Tue, Oct 14, 2008 - Page 12 News List

Japanese lobby to reverse policy on immigration

AGENCIES , TOKYO

Japan’s most powerful business lobby will change its long-held policy and call on the nation to accept more immigrants, the Mainichi Shimbun reported yesterday, as the world’s fastest ageing nation faces serious labor shortages.

The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), whose policy on immigration to date has been to limit foreign laborers to fixed contracts, will announce the change today, the newspaper said.

Keidanren officials could not immediately be reached for comment as yesterday was a national holiday in Japan.

The idea of allowing in more foreigners is seen by some Japanese as a risk to the country’s relatively crime-free and homogeneous society and few Japanese employers offer immigrant workers the same rights as their Japanese colleagues.

Mainichi’s report comes as Japan, with its shrinking population, faces serious economic consequences, including labor shortages that could weigh on its GDP.

Japan expects more than a quarter of its citizens to be more than 65 years old by 2015 and its population is set to shrink by a third in 50 years if current trends continue.

In its recommendations, Keidanren will note the necessity of changing laws to promote immigration, as well as call for enhancements in Japanese language education and social security for immigrants, Mainichi said.

Foreigners made up less than 2 percent of Japan’s nearly 128 million population late last year, government statistics showed.

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