Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet recently (Dec 25) approved a policy document regarding foreign workers in the country. The new framework is aimed to deflect criticism of a law that will open the door to foreign guest workers from April. The law was passed as it struggles with an ageing and shrinking population that has contributed to a labour shortage in the country of about 126 million people.
According to distributed to reporters in advance of the decision document, Japanese government will accept 345,150 foreign workers over five years under the new plan. The government will also seek ways to support local regions by preventing migrant workers from concentrating only in large cities, where salaries are typically higher than in rural areas, Bloomberg reports.
There are more vacancies available in the job market than the number of jobseekers in all of Japan’s 47 prefectures. Meanwhile, unemployment is hovering at around levels not seen since 1993. According to the health ministry, the population of Japanese nationals fell by about 448,000 this year.
The new policy will allow sectors that remain short-staffed due to the talent shortage, even after improving productivity and trying to recruit within Japan, to employ and bring in foreign workers from abroad. If the labour shortage is deemed to have been resolved, the system will be halted.
The Cabinet also approved a separate document setting maximum numbers for the 14 sectors that will be allowed to recruit the foreign workers. The highest limit was set on elderly care at 60,000 people, with the restaurant industry at 53,000 and construction at 40,000. That compares with a government forecast of a shortfall of 1.5 million workers in five years.
As of Oct 2017, Japan had about 1.3 million foreign workers working in the country.