Reuters poll finds most of Japan Inc. back bringing in low-skilled foreign labor

posted on October 17, 2015

Three-quarters of Japanese companies support opening up the country to more foreign workers in low-skilled jobs to cope with a rapidly worsening labor shortage, a Reuters poll shows - a stark contrast to deep-seated government reluctance to do so.

Japan, one of the world’s fastest aging nations, is grappling with an acute lack of workers, especially in industries such as construction, farming and care for the elderly — a shortage that could hamper Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic revival plans.

But Abe’s government, rather than taking significant steps to allow in more of the sort of foreign workers who could address those shortages, has focused on relaxing requirements for highly skilled foreigners and has promoted policies that encourage the participation of women and the elderly in the workforce.

The Reuters Corporate Survey, conducted from Sept. 30 to Oct. 9, showed 76 percent of Japanese firms are in favor of bringing in low-skilled foreign labor, on the presumption that the workers would be treated fairly in terms of benefits.

“In labor-intensive industries, the lack of workers has become a big bottleneck to growth,” responded a corporate manager at a transport firm.

Among those in favor, 68 percent said they supported the idea to some extent, while 8 percent were very much in support. Close to one-fifth said they didn’t really support the idea while 5 percent were completely against it.

With one-quarter of Japan’s population already over 65 years of age, the job market is tight. The unemployment rate hit an 18-year low of 3.3 percent in July and one measure of job availability has risen to levels not seen since the early 1990s.

But foreign workers accounted for only 1 percent of Japan’s total labor force in 2012, government data show.

source by newsonjapan
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