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Japan – Plans afoot to lure more workers

05 February 2014

Japan looks set to open the door to more highly skilled foreign and construction workers, as it tackles a shrinking working population, reports The Telegraph. With one of the world’s most rapidly ageing populations, the demand for labour remains strong, particularly for construction workers as it prepares for the 2020 Olympics.

The government is working on specific measures, which it is expected to reveal by the end of March, to allow more foreign workers into the country as part of its economic revival. Measures under consideration include extending the period for on-the-job training programmes for foreigners.

Another option would allow highly skilled expats to obtain permanent residency status in Japan more quickly, gaining permanent resident visas after three years instead of the current five. British expats, along with citizens from a handful of other countries, who are 18 to 30 years old, can work in Japan for up to one year on a working holiday visa.

About two million foreigners were living in Japan at the end of 2012, including about 620,000 permanent residents, according to Japan’s Justice Ministry. Foreigners currently make up only about 1% of the work force, a tiny figure compared to other developed economies.

The current major skills gap is in the construction industry, which is facing its worst labour shortage for almost 20 years, partly due to rebuilding after the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. A shrinking labour pool threatens to derail Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s campaign to revive the economy, which slipped to the world’s third largest when it was overtaken by China in 2010.

Japan is estimated to need about 10 million immigrants over the next half century to offset its projected population decline.  

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