. I am very concerned at what I will have to do upon retirement.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Tell us you know nothing about Japanese taxi drivers without telling us you know nothing about Japanese taxi drivers.

Lol!

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

I am very concerned at what I will have to do upon retirement.

You could always consider driving trucks or buses? Also a huge shortage of them in Japan - like taxi drivers.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Are taxi drivers salaried workers in Japan or do they earn more the more drop offs they have like taxi drivers back home do?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Are taxi drivers salaried workers in Japan or do they earn more the more drop offs they have like taxi drivers back home do?

They earn more for doing more rides. I think they also get a base salary though, but I'm not so sure of it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Federation of Hire-Taxi Associations, Nihon [Japan] Bus Association

Weren't these the same bozos that threw a monkey wrench into Uber's business model? Hence Uber here in Japan is only known for food delivery while the rest of the world uses them for transpo services.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Salary and wages depend on the company. Some are self-employed, others are employees. I have known a couple of drivers. They work long hours.

The average taxi driver's salary in Japan is ¥2,970,124 or an equivalent hourly rate of ¥1,428.

Another site quotes

A person working as a Taxi Driver in Japan typically earns around 168,000 JPY. Salaries range from 80,800 JPY (lowest) to 264,000 JPY (highest).

More than 10,000 Tokyo drivers left the industry during the pandemic.

New graduate drivers are earning ¥500,000 per month.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Meaningless for a foreigner to make all the effort to learn to be able to drive a taxi in Japan. There are already 500 driverless taxi in San Fransisco. Obviously Japan will move much slowy but in max 10 years the job will not exist anymore.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Japan is rising Hopefully we can get a job as a skilled workers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

From the very excellent Hino Maru Taxi Co. Ltd. website, which states they employ 75 drivers from 26 foreign countries...

Monthly income one year since joining - ¥302,276

Three to five years since joining - ¥329,306

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Strangerland....

Japanese taxi drivers are the best I've dealt with in any country, hands down.

So never been to the UK, Germany or most of Europe? Many in Japan are clueless but at least they are honest.

The taxis are cleanest too.

That is true.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Many in Japan are clueless

As I said earlier:

They literally have to pass a test showing they know all the streets in Tokyo by heart. Then they drive those streets daily as part of their job.

I suspect they probably know the roads way better than the foreigners who only think they know better. But they're usually polite and just say 'ok, sure'.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

From the very excellent Hino Maru Taxi Co. Ltd. website...

They also state that they provide training to help you pass the Class 2 license and actively recruit foreign drivers. I'm considering contacting them when I finish language school and have passed (at least) the N3 test that they require. I'm fortunate in that my US state has a licence reciprocity agreement with Japan, so the regular Japanese license is a non-issue.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Thai Professional Tuk-Tuk drivers would be the perfect candidates for this newly-approved Skilled Visa. I am certain many would be prepared to devote a few years of study to become taxi drivers in Japan. There are skilled drivers throughout SE Asia who would jump at the chance to earn 10x their salary.

Plus living in Japan permanently is a dream for so many SE Asians.

Meaningless for a foreigner to make all the effort to learn to be able to drive a taxi in Japan. There are already 500 driverless taxi in San Fransisco. Obviously Japan will move much slowy but in max 10 years the job will not exist anymore.

I'm not sure of that. Elderly Japanese in particular may prefer an actual human driver in the car. So I can't see this desperate need for drivers abating any time soon.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I think there are many Chinese doing this already, you just might not realise.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

My Aussie licence was enough to get me a Japanese licence.

However, talking to an American lad at the Traffic Department, he was failed in his test because he "didnt check under the car before starting " LOL!!!

Bombs, lazy cats, the mind boggles at the reason for this requirement.

How do you mean by this? I'm also American, and when I took the test, I didn't have to do that. Passed the written on the 1st attempt. Passed the driving on the 3rd attempt. The Japanese are very anal. I am convinced that the driving school works directly with the department of motor vehicles, so the department has to recoup their money from foreigners another way.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

From the very excellent Hino Maru Taxi Co. Ltd. website, which states they employ 75 drivers from 26 foreign countries...

Monthly income one year since joining - ¥302,276

Probably have to work 80 hours a week to get that.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I can understand trying to attract truck and bus drivers, even though the looming threat of those jobs getting eliminated by automation certainly exists.

But taxi drivers? Are you serious? As usual Japan is a day late and a dollar short. The cab business is dying. Ride sharing is just better. There is no need to have foreign workers laboriously memorize the map of Tokyo and all the kanji that make up the street names. With an app the customer literally just inputs their destination and boom, GPS tracking handles the rest. This is how people living in the 21st century do it, but Japan again wants to go with the inferior alternative because they can prop up a domestic industry.

And don't even try to sell people living in poorer Asian countries the false promise of Japan, where they most certainly will face extreme discrimination and hardship based on where they were born and how they look. I think before Japan makes any further attempts to scheme more cheap labor and tax revenue from expats, they need to make a real and honest effort to address foreign worker abuse and predatory work contracts. As for people from Thailand, they have a serious chance at building the next successful Asian country from home. They have a unique and distinct culture that sets them apart from their neighbors, as well as the honor of being the first to legalize cannabis, a massively unprecedented move the others were too cowardly to try. They shouldn't squander what they are working towards just so they can be lured into Japan's world of exclusivity and oyaji madness.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

I'd like to clear up many of the misunderstandings here as I currently work for a taxi company. It depends on the company, but we work 11 days a month. Each day is a double shift, meaning you work 15 to 16 hours a day. However, you can come back early if you are tired, a family member is sick, etc. There is no base salary. You make 60% of the money earned from rides. Top drivers in the company make over 600,000 yen. Average salary is around 350,000 to 400,000.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

It took me about 2 weeks to pass the map test. You also have to go to driving school and get your "nishu" license as well as pass the written test. I passed all tests in one go. The total training period was less than 2 months.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

wallace

I caught a taxi from a Tennoji last week and it allowed smoking, first one I’ve seen for donkeys.

I do enjoy catching taxis here as they are safe and clean, hoping any changes don’t mean a downgrade in service and cleanliness. I’d prefer to pay for for the standard I’m used to you see.

When in London I only take licensed Hackney Cabs, mini cabs and Uber are a no no for me, you see.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Bicultural: That is very useful information...thank you for your input.

David K Anderson: I applied for employment with Hino Maru 3 separate times, and was rejected 3 times. But best of luck to you, man!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ffs

why didn’t you just take a non smoking taxi?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

BertieWoosterToday  07:37 pm JST

Good luck for anyone trying to find an address in a country that doesn't have an address system!

On Honshu we have an address system. How do I get my mail and deliveries?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well maybe these drivers won't do the constant stop and accelerate technique to earn more money, always tell them I'll pay them more to just drive normally.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So around 5 years of study will be required before a passenger is accepted. Challenging, but not impossible if they wish to immigrate permanently to Japan.

Lol. Half the cabbies back home dont even speak English and they do fine. Not to mention the not so new invention of car navigation systems.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Don't do it! You'll always be just hired gaijin help and a second-class citizen, and that's if you have the right complexion and you're from a Euro-type country. Third or fourth class from anywhere else but they probably have an unspoken color cap anyway.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

A Chinese guy drive from me Haneda last year on my return from NYC. He had family in the States and we just had a blast speaking in English and Japanese. No stupid or prying questions; just comparing our misery and good experiences here. Best taxi ride I've ever taken in Japan. When I tried to tip him he steadfastly refused but I wouldn't take no for an answer and told him to enjoy a few beers on me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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