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Majority in Japan support bill to accept more foreign workers: poll

Photo shows Roneta Ratumaitavuki, far right, a Fijian employee at Narita International Airport Corp., attending to customers at TraveLounge at Narita airport, near Tokyo. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A majority of Japanese support a bill to open the door to more foreign blue-collar workers in sectors struggling with labor shortages, a Kyodo News poll showed Sunday.

The telephone poll conducted over the weekend found that 51.3 percent were supportive of the bill, approved by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet on Friday, while 39.5 percent opposed it.

The finding suggests the Japanese public is not as critical of the draft legislation as opposition lawmakers and some members of Abe's ruling party had thought.

The bill, already submitted by the government to parliament, would create new visa categories for foreign nationals possessing skills to work in sectors facing tight labor conditions amid Japan's rapid aging population, ranging from construction and farming to nursing care.

The Kyodo poll also showed 50.8 percent of respondents opposed a consumption tax hike pledged by Abe to take place as scheduled in October next year to 10 percent from the current 8 percent, while 46.4 percent were supportive.

The approval rate for Abe's Cabinet stood at 47.3 percent, up 0.8 percentage point from the previous survey conducted a month earlier, with the disapproval rating at 39.5 percent.

Nearly 75 percent of respondents said regional revitalization minister Satsuki Katayama, the only female minister of the Cabinet who is embroiled in a money scandal, should provide a detailed explanation in a press conference.

A weekly magazine report in October alleged that Katayama, a former Finance Ministry official, accepted money from the owner of a manufacturing company in return for asking tax authorities for special treatment on the firm's behalf.

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