December 4, 2018


Japan Needs to Change its Attitude to Foreigners (Editorial Board, December 4, 2018, Bloomberg)

A bill approved by the lower house of the Diet would open Japan's doors to two types of foreign workers. Lower-skilled laborers in 14 sectors would for the first time be able to apply for five-year visas after demonstrating a good command of Japanese. And highly skilled workers would be eligible for work visas that can be renewed indefinitely, could bring their families with them, and could apply for permanent residency after 10 years. The government aims to push the bill through the upper house before the current session ends.

It's a good plan, as far as it goes. There's no question Japan needs the newcomers. At just above 2 percent, the country's unemployment rate is the lowest it's been since the early 1990s; labor shortages are acute in several industries, including construction and nursing care. The longer-term picture is even more worrying. Recent forecasts predict that the population will shrink to two-thirds its current size by 2065. By then, one in four Japanese will be over age 75.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has made progress in getting more women and senior citizens back into the workforce, and is working to nudge up the fertility rate. It's also allowed in more foreigners than many realize, partly through a technical internship program meant to impart skills that workers can take back to their home countries. The new bill is an acknowledgment that such measures won't be nearly enough to stop Japan's working-age population from imploding. There's widespread opposition to mass immigration, so the admission is brave.

The good thing about such a population collapse will be that such nations can offer housing in order to lure the young.

Posted by at December 4, 2018 6:42 PM