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No planned limit on number of newly accepted foreign workers: justice minister

Minister of Justice Takashi Yamashita speaks to reporters at the Diet building after a Cabinet meeting on Nov. 2, 2018. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

TOKYO -- Minister of Justice Takashi Yamashita told a Diet session on Nov. 1 that the government has no plan to set a limit on the number of foreign workers to be accepted under a new residency status planned to be introduced as early as next spring.

"We will not set a numerical limit," Yamashita told a House of Representatives Budget Committee session. He added he plans to release the ministry's estimate on the number of foreign workers to be received through the new measures when the Diet begins deliberations on the bill to introduce the measures. "We will examine estimates in detail to contribute to discussions on the bill," said Yamashita.

The government plans to introduce two new residency statuses for foreign laborers. The first status would allow its holders to stay in Japan for a maximum of five years, while the period of the second status could be extended. Foreign workers to be accepted under these two categories are expected to work in 14 industries with acute labor shortages.

Yamashita indicated that the number of new foreign workers would be limited by labor contracts signed between them and their employers. The minister explained this in response to a question by Akira Nagatsuma, acting leader of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the budget committee that he has no plans to accept these workers as immigrants. "I want to clear up the misunderstanding (that they are immigrants)," the prime minister emphasized repeatedly.

As for workplace legal protection for those foreign workers, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto told the same panel that the existing labor laws such as the Labor Standards Act will be applied to them.

Still, justice minister Yamashita disclosed during the session that as many as 4,279 foreigners who came to Japan mainly from developing countries to serve as technical trainees have gone missing between January and June 2018.

(Japanese original by Tetsuya Kageyama, Political News Department)

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