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2008年6月 3日 (火)


(Jun. 3, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun

Pros and cons of using foreign workers

外国人労働者 受け入れ促進へ論議深めよ(6月3日付・読売社説)

(pro and con=賛否両論の立場から)

Using foreign workers to the country's best advantage is important for sustaining Japan's vitality amid the nation's declining birthrate, graying society and shrinking labor pool.


Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda ordered the establishment of a panel of experts last month under the chief cabinet secretary to examine measures to accept more foreign workers with specialized skills and knowledge.


The government does not allow the entry of unskilled foreign laborers, but takes a positive approach to accepting highly skilled foreign workers.


In addition to those in the entertainment industry such as singers, about 158,000 foreigners have been granted working visas as researchers, engineers and teachers, among other professions.


However, half of those are in nonregular employment and a mere 5 percent are employed by major companies.


Foreigners have difficulty getting promoted at Japanese corporations and research institutes. Also, such issues as education and medical services for family members are worrisome for them.

Under such circumstances, highly skilled workers who leave their home countries tend to prefer to work in Europe and North America.


To fortify Japan's international competitiveness, the government must establish a collaborative relationship with industry, and academia to attract human resources to the nation. In addition, measures such as helping foreign students find employment in Japan should be undertaken.

For that purpose, the government should consider relaxing the requirements for visas.



White-collar vs blue-collar


In contrast, there are many problems with accepting unskilled workers.


Contrary to the government's policy, the agricultural, manufacturing and construction industries have already accepted many foreign workers. They are foreign nationals of Japanese ancestry--who are specially granted the right to work--and trainees who came to Japan under the government-run foreign trainee system in the name of international cooperation.


The foreign trainee system has become a loophole for using unskilled foreign workers and has been criticized as a hotbed of abuse leading to illegal employment practices including low wages and long working hours.


In addition to cracking down on illegal practices, drastically reexamining the foreign trainee system is an urgent task, including working toward a system of awarding visas to trainees who have acquired high skill levels so they can continue working in Japan.



Attracting best and brightest


No capable foreigners will come to Japan if companies take the attitude that they can be hired at a low wage, used and then discarded.


Nurses and care workers from Indonesia and the Philippines will be admitted to Japan under bilateral economic partnership agreements. They should be nurtured carefully as personnel who will provide vital medical and welfare services.


Japan's working-age population, aged between 15 and 64, is drastically declining after peaking at 87.16 million 1995.


Some lawmakers, including the Liberal Democratic Party's former Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa, are seeking to establish a system to accept unskilled foreign workers.


Meanwhile, some people have expressed concerns, including the possibility that such a measure would reduce employment opportunities for Japanese due to a flow of foreign workers into the nation and cause discontent and confusion in smaller communities.



National debates should be deepened on how many foreign workers should be accepted and the fields in which they should be permitted to work.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 3, 2008)

2008630150  読売新聞)


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