Jiji PressTOKYO (Jiji Press) — The government, at a Cabinet meeting on Friday, adopted a bill to establish a new resident status in order to accept more foreigners into the labor force, including unskilled workers, amid deepening labor shortages at home.
The bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law was submitted to the House of Representatives later in the day.
The revision, if enacted, would mark a major turning point in Japan’s policy on foreign labor, as the country currently does not accept foreigners to do simple work in principle.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito hope to launch debate on the bill, one of the most important items for them during the ongoing extraordinary Diet session, at a plenary meeting of the lower house on Thursday.
The government is set to do its utmost to get the bill through the Diet during the session, aiming to introduce the new residential status in April 2019.
Enacting the bill is an “urgent task as labor shortages, including at small businesses, are increasingly serious against the backdrop of the country’s graying and shrinking population,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference on Friday.
Opposition parties are demanding a thorough debate on the legislation, claiming that the new resident status will represent a de facto policy to accept immigrants.
While basically shutting out blue-collar foreign workers at present, Japan, in reality, relies on job trainees and students from abroad, including other Asian countries, to meet labor demand.
At a lower house Budget Committee meeting on Thursday, Akira Naga-tsuma, acting leader of the major opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, argued that the government-sponsored bill will “undoubtedly lead to the largest expansion” of accepting foreign workers since the end of World War II.
In response, Abe insisted, “We don’t pursue a policy that could continue to increase the number of permanent foreign residents.”