In order to cover labor shortages, it is inevitable to expand the acceptance of foreign workers. Not only the ruling parties but also many of the opposition parties are believed to share this awareness. Disappointingly, however, the parties engaged in political maneuvering throughout the Diet session, with their arguments digressing from the essence of the issue.
The bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law cleared the House of Representatives, thanks to the approval of the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party). The venue for deliberations has shifted to the House of Councillors.
Despite a wide range of disputed points, the deliberations in the lower house lasted only a little over 17 hours. The ruling camp hurried the vote to ensure the passage of the bill, while opposition parties resisted that move by submitting a no-confidence resolution against Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita. Unproductive conflict between the opposing camps over the management of the Diet is unacceptable.
The bill calls for establishing new residence statuses and having more foreign nationals accepted as workers, though only in industries saddled with serious labor shortages.
There are many types of businesses that have been unable to secure enough Japanese workers, and can hardly run their businesses unless they rely on foreign workers. Facing up to that reality and holding a constructive battle of words is the role of the Diet.
During the lower house discussion, the “upper limit” of the number of foreign workers to be accepted became a focal point.
The government explained that it expects to accept about 340,000 foreign workers — on the basis of requests from industries and other factors — over a period of five years.
Take speaker’s advice
The opposition parties criticized this, saying the basis for the assertion was obscure. There were also calls for an upper limit to be stated clearly in the bill.
The employment situation will be affected by economic trends and technological innovation. It’s not easy to foresee the future and set an upper limit.
Incorporated in the bill are measures to suspend the acceptance of foreign workers if relevant ministries and agencies judge that the required manpower has been secured. Isn’t whether this system functions properly an important issue for discussion?
Legislators in the upper house, while securing enough time for discussion, should wage a battle of words that will get to the crux of the issue regarding the details of the new system.
Many of the foreign workers who will obtain new residence statuses are expected to be technical trainees who would switch their status to one of the new types.
Problems have been pointed out regarding technical trainees, such as their having been utilized as cheap labor and forced to work long hours. Also, regarding the practical training program that will be the basis of the new system, it is crucial to clarify the problems involved and consider corrective measures.
Preparations for accepting more foreign workers will also pose a challenge. Local governments will have to handle diverse tasks: consultations for their daily life, response to their grievances, support for their learning Japanese, and the provision of information concerning administrative procedures.
Utmost efforts should be made to discuss what the comprehensive support given to foreign workers should be like.
The government aims to introduce the new system in April next year. Tadamori Oshima, the speaker of the lower house, called on the government to present an overall picture of the new system to the Diet prior to the enforcement of the law and called on both the ruling and opposition parties to have question and answer sessions on it. It is necessary to implement this, in accordance with the speaker’s suggestion.