Japan enacts controversial law to accept foreign workers

Members of Japan's lower house of parliament clap their hands as they stand up to support a bill during the plenary session in Tokyo on June 2, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 08 December 2018
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Japan enacts controversial law to accept foreign workers

  • The law allows foreign nationals with skills in sectors facing particularly severe shortages to obtain five-year visas, which would not allow them to bring their families

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition early Saturday rammed through legislation to bring more blue-collar foreign workers into the country, in a controversial move to address chronic labor shortages.
The bill was enacted after the upper house gave approval despite a raft of criticism by opposition parties following its passage through the lower house in late November. Both chambers are controlled by Abe’s ruling camp.
Under the new system, the government plans to bring in as many as 345,000 foreign workers in construction, food services, nursing and other designated sectors for five years.
“We aim at starting it in April next year because we need to swiftly launch the new system in order to deal with the current labor shortage,” Abe told parliament on Thursday.
But opposition parties claimed that the law fails to address the potential impact on Japanese society of new foreign labor, and does not protect foreign workers’ rights.
In a bid to block its passage, opposition parties submitted censure motions against Abe and Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita, but they were easily rejected by the ruling bloc.
The law allows foreign nationals with skills in sectors facing particularly severe shortages to obtain five-year visas, which would not allow them to bring their families.
Foreign workers in those fields who hold stronger qualifications and pass a more difficult Japanese language test will be able to obtain a visa that can be extended indefinitely, eventually leading to residency, and will be able to bring over family.
But there have been questions about whether an influx of foreign workers will depress wages, how the workers will be incorporated into Japan’s social security system, and worries about exploitation of migrant labor.
Many of Japan’s low-skilled foreign workers are in the country under a so-called “technical training” program, which has repeatedly faced allegations of abuse.
“We should not create a new system hastily without reviewing the technical training program in which problems are mounting,” Yoshifu Arita, an opposition lawmaker, told parliament.
Businesses have long lobbied for looser immigration rules, saying they struggle to find workers in a country where unemployment hovers around 2.5 percent.
The chronic labor shortages are only worsening as Japan’s aging and shrinking population means a declining pool of workers.


Moon back in NASA’s court 50 years after 1st lunar landing

Updated 21 July 2019
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Moon back in NASA’s court 50 years after 1st lunar landing

  • The White House wants US astronauts on the moon by 2024, a scant five years from now

CAPE CANAVERAL: The moon is back in NASA’s court 50 years after humanity’s first lunar footsteps.
The White House wants US astronauts on the moon by 2024, a scant five years from now. The moon will serve as a critical proving ground for the real prize of sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.
The billionaires’ space club including Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Elon Musk is on board.
But Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins prefers a beeline to Mars. Buzz Aldrin, too, is a longtime Mars backer.
NASA’s Project Artemis aims for a landing on the moon’s south pole. The space agency says astronauts on the next moon landing will spend a longer time on the lunar surface unlike the Apollo missions.