Okinawa in Need of More Bus Drivers Amidst Tourism Surge

In recent years, the Land of the Rising Sun has opened wider doors of opportunities for overseas workers and international sojourners who hope to visit the country to go sightseeing, experience its unique culture and try out some of the most iconic Japanese dishes worldwide. More and more foreigners come to visit Japan year and year out. In fact, the country hopes to attract over three hundred thousand foreign nationals in the next five years.


As a consequence of this tremendous surge of tourists, there are various challenges that the country has to deal with. One of the of these issues is the shortage of drivers especially in major cities across the country. This is especially true in Okinawa Prefecture where local bus operators are seriously in need of more manpower to drive their buses around the city.


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According to an official from the association of bus and railway operators in Okinawa, “Overtime hours have increased to compensate for the labor shortage, adding more tasks and raising the mental burden for each driver. Many drivers have quit their job. Local bus operators are pushed into a vicious cycle they cannot escape”.


With the increasing number of tourist buses, the job openings for drivers within Okinawa Prefecture also soared higher than the previous years based on the Okinawa Labor Bureau. However, one of the main concerns of tourist bus drivers are the inconvenient working conditions that include long driving hours, heavy traffic congestion as well as addressing various complaints from passengers.


In order to encourage more potential drivers to fill up the job vacancies, tourist bus companies seek to provide better working conditions for them and improve their salary structure. These establishments intend to offer more support and incentives to augment their income.


As a matter of fact, four of the largest bus operators in Okinawa Prefecture: Ryukyu Bus Kotsu, Naha Bus Co., Okinawa Bus Ltd. and Toyo Bus allows bus drivers to borrow money from the company in order for them to acquire a professional driver’s license for large vehicles.


Reference: Tourism boom and psychological stress behind Okinawa bus driver shortage


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