Japan on Friday unveiled a plan to attract more foreign blue-collar workers, as the world’s number-three economy battles a crippling labour shortage caused by an ageing and shrinking population.
The plan reportedly aims to fill gaping shortages in sectors such as agriculture, nursing, construction, hotels and shipbuilding.
Under the draft legislation, foreign nationals with skills in fields identified as facing shortages would be awarded a visa allowing them to work for up to five years.
Foreign workers in those fields who hold stronger qualifications and pass a Japanese language test will also be allowed to bring family members and can obtain permanent residency status.
The only exception to this rule is for South Americans of Japanese descent. And Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has stressed the reforms are not intended as a wholesale overhaul of Japanese immigration policy, and mass immigration is not expected.
Japan will not rely heavily on foreign immigrants and the policy “remains unchanged,” Suga said, asked if this represented a drastic shift in immigration policy towards accepting a large number of foreigners.
The government has not set a target for foreign workers under the new proposals, although local media put the figure at more than 500,000 people by 2025.
It has bilateral deals admitting limited numbers of nurses and care workers from other parts of Asia.