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LDP wary that expansion of specified skilled worker program would lead to more immigrants

  • November 29, 2021
  • , Sankei , p. 1
  • JMH Translation

By Chida Koya

 

The government is considering expanding the industries in which the “Specified Skilled Worker (ii)” visa status is applicable in response to strong demand from industries with serious labor shortages. There is backlash from some members of the ruling parties, and there is concern that increasing the number of foreign workers will thwart Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s goal to increase wages. The influx of immigrants has placed a heavy burden on state management and widened societal divisions in some European countries. It is uncertain whether the situation will be resolved according to the government’s plan.

 

Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu stated at a press conference on Nov. 26, “We do not plan to enact a policy to accept a certain number of foreigners and their families relative to the population for an unlimited time in order to support the nation.” Matsuno emphasized that the government has not changed the policy of “not instituting a so-called immigration policy.”

 

“Specified skilled worker” is a system based on the revised Immigration Control Law enacted in 2018 by the Abe administration. At first, Abe was cautious about launching the system in consideration of opposition from conservatives, but decided to proceed after being persuaded by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide, who is well-versed on the plight of industry groups such as care services, construction, and hotels. Abe explained that the system is “necessary for excellent foreign human resources to play an active role in Japan,” and stated that the government will not adopt an “immigration policy.”

 

The government will review 12 of the 14 fields of labor in the system. This is because in June 2021 the Suga administration revised the “Comprehensive Measures for Acceptance and Coexistence of Foreign Nationals” to add the “deliberations related to the addition and rearrangement of target fields for Specified Skilled Worker (ii).” Kishida will be forced to decide whether or not to implement the policies promoted by the Abe and Suga administrations.

 

 In the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) there are entrenched negative opinions on expanding the scope of the system. Some Upper House members, looking forward to the Upper House election in summer of 2022, are positive on an expansion in consideration of industry groups. A junior Upper House member who supported Takaichi Sanae in the September 2021 LDP presidential election said, “I will never approve it. We will thoroughly point out the problems of the system in party subcommittees.”

 

There is another problem. At the “Council of New Form of Capitalism” on Nov. 26, Kishida strongly urged the business community to realize a “wage increase of more than 3%.” An increase in the number of foreign workers, who generally receive low wages, might negatively impact wage increases. [An increase in foreign workers] might conflict with Kishida’s economic policy.

 

A prime minister’s aide says that “the prime minister is not enthusiastic about expanding [the number of foreign workers] and there will be no full-blown expansion.” A transparent and through explanation from the government and sufficient parliamentary debate are necessary for a major policy shift that could pave the way for permanent residency for foreign workers.

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