TOKYO, Nov. 3 ― Japan’s cabinet on Nov. 2 approved a draft bill to accept more foreign blue-collar workers from April next year, a controversial move for the country that is known for its strict immigration rules.
The draft legislation, which the parliament is set to deliberate at the current extraordinary session, is designed to tackle the labor shortage in agriculture and some other industries in the face of the country’s aging population.
Yet, the bill has been under attack from the opposition parties as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s own party, the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), because it may eventually lead to overhaul the country’s immigration policy.
Under the bill, foreign nationals with skills in 14 sectors identified as facing labor shortage will be granted a new visa status.
The new visa status has two different types of work permit.
Type One will allows foreign workers with considerable levels of work skills and experience as well as Japanese language knowledge to work for up to five years in Japan. But they are not allowed to accompany their families.
Type Two will allow skilled foreign workers who passed required exams to accompany with their families for an indefinite period.
“The farm and fishery communities have been desperately asking for more workers,” said Agriculture Minister Takamori Yoshikawa at a Nov. 2 press conference, indicating the ministry will only accept foreign workers who fall into the category Type One.
The agriculture ministry’s officials added that, “there has been no specific demand from the agricultural sectors for foreign workers in the Type Two.”