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LDP committee proposes vast expansion of foreign worker numbers

Japan would double the number of foreign workers in the country to offset a looming labor shortage caused by the country's aging society under a proposal finalized on April 26 by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s special committee on labor force policy.

    The committee sought to improve existing government plans on accepting more foreign workers, proposing that Japan take in more unskilled laborers in addition to skilled professionals. The committee is set to formally adopt the proposal in early May, after the Golden Week holiday period, and will consider submitting it to the government.

    "To maintain Japan's dynamism amid population decline, we must take advantage of the active efforts of foreigners more than we are now," the proposal states. Current government policy emphasizes bringing in workers in professional and technical fields, but the committee urges serious examination of accepting farm and care workers as well.

    However, there are strong fears within the LDP that bringing in more foreign workers could lead to immigration. Committee chair Yoshio Kimura stated that the proposal "is not an immigration policy," and was not aimed at accepting foreigners as permanent residents.

    In concrete terms, the proposal foresees setting up an acceptance framework that could double the number of foreign workers in Japan from the some 910,000 in the country at the end of October 2015, in such a way that will not adversely affect the employment landscape. The proposal also recommends measures to guarantee equal pay for Japanese and foreign workers, as well as a 5-year first work visa for new arrivals.

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