Japan unveils plan to attract more foreign workers

The plan reportedly aims to fill gaping shortages in sectors such as agriculture. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
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Japan unveils plan to attract more foreign workers

  • The plan reportedly aims to fill gaping shortages in sectors such as agriculture, nursing, construction, hotels and shipbuilding
  • Businesses have long lobbied for looser immigration rules, saying they struggle to find workers in a country where unemployment hovers around 2.5 percent

TOKYO: Japan on Friday unveiled a plan to attract more foreign blue-collar workers, as the world’s number-three economy battles a crippling labor shortage caused by an aging and shrinking population.
The plan reportedly aims to fill gaping shortages in sectors such as agriculture, nursing, construction, hotels and shipbuilding.
Under the draft legislation, foreign nationals with skills in fields identified as facing shortages would be awarded a visa allowing them to work for up to five years.
Foreign workers in those fields who hold stronger qualifications and pass a Japanese language test will also be allowed to bring family members and can obtain permanent residency status.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Friday that the bill would be submitted to parliament “at the earliest possible time,” with a possible launch in April.
Japan has traditionally been cautious about accepting unskilled workers from abroad and currently limits residential status to highly skilled professionals.
The only exception to this rule is for South Americans of Japanese descent.
And Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has stressed the reforms are not intended as a wholesale overhaul of Japanese immigration policy, and mass immigration is not expected.
Japan will not rely heavily on foreign immigrants and the policy “remains unchanged,” Suga said, asked if this represented a drastic shift in immigration policy toward accepting a large number of foreigners.
Businesses have long lobbied for looser immigration rules, saying they struggle to find workers in a country where unemployment hovers around 2.5 percent and there are 163 job vacancies to every 100 job seekers.
The government has not set a target for foreign workers under the new proposals, although local media put the figure at more than 500,000 people by 2025.
According to government figures, there were 1.28 million foreign workers in Japan in 2017 — twice as many as a decade ago.
But more than 450,000 of those are foreign spouses of Japanese citizens, ethnic Koreans long settled in Japan, or foreigners of Japanese descent, rather than workers coming to Japan to seek jobs.
A further 300,000 are students, who are allowed to work part-time during their studies but are expected to return home afterwards.
Japan had fewer than 240,000 foreign skilled workers and just over 250,000 foreign trainees in the country in late 2017, according to government figures.
It has bilateral deals admitting limited numbers of nurses and care workers from other parts of Asia.


Shareholders of India’s Jet Airways approve debt-for-equity swap

Updated 23 February 2019
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Shareholders of India’s Jet Airways approve debt-for-equity swap

  • The plan will mean the lenders will have a bigger holding than any other shareholder
  • Currently, Chairman Naresh Goyal owns a 51 percent stake in the company and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways owns 24 percent

MUMBAI: India’s Jet Airways said late on Friday that its shareholders approved a plan to convert existing debt to equity, paving the way for the troubled company’s lenders to infuse funds and nominate directors to its board.
Jet’s board last week approved a plan by lenders, led by State Bank of India, for an equity infusion, debt restructuring and the sale or sale-and-lease-back of aircraft.
The plan will mean the lenders will have a bigger holding than any other shareholder.
Currently, Chairman Naresh Goyal owns a 51 percent stake in the company and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways owns 24 percent.
Jet, which had net debt of 72.99 billion rupees ($1.03 billion) as of end-December, has debt payments looming next month, according to rating agency ICRA. It has been unable to pay pilots’ salaries and has outstanding bills to aircraft lessors.
The company, India’s biggest full-service carrier, is struggling with competition from budget rivals, high oil prices and a weaker rupee. The share price took a beating in 2018, losing nearly 70 percent of its value.
In a regulatory filing, Jet said on Friday that 98 percent of its shareholders voted to increase the share capital to 22 billion rupees ($309.8 million) from 2 billion rupees at a special meeting.
Jet, whose financial woes are set against the backdrop of wider aviation industry problems, has been in the red for four straight quarters.