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Election candidates split over Japan opening door to foreign workers: Mainichi poll

This file photo shows the National Diet Building in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on May 1, 2019. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Candidates in the July 21 House of Councillors election who answered a Mainichi Shimbun survey are split over the expanded acceptance of foreign workers in Japan under the revised immigration law that came into force in April 2019.

Of the 349 respondents, 82, or 23% said a sufficient number of foreign nationals will be accepted under the revised law; 68, or 19% insisted Japan should accept more of such people; and 45, or 13% voiced opposition to the acceptance of foreign workers in general.

With the introduction of a new residency status for foreign workers with special expertise under the amended Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, Japan has started to effectively accept unskilled workers to tackle the nation's labor shortage. The central government is expecting to accept up to around 340,000 foreign laborers over the next five years.

Critics have deemed the law a de-facto immigration policy, which is why many answers were provided by respondents who were aware of voters with negative views on accepting foreign workers.

The largest group of respondents -- 114 individuals, or 33% -- provided their own opinions on the issue, instead of choosing one from the three options given in the survey. Meanwhile, 40 people, or 11% did not choose an option or provide their own answers.

In particular, 44 individuals, or 57% of candidates fielded by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) gave their answers in their own words, such as, "It should be determined depending on the labor shortage situation." Some 16 LDP respondents, or 21%, saw the revised law as sufficient, while nine, or 12% demanded Japan accept more foreign workers. Only one respondent, or 1% voiced opposition to the acceptance of foreign workers in general. Seven individuals, or 9% did not provide an answer at all.

Candidates fielded by the LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito were generally positive about accepting foreign laborers, with 14 respondents, or 61% urging Japan to accept more. Meanwhile, six Komeito candidates, or 26% said the revised law will bring in sufficient numbers.

Over half of the candidates officially endorsed by Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) -- 13 individuals, or 62% -- responded that the revised law is sufficient.

Most of the candidates running on the ticket of other opposition parties recognized the need for the expanded acceptance of foreign workers, but voiced opposition to the amended immigration law, with answers including one that deemed the law's contents half-baked. For these reasons, many offered answers in writing, such as one insisting that preparations to accept foreign workers be made first.

However, 11, or 39% of candidates put forward by the Democratic Party for the People replied that the revised immigration law is sufficient.

(Japanese original by Shuhei Endo, Political News Department)

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