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Bright Spots Despite a Downsizing Trend

By the year 2025, the double punch of Japan’s aging and shrinking population will be a true threat to the economy. The swelling legions of the elderly will seriously strain the social security and healthcare systems.


The lack of younger citizens is also creating a shortage of labor. Fortunately, corporate Japan has a new representative. Hitachi Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi has taken over as chief of the Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren. Nakanishi promises to tell it like it is to the administration and ruling parties. Keidanren and other business organizations are insisting that things need to be loosened up on employment.


In response, the Japanese government indicated in mid-2018 that over the next seven years it intends to let in more than 500,000 foreign workers as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new economic policy. The workers will be permitted to stay for five years to take jobs in five industries—agriculture, nursing, shipbuilding, construction and lodging. (Note the latter.)


Prospective immigrants will have to pass a Japanese-language competency test and one for the field they’ll be working in as well. If they go through the country’s foreign trainee program, five years will be added to their stay. However, reflecting Japan’s still-strong aversion to immigrants, no family members will be allowed to join them.

Over the past decade, by the way, there’s been a surge in the number of foreign employees in Japan, from 480,000 in 2008 to 1.28 million in 2017. Nearly a third of them are from China (29 percent), followed by 19 percent from Vietnam, 12 percent from the Philippines, 9 percent from Brazil and 5 percent from Nepal.


To Be Continued