Tokyo, December 8: Japanese government today enacted a new law to bring more blue-collar foreign workers into the country to address chronic labor shortages. Under the new law, Japan plans to bring in 3 lakh 45 thousand foreign workers in construction, food services, nursing and other sectors for five years.
The law allows foreign nationals with skills in sectors facing severe shortages to obtain five-year visas, which will not allow them to bring their families.
Foreign workers in those fields who hold stronger qualifications and pass a more difficult Japanese language test will be able to obtain a visa that can be extended indefinitely, eventually leading to residency, and will be able to bring over family.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Parliament that the government plans to start the new scheme from April next year.
Opposition parties, however, claimed that the law failed to address its potential impact on Japanese society and does not protect foreign workers' rights.
But the law is driven by some inescapable demographic pressures. The fertility rate has fallen to 1.4 children per women, far below the replacement rate of 2.1, while the population is already dropping by about 400,000 people a year.
That places a significant burden on Japan’s economy, with fewer taxpayers and more dependents. The proportion of people over 65 years old has already risen to 28 percent — one of the highest in the world.