Japan edging closer to new immigration program

Japan’s ruling cabinet has backed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to admit more foreign workers to the country, although the legislation still faces a battle to get through parliament.

The plans, which were proposed as a remedy to Japan’s severe labour shortages, will create two new visa categories. One for unskilled workers who can stay alone for five years and with no possibility of extension and the other for skilled workers which will allow them to bring their families and extend their stay.

Although some members of the cabinet were against the plans, fearing they will open the way to foreigners achieving permanent residence in Japan, they ultimately backed the proposals on the proviso that the program is reviewed within a few years.

Abe’s plan will cover 14 sectors facing the most severe labour shortages, including agriculture, nursing care and construction. There is no set limit for the estimated number of arrivals,

The general public broadly supports the proposal too. In a survey conducted by the Nikkei News Review last weekend in conjunction with TV Tokyo, 54 per cent of respondents supported the plan, with 34 per cent opposing it. Young people overwhelmingly back the plan, with older voters expressing less support.

The legislation will now be submitted to parliament. And whilst the government is targeting passage by the end of this year, with a view to implementation next April, the bill still faces strong opposition from some of Japan’s other political parties.

The main concerns regard the lack of a limit on foreign worker numbers being imposed and the length of time the workers could be permitted to stay in the country.

The opposition is set to unveil a counterproposal which sets limits by region.

Article published 2nd November 2018