TOKYO -- A bill to accept more foreign workers to alleviate labor shortages was approved at a House of Representatives plenary session on Nov. 27 and referred onto the House of Councillors.
The bill to amend the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act cleared the lower chamber's Judicial Affairs Committee earlier in the day.
Lower house Judicial Affairs Committee Chairman Yasuhiro Hanashi, who belongs to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), decided to call a vote on the bill the same day following two hours of additional discussion, and send it to the full lower house.
The LDP's move angered the opposition camp, including the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), whose lawmakers say the bill is "half-baked." Diet affairs chiefs representing six opposition parties discussed how to respond to the matter.
On behalf of the opposition camp, CDP Diet affairs chief Kiyomi Tsujimoto urged her LDP counterpart Hiroshi Moriyama during a meeting not put the bill to a vote in the chamber on Nov. 27.
After Moriyama rejected the request, the six opposition parties submitted a no-confidence motion against Justice Minister Yamashita for failing to provide a sufficient explanation of the bill to the legislature. Yamashita would be responsible for managing the new immigration system designed to handle an increased number of foreign laborers if put into law. The ruling bloc, which controls over two-thirds of the seats in the lower house, voted down the motion during the afternoon of Nov. 27.
Meanwhile, the LDP, Komeito and the conservative opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) agreed to revise the bill. The changes include shortening the period to review the new immigration policy from three years to two after its passage, as well as adding a phrase about taking "necessary measures" to avoid concentration of foreign workers in urban areas to the law's supplementary clause.
Nippon Ishin voted for the amended version in both of the Nov. 27 votes in the Judicial Affairs Committee and lower house plenary session.
During a judicial affairs panel session earlier on Nov. 27, the justice minister underscored the need for the enactment of the bill during the ongoing extraordinary Diet session, which ends on Dec. 10, and the enforcement of the new laws in April 2019.
"If the enforcement were to be delayed, tens of thousands of people would be forced to go back to their home countries. A delay would also affect tens of thousands of business operators that intend to hire foreigners," Yamashita told the panel. He was referring to a clause in the bill that would allow foreign technical intern trainees to obtain a new residency status after completing their programs.
Takeshi Shina, of the opposition Democratic Party for the People, pointed out that the government is attempting to accept more foreign workers because its policy measures to secure a greater workforce, such as the "dynamic engagement of all citizens" and "women's empowerment," have failed.
Shina then disclosed that opposition parties examined the records of interviews the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare conducted with 1,030 technical trainees who fled their workplaces. Of them, 86.2 percent received pay below the minimum wage in Kagoshima Prefecture, which stands at 761 yen per hour, the lowest in Japan.
(Japanese original by Jun Aoki and Tetsuya Kageyama, Political News Department)