Japan’s government has revised the immigration rules and proposed a new visa status that would allow more overseas workers to fill the employment needs of specific sectors.
For Japan, a softening of the immigration rules is a very uncommon practice. Although public attitudes are slowly shifting, there is widespread concern that an influx of foreigners will upset the social order, increase job competition and weaken traditions.
“Labour shortages have become more acute,”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told journalists and explained that it is time to create a mechanism to broadly accept foreign personnel who are work-ready with certain expertise and skills. According to Mr Suga, Japan’s government plans to “quickly” draw up new bills to revise immigration law.
An increasing diversity is inevitable for improving Japan’s industrial competitiveness and research and academic levels. Moreover, facing an ageing population and a declining birth rate, Japan’s Cabinet has tried to get more women and elderly people into the workforce, but economists say those measures alone may be insufficient.
Japan’s policy on the immigration and overseas workers
The state policy is expected to target sectors that have been worst affected by the country’s labour shortage including agriculture, nursing, construction, hotels and shipbuilding, according to local media. So far, the government has not set a target for foreign workers under the new proposals, although local media put the figure at more than 500,000 people by 2025.
Driven by economic and demographic forces, the government is set to announce plans on Friday that will create new five-year work permit categories for foreigners.
Japanese officials have said they are focusing on five areas: farming, construction, hotels, elderly care and shipbuilding. Despite the potential softening of the immigration riles, the authorities are also considering allowing foreign workers who pass certain tests to stay indefinitely and bring family members. If the measures are approved by the Cabinet, the government aims to have parliament make them into law this fall.