Demographics

Japan open to more foreign workers?

In a surprising statement from Japanese Prime Minister Abe on February 19th, he appeared to open the door to an acceleration of immigration. Abe emphasised the need for an immediate study of how the country could potentially accelerate the pace at which foreigners with certain skills could enter Japan. The country is facing the worst shortage of workers in 40 years. In the service sector alone government data shows that there are 150 jobs available for every 100 workers.

There are currently 18 types of work permits which they could make easier to obtain. Alternatively, the government might consider adding to the existing list of work permits.

Around 1.28 million foreigners worked in Japan in 2017 equivalent to 2.0% of the workforce up from 1.2% in 2012. 2017 saw an 18% increase in the number of foreign workers. There has been a fourfold increase in Vietnamese immigrants in the past five years and a 40% increase in 2017.

The Japanese have been keener to make use of robots to fill the void left by the lack of workers. However, whilst there are some good headline-grabbing deployments of robots, the numbers are still modest relative to the immediate needs of the country. Last year Nitori Holdings Co., the countries largest furniture manufacturer deployed 79 robots to move around shelves filled with products.

For a country facing a declining population and a declining number of people available for work, immigration is a very important aspect of government policy development. With a very low birth rate accelerating the pace of immigration is one of the policy options (however historically politically unpalatable). With Prime Minister Abe feeling politically strong, he clearly thinks its time to open the debate on immigration

One last thought Japan had 20000 applicants for asylum in 2017 but accepted only 20- an opportunity missed.

This article was attributed and provided by PG International

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