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47% support more foreign workers in Japan, while 32% opposed: Mainichi poll

A student from Southeast Asia works as a clerk at a Lawson convenience store in Osaki, in Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward, on Sept. 12, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Accepting more foreign workers in areas where Japan is facing labor shortages was supported by 47 percent of respondents to a Mainichi Shimbun opinion poll conducted over the phone Oct. 6-7. Thirty-two percent were against the idea, while 22 percent chose to give no answer to the question.

In the poll, 1,440 landline and mobile phone numbers were contacted, and the Mainichi Shimbun received 1,005 responses.

The Japanese government plans to create a new five-year residency status for foreign workers from next year. Opinions were divided over whether or not to allow these foreign workers to stay in Japan for an unlimited length of time. While 40 percent supported the idea of an unrestricted time limit, 38 percent answered that there is no need for such limitless residency. The remaining 21 percent did not respond. The government has no plans to extend the visa from its currently planned period of five years.

Among those supporting more foreign workers in industries such as construction and nursing care, 63 percent supported lifetime stay, while 32 percent disapproved of such an option. The figures were flipped among those against expanding the acceptance of foreigner workers, with 28 percent for unlimited stay and 67 percent against.

The poll results seem to suggest that the government must provide careful and detailed explanations of bills related to foreign laborers that it plans to submit during the extraordinary session of the Diet scheduled to be called Oct. 24.

Participants were also asked if they support the government policy of relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, to the Henoko district of Nago, in central Okinawa.

Of the respondents, 45 percent opposed the plan -- up 3 percentage points from last month's poll. Those who support the relocation stood at 30 percent, down 3 percentage points from September. Twenty-five percent of those polled declined to answer.

These results indicate that the central government has not succeeded in gaining the understanding of the public concerning the relocation project. The plan suffered a setback when Denny Tamaki, who is against the relocation, won the Okinawa gubernatorial election on Sept. 30. He beat out a candidate backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its national ruling coalition partner Komeito.

Regarding changing the Constitution, a major policy goal for Abe, as much as 65 percent said there is "no need for the Diet to rush" proposing constitutional change for national referendum. This figure has risen 8 percentage points from a previous poll on the subject in July of this year. Those who said they want the proposal on the table as soon as possible made up 19 percent -- 7 percentage points less than three months ago. Sixteen percent did not answer the question.

Of the allegations of favoritism toward school operators Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution, which have been linked to the prime minister and his wife, 13 percent said they are convinced by the explanations given by Abe and the government. Those who are not convinced stood at 71 percent.

These figures remained almost unchanged from a September poll, suggesting that Abe's win in the LDP presidential election on Sept. 20, as well as his reshuffle of senior party positions and the Cabinet have done little to ease public suspicion about the favoritism scandals.

(Japanese original by Yuri Hirabayashi, Opinion Poll Office)

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