Before Japan's parliament on Friday, people are rallying against the bill to allow more foreign workers into the country. Kazuhiro…
Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP / Getty Images
Japanese legislators have passed controversial legislation that extends the number of semi-qualified foreign workers who can live and work in the particularly isolated nation for up to five years.
Japan has been pressured to make the change due to a critical labor shortage due to its rapidly aging society and low birth rates.
Japan’s top parliament passed laws 161 to 76 just after 4 o’clock on Saturday’s local time, after a day when opposition parties tried to fail to block the action.
The law comes into force in April 2019.
Legislation has been considered a last resort measure by Prime Minister Shinzo Abes ultra-conservative government to address a severe lack of workers in 14 industries including restaurants, nursing, construction and Agriculture.
According to the Associated Press, two categories of workers will be accepted, with conditions that will deter them from trying to permanently immigrate.
The law will apply to as many as 345,000 less qualified workers who may stay for up to five years, but do not bring family members. It will also allow higher skilled workers to enter their families for 10 years and give them a way to Japanese citizenship. Both categories will require Japanese language skills.
Japan’s population is expected to decline from about 127 million to about 88 million in 2065, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security. In September, the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Communications released data that shows that once again, one in five people in the nation is over 70 years old.
the pressure of an aging population and declining birthrights for decades. The government has attempted to face labor shortages by encouraging increased employment for women and older workers, and using more robots and other automation.
And it has foreign workers. Their numbers have more than doubled since 2000 to almost 1.3 million last year, of a working age population of 67 million, according to AP.
“Workers from developing Asian countries used to be most behind the scenes, but no longer. Almost all convenience stores are partially manned by Asian workers and there are many restaurant chains.”
Many foreigners work in Japan on training visa “which does not allow them to change jobs even if they are abused or underpaid,” Editors for the Wall Street Journal . Thousands of student food holders also work in Japan, often longer than the 28 hours a week, legally allowed.
But even now, the government is opposed to opening the door for a legal influx of semi-skilled foreign workers, as many Japanese, especially Abes right-wing supporters, fear a loss of cultural distinctiveness and homogeneity. This is a reason why the government has been careful not to characterize the new visa program as immigration.
However, as Washington Post reports, Abe’s government is “closely linked to business and the message it comes from every quarter – shipbuilding, construction, agriculture and fisheries, elderly care and convenience store owners – are increasingly insistent : We need more workers. “
A Tokyo Shoko Research report showed the number of bankruptcies in Japan caused by staff shortages doubled between 2016 and 2017, according to the Wall Street Journal.