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The Japanese government has announced that it will open its doors to more than 500,000 foreign workers.
With the decision, Japan Prime Minister Shinzō Abe hopes to tackle the country’s labor shortage. Currently, Japan is facing difficulties in sustaining its workforce in the agriculture, hotel, and other industries because of its aging population.
To increase the workforce in those industries, Japan will grant work permits to foreign low-skilled workers such as farmers and hotel staff. Doing so will allow these workers to legally work in the country. Previously, work permits were only given to doctors, lawyers, and other highly skilled workers.
Potential workers have to pass Japanese language and skills tests to be granted a work permit. In these tests, they have to prove that they can understand basic Japanese conversations and perform certain tasks that their jobs require.
Even with the high standards, Abe made it clear that the foreign workers will not be considered as immigrants and will only be allowed to work in Japan as visitors for five years at most. To discourage them from overstaying their welcome, the workers will be barred from bringing their families to the country.
However, Toru Shinoda of the Waseda University, Tokyo, thinks that the regulations Abe set will dishearten foreign workers. With the five-year limit, Shinoda said that the workers will see their jobs as something that is only temporary.
To truly address the issue of labor shortage, Shinoda calls for the Japanese government to loosen its policies on permanent immigration. Otherwise, the country would run the risk of worsening its problem on labor shortage.