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Some sectors with labor shortages could see at least 10-fold rise in foreign workers

Key members of the House of Representatives Judicial Affairs Committee representing ruling and opposition parties are seen in a meeting in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Nov. 14, 2018. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Some of 14 sectors that would accept foreign workers under new residency statuses the government is aiming to establish could see at least a 10-fold increase in the accumulated total of such workers over five years from the introduction of the system, the government projects.

The government presented its estimate of the number of foreign workers to be accepted in each of the 14 sectors, such as the nursing care and construction industries, to a meeting of key members of the House of Representatives Judicial Affairs Committee on Nov. 14. This is the first time that the government has officially announced its estimate of the number of such workers.

Revisions to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, now under deliberation at the Diet, would establish two new residency statuses for foreigners with certain knowledge and experience, and for those in jobs requiring special expertise.

The move is aimed at expanding the acceptance of foreign workers to make up for a serious labor shortage in Japan. The government believes that the 14 industrial sectors in Japan currently have a shortage of 586,400 workers, and that the figure will exceed 1.45 million in five years' time.

The government aims to launch the new immigration system in April 2019 -- the beginning of the fiscal year.

According to the estimate, Japan would accept a total of 32,800 to 47,550 workers from overseas in the 14 sectors, including the nursing care and construction fields, in fiscal 2019. The total number over a five-year period from April 2019 would be 262,700 to 345,150.

The nursing care sector is expected to accept 5,000 workers from abroad in the initial fiscal year, and the total figure would likely reach 50,000 to 60,000 over the five-year period.

The number of foreign laborers that the fisheries industry is projected to accept in the initial year is 600 to 800. The accumulated total figure for the five-year period will reach 7,000 to 9,000. The restaurant sector would accept 4,000 to 5,000 such workers in the initial year and the total over the five-year period would reach 41,000 to 53,000.

Moreover, the hotel industry would likely hire 950 to 1,050 laborers from abroad in the initial year, while the accumulated total over the five-year period would be 20,000 to 22,000 -- nearly 20 times the figure.

The government also projects that the construction and agricultural industries would initially accept 5,000 to 6,000 and 3,600 to 7,300 foreign workers in the initially year, respectively. The five-year total would reach 30,000 to 40,000 and 18,000 to 36,500, respectively.

The government was flooded with questions from opposition parties about the estimated numbers of foreign workers Japan would accept under the new immigration system after the government explained the proposed revisions to the law.

In response, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to release the estimated number of foreign workers in each of the 14 sectors in the initial year and in five years' time. The prime minister also told the legislature that if the domestic employment situation remains unaffected by the policy, the government will regard estimated figures as the upper limit on foreign workers those sectors can accept.

(Japanese original by Takeshi Wada, City News Department)

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