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Opinions divided over expanding foreign workforce; 66% want more discussions: Mainichi poll

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, and Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita listen to a question about a bill aimed at expanding the acceptance of foreign workers during a House of Representatives plenary session on Nov. 13, 2018. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Opinions were divided over the government's plan to accept more foreign workers for industries facing labor shortages, and two thirds want politicians to take more time to discuss the issue, according to the latest Mainichi Shimbun opinion poll conducted on Nov. 17 and 18.

As many as 42 percent of the 982 respondents to the telephone poll were opposed to the government plan to create two new residency statuses by revising the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act so that 14 industries such as construction and nursing care can hire more foreign workers, as early as from April 2019. The ratio of opponents increased by 10 percentage points from the previous poll conducted in October. Those supporting the plan stood at 44 percent, while 15 percent did not give an answer.

When asked about the government's intention of passing the legal revisions during the current extraordinary session of the Diet that will end on Dec. 11, 66 percent said lawmakers should discuss the issue without setting a deadline. Just 9 percent said the bill should be passed into law in the current session. As many as 11 percent said the bill should be scrapped, while 14 percent didn't indicate their opinions.

Even among the respondents supportive of the government's plan, 76 percent said more time is needed to deliberate in the Diet on accepting more foreigners.

The apparent cautiousness among respondents seems to indicate their concerns about the administration's preparedness on the expansion of the foreign workforce. The Justice Ministry, which is in charge of the relevant legal revisions, has faced harsh criticism for their mistakes in compiling data needed for Diet discussions on the issue.

As for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's diplomatic goal of winning back four islands off the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido from Moscow, 55 percent preferred to have two of the islands -- Habomai and Shikotan -- returned first, more than double the 27 percent opposed to the option.

Returning two of the two islands following a conclusion of a peace treaty between the two countries is an option mentioned in the 1956 joint declaration between Japan and the Soviet Union -- Russia's predecessor. That document was mentioned by Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin in their Nov. 14, 2018 agreement as a basis to carry on future territorial negotiations. The poll results may affect Tokyo's handling of the talks down the road.

The ratio of supporters for the Abe Cabinet was 41 percent, up 4 percentage points from the result of the previous survey conducted in October. Those against the premier constituted 38 percent. It was the first time since February this year that the approval rating was higher than the disapproval figure in a Mainichi poll.

(Japanese original by Kazuki Kuraoka, Poll Office)

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