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.


Apple to build new $1 billion campus in Austin

Updated 14 min 43 sec ago
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Apple to build new $1 billion campus in Austin

  • Apple Inc. said it would spend $1 billion to build a second campus in Austin, Texas
  • Apple will also set up sites in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California

NEW YORK: Apple Inc. said on Thursday it would spend $1 billion to build a second campus in Austin, Texas that will house as many as 15,000 workers, amid a broader push by many US companies to create more jobs at home.
The iPhone maker had announced at the start of the year it would invest $30 billion in the United States, taking advantage of a tax windfall stemming from US President Donald Trump’s sweeping tax reforms.
The 133-acre campus in Austin will employ workers across various functions including engineering, R&D, operations and finance. The city is already home to the second largest number of Apple employees outside its headquarters in Cupertino, California.
Apple will also set up sites in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California and hire over 1,000 employees each in these locations, while also expanding operations in Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colorado over the next three years.
Many American multinationals have been facing political pressure to ramp up investments at home as part of Trump’s “America First” policies, which have left the United States embroiled in a bitter trade war with China. The president has also warned of tariffs on iPhones and other Apple products imported from China.
Apple’s technology rival Amazon.com Inc. last month ended a months-long search for its second headquarters, picking New York City and an area just outside Washington, D.C. for massive new offices, with plans to create thousands of jobs.
The new Austin campus will be located less than a mile away from Apple’s existing facilities, and will first house 5,000 new employees with the capacity to expand to 15,000.
The company, which last year moved into its sleek “spaceship” campus in Cupertino, said jobs at the new Austin center would include engineering, research and development, finance and sales functions.