Tokyo : Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday called for a review of the current system allowing skilled foreign nationals to work in Japan as the nation is facing an increasingly tightening labor market.
Speaking at a meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, the Japanese leader suggested the current framework under which skilled foreign nationals are allowed to work in specific sectors needs to be expanded.
“We need to consider how the current program to accept foreign workers with expertise and technical skills should be as soon as possible,” Abe was quoted as saying on the matter.
“By focusing on areas that are truly in need, we plan to show a big picture by this summer,” Abe added.
The Japanese leader said under the new framework the length of stay of foreign workers would be limited but an immigration policy would not be pursued by his administration.
While the Abe administration has always seemed reluctant to turn to overseas manpower to help solve its economic and demographic crisis as society continues to age and the birthrate shrink.
Abe has been encouraging more women to join and stay in the workforce and for retired seniors to maintain active working lives.
But the rate of population decline and the ballooning costs of social security expenditure make this a zero sum game, economists have said.
The service sector here is particularly feeling the squeeze, with government data showing that in 2017 there were 150 jobs available for every 100 workers. The figure marks the worst labor shortage in Japan in more than 40 years.
The Abe administration will likely have to adopt a more flexible policy and expand the scope of foreign skilled workers permitted to work in Japan as the numbers are already rising out of Japan’s economic necessity.
Recent government data showed that the number of foreign workers hit a record-high in October last year at around 1.28 million, with such workers given a residential visa status to work in specific fields spanning, among others, business management, engineering, teaching, law and health care.
These workers comprise 20 percent of Japan’s foreign nationals permitted to work here, while an additional 20 percent are made up from foreign nationals invited here to transfer Japan’s technology to developing countries having studied about the technology during on-the-job training.
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