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Upper house to enact bill to accept more foreign workers despite opposition resistance

Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita, who is responsible for enforcing the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, enters the prime minister's office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward for a Cabinet meeting on Dec. 7, 2018. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Fujii)

TOKYO -- The House of Councillors is set to enact a bill designed to accept more foreign workers to alleviate serious labor shortages despite resistance from key opposition parties at a plenary session on Dec. 7.

The ruling coalition comprising the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito, as well as the conservative opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), are expected to vote for the bill while other key opposition parties, including the largest Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), will oppose the bill.

The bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act outlines two new statuses of residence: a category 1 "specific skills" status of residence valid for five years, and a category 2 status for people to work in jobs requiring special expertise, whose holders could be entitled to long-term stays.

Earlier in the day, the ruling coalition and others voted down a motion calling for the dismissal of Shinichi Yokoyama, chairman of the chamber's Judicial Affairs Committee, submitted by five opposition parties and parliamentary groups.

In a bid to block the passage of the bill, these opposition parties, including the CDP, are also considering submitting a censure motion against Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita and other motions to the upper chamber.

The opposition parties have pointed out that deliberations on the bill are insufficient and criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for saying he would receive "complicated questions" on the revisions in the upper house judicial affairs panel. The opposition camp is even exploring the possibility of submitting a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet of Prime Minister Abe.

CDP Secretary-General Tetsuro Fukuyama pointed out that revisions to the immigration law would be unfavorable to the public. "Judging from its content, the bill to amend the immigration law wouldn't benefit members of the general public. What opposition parties have pointed out is fair," he told a party meeting earlier in the day.

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said the government will convince the public of the need for the legislation. "We're determined to fulfill our duty to win understanding for the legislation from the Japanese public and the international community," he told a party gathering.

Most opposition parties have criticized the bill for being "half-baked," pointing out that the government intends to provide for important matters relating to the acceptance of additional foreign workers in Cabinet and ministerial orders that are not subject to Diet deliberations instead of incorporating such matters in the law.

Moreover, opposition parties criticized the government's analysis of the records of interviews with foreign technical intern trainees who escaped from their workplaces as sloppy.

Based on their own analysis of the interview records, opposition parties concluded that 67 percent of 2,870 trainees interviewed had been paid below the minimum wage. The executive branch had explained to the ruling and opposition camps that just 0.8 percent escaped from their workplaces because they were paid less than the minimum wage.

After opposition parties' complaints, House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima said he will have the administrative branch explain the new immigration system as a whole, including relevant Cabinet and ministerial orders, to the Diet before the amended law comes into force.

In response, Prime Minister Abe told the upper house judicial affairs panel that deliberated the bill during a Dec. 6 session that the government "takes seriously" Oshima's decision and "will show the entire picture of the system to the Diet."

(Japanese original by Tetsuya Kageyama, Political News Department)

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