Japanese PM Abe outlines foreign worker reform legislation to parliament

Japanese PM Abe outlines foreign worker reform legislation to parliament

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe will outline a preliminary immigration reform to parliament today that seeks to increase the number of

FILE PHOTO: Office workers are reflected in a glass railing as they cross street during lunch hour in Tokyo

Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe will outline a preliminary immigration reform to parliament today that seeks to increase the number of foreign workers allowed into the country.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has endorsed a plan that will create new visa categories for low and high-skilled workers to address chronic labour shortages for the manufacturing and services sectors. Population decline has led to an unprecedented labour market shortage, where more than two jobs are open for each application. With unemployment at 2% and the economy nearing full-employment, the parliamentary opposition has pledged to block it.

Proposals to reform Japan’s immigration system have long been stymied by opposition over fear of job losses for Japanese workers. However, pressure on the government has increased with the economy slowing in tandem with Chinese growth and US trade tariffs.

Opinion polls show public support for the reforms at over 50% due to concern over the effects of companies in critical sectors—like high-end technology and industrial manufacturing—being unable to fill positions. Expect parliament and the LDP majority to support the reforms out of growing economic pressures on major companies and efforts to address public concerns over the impacts of growing automation.

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