Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Abe eyes elec­tion with for­eign-worker bill

The Myanmar Times - - World -

A bill adopted by the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment on Fri­day to wi­den the scope of ac­cept­ing for­eign work­ers from April 2019 is aimed at eas­ing se­ri­ous la­bor short­ages in var­i­ous sec­tors and thus re­mov­ing a hin­drance to eco­nomic growth.

The bill also sug­gests the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe took into con­sid­er­a­tion re­quests from in­dus­try or­ga­ni­za­tions, with an eye on a House of Coun­cil­lors elec­tion next sum­mer, be­cause sta­ble sup­port for the Cab­i­net is greatly propped up by good eco­nomic con­di­tions.

“It has be­come very dif­fi­cult to se­cure em­ploy­ees in such fields as nurs­ing care and con­struc­tion. It is be­com­ing a se­ri­ous fac­tor in the im­ped­i­ment on [eco­nomic] growth,” Abe said dur­ing Fri­day’s meet­ing of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ Bud­get Com­mit­tee as he stressed the sig­nif­i­cance of widen­ing the ac­cep­tance of for­eign work­ers.

While there are strong con­cerns within the rul­ing Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party and its ju­nior part­ner Komeito, it was Chief Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga, the prime min­is­ter’s right-hand man, who led the gov­ern­ment to change its stance.

Suga had been briefed about la­bor short­ages in the nurs­ing care in­dus­try, and started to ex­am­ine the is­sue as a se­cret pol­icy task last au­tumn. He was also prompted by the fact that la­bor short­ages have be­come con­spic­u­ous in the con­struc­tion sec­tor, among other fields, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Par­a­lympics.

At first, the gov­ern­ment min­istries and agen­cies con­cerned held cau­tious views out of wor­ries over a pos­si­ble de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of pub­lic safety and ad­verse af­fects on the em­ploy­ment of Ja­panese. How­ever, Suga is be­lieved to have pushed through the plan to ac­cept more for­eign work­ers.

Thanks to Suga’s ef­forts, Abe called for de­tailed dis­cus­sions on the is­sue at a Feb­ru­ary meet­ing of the Coun­cil on Eco­nomic and Fis­cal Pol­icy. In June, the plan was in­cor­po­rated into the Ba­sic Pol­icy on Eco­nomic and Fis­cal Man­age­ment and Re­form, known as the “big-boned pol­icy.”

Some po­lit­i­cal pun­dits say the move is aimed at gar­ner­ing votes for elec­tions.

The gov­ern­ment is con­sid­er­ing ac­cept­ing for­eign work­ers in 14 fields, such as agri­cul­ture, nurs­ing care and con­struc­tion, in re­sponse to re­quests and pe­ti­tions from those in­dus­try groups.

“[Abe] prob­a­bly wants to do a fa­vor for the busi­ness cir­cle and in­dus­try or­ga­ni­za­tions con­cerned, with an eye on uni­fied lo­cal elec­tions next spring and a House of Coun­cil­lors elec­tion next sum­mer,” a se­nior LDP of­fi­cial said.

The fo­cus of dis­cus­sions from now on will be on how many for­eign work­ers should be ac­cepted. Prior to Fri­day’s Cab­i­net meet­ing to ap­prove the bill, the LDP’s Ju­di­cial Af­fairs Divi­sion adopted a res­o­lu­tion de­mand­ing the gov­ern­ment de­cide a ba­sic stance “by co­or­di­nat­ing with the LDP.”The gov­ern­ment did not in­clude in the bill spe­cific fig­ures about the scope of ac­cept­ing for­eign work­ers. In­stead, it in­tends to in­clude a num­ber for the la­bor short­age in each in­dus­try in an or­di­nance for the bill.

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Protesters shout slo­gans dur­ing a rally to con­demn a Supreme Court de­ci­sion that ac­quit­ted Asia Bibi, a Chris­tian woman, who spent eight years on death row ac­cused of blas­phemy, in La­hore, Pak­istan on Fri­day.Photo:

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