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Revising law to accept more foreign workers a key point at Diet plenary session

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech during the extraordinary Diet session, on Oct. 24, 2018. (Mainichi/Tatsuro Tamaki)

TOKYO -- Revisions to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act to expand the acceptance of foreign workers in Japan to make up for a labor shortage will be a key point of contention during a plenary session of the Diet on Oct. 29.

High-ranking members of the ruling and opposition parties are set to ask questions at the session on a policy speech Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered at the outset of the ongoing extraordinary Diet session on Oct. 24.

The government and the opposition are expected to clash head-on as opposition parties are intensifying their criticism of Prime Minister Abe's administration over favoritism scandals involving two school operators -- Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution -- and a hike in the consumption tax scheduled for October 2019.

Opposition parties criticized the proposed amendment to the immigration law in an NHK program on Oct. 28 as an attempt to use foreigners to the advantage of employers and Japanese society while the ruling bloc defended the practice.

Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), told the NHK program that revisions to the immigration law are not part of a policy relating to foreign immigrants.

Tetsuo Saito, secretary-general of the LDP's coalition partner Komeito, underscored the need to expand the acceptance of foreign workers. "It's necessary to maintain Japan's vitality."

Akira Koike, head of the opposition Japanese Communist Party secretariat, called for cautious discussions on the issue. "It's effectively a policy relating to immigrants. It's necessary to establish rules aimed at protecting the human rights of foreigners."

Kuniko Koda, secretary-general of the opposition Party of Hope, also demanded that special panels be set up in both chambers of the Diet to have broad debate on the issue.

Meanwhile, Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary-general of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, insisted that the consumption tax increase from the current 8 percent to 10 percent be postponed. He pointed out that economic conditions are "far more uncertain than two years ago" when the Abe government decided to delay the rise.

Yuko Mori, secretary-general of the opposition Liberal Party, linked the consumption tax hike to a favoritism scandal involving Osaka-based Moritomo Gakuen. "The public won't be convinced by an increase to 10 percent under Finance Minister Taro Aso, who hasn't taken responsibility over the Moritomo scandal," she said.

The Finance Ministry is under fire over the heavily discounted sale of a state-owned land lot in Osaka Prefecture in western Japan to the educational corporation as the site for an elementary school it planned to open.

The LDP aims to launch debate on constitutional revisions during the ongoing extraordinary Diet session.

However, opposition parties have criticized the move. "It's extremely unreasonable for the prime minister, who has the obligation to respect and uphold the Constitution, to lead the move (to amend the supreme law)," said Hirofumi Hirano, secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Party for the People.

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Odanaka and Nozomu Takeuchi, Political News Department)

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