Jun 16, 2018
TOKYO - The Japanese government approved a plan Friday to welcome more foreign workers to the country, a move aimed at ensuring that an intensifying labor crunch does not crimp the economy's growth prospects.
While the plan still requires legislative work and remains short on details, including how many workers will arrive and what industries they will be employed in, it is expected to open the country's doors to blue-collar laborers from abroad in addition to the highly skilled workers currently accepted.
"With Japan's economy experiencing a worsening labor shortage...we must make sure that we have sufficient human resources, both from the viewpoint of quantity and quality," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a government panel meeting.
The plan places a five-year limit on the workers' stay and forbids them from bringing along family members. Government bodies such as the Justice Ministry will step up efforts to prevent workers and companies from taking advantage of the framework for illicit purposes.
Officials stressed the plan, part of the government's annual economic policy blueprint, will not lead to full-blown immigration.
(Prime Minister Abe, center, attends a Cabinet meeting.)
This year's blueprint, which was given the green light at an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet, also states for the first time that the planned increase in the nationwide consumption tax -- from 8 percent to 10 percent -- is slated to take place on Oct. 1, 2019.
Abe had already postponed the tax hike twice after judging the economy was too fragile to weather the hit to private consumption. In a bid to balance out the surge in demand before the hike and sharp fall afterward, the government said in the blueprint it will include "extraordinary measures" in the budgets for fiscal years 2019 and 2020.
This could include tax breaks for big-ticket purchases like cars and homes. Free education for young children will also begin on Oct. 1, 2019, according to the blueprint. The government had previously said the subsidies, which apply to children in low-income households aged 0 to 2 and all children aged 3 to 5, would see a staggered implementation in April 2019 and April 2020.
Abe, who has seen public support fall amid a string of cronyism allegations against himself, will be hard-pressed to ensure the tax hike does not stall the economy by dampening domestic demand as happened after the previous consumption tax hike in 2014.
This is especially true because, with spending on social security swelling amid a rapidly aging population, economic expansion is key to improving the country's tattered fiscal health.
(Finance Minister Taro Aso speaks after the government approved an economic policy package.)
Reflecting the rise in such spending, including on pensions and health care, the government said in the blueprint it is aiming to achieve a surplus in the primary balance -- annual tax revenues minus outlays other than debt-servicing costs -- in fiscal 2025, five years later than the previous target.
The blueprint also includes three milestones to be achieved by the end of fiscal 2021 -- lowering the primary balance deficit as a percentage of real gross domestic product to around 1.5 percent, lowering the public debt-to-GDP ratio to below 185 percent, and lowering the budget deficit-to-GDP ratio to below 3 percent -- though these have been criticized as being unambitious.
In a separate growth strategy, also approved by the Cabinet on Friday, the government said it aims to launch self-driving vehicle services on public roads by 2020 -- the year of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics -- and encourage higher education in fields related to artificial intelligence.
Kyodo News Plus is an online publication delivering the latest news from Japan. Kyodo News Plus collaborates with City-Cost to bring those stories related to lifestyle and culture to foreigners resident in Japan. For the latest news updates visit the official site at https://english.kyodonews.net
"The plan places a five-year limit on the workers' stay and forbids them from bringing along family members" So it's just sort of a part-time for foreign employees... Come when you're young, do the odd jobs Japanese people don't want to and please go back to your country. Sounds like an extension of the Working Holiday Visa.