One of the main elements for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s new strategies for Japan’s economic growth is opening up the country’s doors for more foreign workers, sources are saying. According to a participant during the policy discussion at the prime minister’s office, this is also due to the interest of overseas investors in how Japan will deal with the continued greying of its population which is slowly affecting the country’s labor force.
But policies and an environment that is more accepting of foreign workers isn’t as easy for a society like Japan’s. That is why sources are saying that Abe is proceeding with caution in making announcements about proposed policy changes and instead will “gradually and quietly” allow more overseas workers with low- to medium-level technical skills to work in the country. The first step is to bring in more foreign construction workers, as the number of people with skills necessary in the industry has gone down by one million from the 4.5 million numbers in 1997. These kind of workers are needed in the ongoing reconstruction work in the Tohoku region from the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 as well as the upcoming preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. They are estimating a need for “40,000 to 50,000 foreign laborers,” according to a senior official at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
Another industry that is desperately in need of a large influx of foreign workers is for nursing care. At present, Japan has an economic partnership agreement with Indonesia and the Philippines where they have accepted 1,000 nursing-care trainees. The rapid ageing of Japan’s population has necessitated planning for nursing care services which will become a huge problem in the future at the rate it’s going now.
Japan’s current policy of accepting foreign workers with expertise or advanced skills and the unskilled ones relegated to the on-the-job training system has led to a lot of human rights abuse cases, with some employers refusing to pay wages or overtime allowances and even taking away the trainees’ passports. Lawyer Shoichi Ibusuki believes this system needs to be abolished in order to create better policies to accepting foreign workers.
[ via Nikkei ]