The Japanese parliament passed a bill on Saturday that would pave the way for the nation to formally open its doors to foreign blue-collar workers amid severe labor shortage.
In this Nov. 28, 2018, photo, lawyer Shoichi Ibusuki, center, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, on the problems in Japan's technical intern program, with Eng Pisey, right, Cambodian technical trainee and Huang Shihu, left, Chinese technical trainee in Tokyo. [File photo: AP/Eugene Hoshiko]
Japan's ruling bloc has forcibly "bulldozed" the bill through the parliament despite staunch resistance form the opposition parties, who accused the bill of being vague and having not received sufficient deliberation.
Under the new legislation, two new resident statuses are expected to be created from next April, granting working rights to foreigners in sectors that suffer severe labor shortage, including construction, farming and nursing care.
The first status involving the new immigration law will allow five-year working visas to foreigners with applicable vocational skills spanning 14 different fields, but they will not be allowed to bring their families.
For foreign workers eligible for the second status, who have more advanced skills, the length of their stay will be open-ended and they will be allowed to bring their families with them.
The government will also upgrade the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau to an agency to strengthen its abilities to deal with the increase in foreigners.
Critics of the legislation, however, said that it failed to specify the types of jobs the foreign workers would engage in and would give the government too much freedom to decide details later through ministerial ordinances without parliamentary debate.
There have also been concerns that the lack of detail in the bill could create loopholes through which foreign workers could be exploited, especially amid criticism about the country's technical intern program which, set up with the intention to transfer skills to developing countries, has been said to be a cover for importing cheap labor.
Lawyers and advocacy groups here have been quick to point out that there have been numerous cases in the past where trainees and laborers have been brought to Japan from overseas on the promise of certain jobs or programs, only to find themselves working in exploitative conditions that infringe on their human rights.
The government, nevertheless, predicts Japan would accept up to 47,550 foreign workers in the first year from next April and up to 345,150 over five years.
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