Deliberations on the bill to revise Japan’s Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law have started at a plenary session of the House of Representatives. The legislation would create new types of residence status to expand the scale of accepting foreign workers.
“It has been decided to accept foreign nationals who possess a certain measure of expertise and can immediately handle the necessary work, by limiting them to the industries that face labour shortages,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said in reply to questions.
Despite promoting measures to expand job opportunities for women and elderly people, the government has been unable to sufficiently make up for the labour shortage.
The objective of the new system is to permit foreign nationals to be employed exclusively in the types of business facing shortages of workers, with a view to achieving sustainable growth. With the advent of a depopulating society, there is no other way but to more and more widely open the door to foreign nationals.
Opposition parties have urged the government to quickly show such specifics as the number of foreign nationals to be accepted by each type of industry. The government must carefully explain future prospects for these matters, thereby gaining the understanding of the opposition parties.
The new types of residence status concern designated skills, and are called Type 1 and Type 2. This serves as a policy shift aimed at paving the way for foreign nationals to engage in unskilled labour.
Type 1 status requires foreign nationals to possess knowledge about their fields of work and certain Japanese-language skills, and it allows them to stay in this country for up to five years. Type 2 will be granted to those acknowledged to possess proficient skills. This will enable foreign nationals in this category to permanently stay here, but on the condition that their activities are regularly examined.
There is no denying that the measures taken in the past were designed simply to meet the needs of the moment.
The government has so far limited the status of residence for employment to such highly skilled professionals as doctors and lawyers. However, the reality is that the mainstay of employment at restaurants, construction sites or elsewhere are technical intern trainees, who have been originally accepted as part of our nation’s international contribution, as well as foreign students studying in Japan, who are also working part-time here.
The number of foreign workers rose to 1.28 million last year, an increase of close to 200,000 from a year earlier. The significance of preparing a new system related to unskilled labour and systematically accepting such workers is not small.
How should the new types of status be treated while maintaining the present system? The government needs to devise comprehensive policy measures regarding foreign workers.
Given the planned increase in foreign workers in Japan, it is indispensable to facilitate arrangements to avoid turmoil in local communities and in the workplace.
One such effort concerns the issue of social security. It is vital to ensure foreign workers join health insurance and other systems without fail and, at the same time, to prevent the unlawful use of such services by their family members or others. It is essential to work out the details of these systems so foreign residents can live without anxiety.
As they directly deal with local foreign residents, city, town and village governments have been asking the central government for financial assistance for Japanese-language education, the supply of housing and other matters. The government should give due consideration to these requests and make preparations to accept foreign workers.