Japan household helper plan shows wider immigration dilemma
Reuters -- Dec 11
During the early days of "Abenomics," U.S. businesses were optimistic they could convince Japan's government to make a small change to the nation's tight immigration rules to let more household helpers into the country.
But a year after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office, an idea that some thought might be an easy win for immigration reform while meeting a stated aim of Abe's growth strategy has made no apparent progress.
If Abe's government drags its feet on one small step, it suggests scant prospects for any broader measures to let in foreign workers any time soon - which many experts say will be necessary for Japan to sustain its economic growth in the face of a rapidly shrinking workforce.
"Japan needs to let in more foreign workers to solve its population problem," said Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau. "Letting in more domestic workers is just a small part of the big picture, but it might make a big difference to the people who employ them."
The proposal has been discussed by three ministries, people familiar with the process say, although Abe has not publicly mentioned the idea. Loosening visa requirements for domestic helpers could allow more Japanese women to return to full-time work, proponents say.
That is one goal in a broader Abe strategy to get Japan on the path of stable economic expansion after almost two decades of debilitating deflation and sluggish growth.
But after Abe won plaudits for pushing aggressive fiscal and monetary expansion after coming to power last December, reaction to his longer-term economic growth plans has been less enthusiastic.
His immigration-reform plans would make it easier for highly skilled immigrants to get work visas and cut the time needed to qualify for permanent residency. This falls short of the comprehensive steps needed to address the country's shrinking birthrate and burgeoning elderly population, experts say.
US President Barack Obama has left the United States for his first trip to Japan in about 3-and-a-half years. Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold a summit meeting on Thursday. (NHK )
The education ministry conducted national academic achievement tests on Tuesday for all final-year students at primary and middle schools across the country. About 2.24 million students at about 30,000 schools took Japanese and mathematics exams. (The Japan News )
Japan and the United States are now seen deferring a broad trade agreement until after a summit meeting set for Thursday due to differences over key issues, informed sources said Tuesday. (Jiji Press )
The virus strain that caused bird flu at a poultry farm in southwestern Japan has been confirmed to be genetically identical to the one found in South Korea, the National Institute of Animal Health said Tuesday. (Jiji Press )
Airport authorities in Tokyo launched a frantic scramble to change security pass codes, an official said Tuesday, the day before U.S. President Barack Obama arrives, after an airline employee dropped a memo containing the details. (Japan Today )
The Imperial Household Agency announced this week that it has received over 100,000 applications from individuals seeking to participate in the first ever public opening of parts of the Imperial Palace. (Japan Today )
A former judge from the Ministry of Justice is alleged to have installed a camera inside a women's toilet inside a ministry building in Kasumigaseki, people with knowledge of the matter announced on Monday, reports Sports Nippon (Apr. 22). (Tokyo Reporter )
Police in Fuso, Aichi Prefecture, said Sunday they have arrested an unemployed 38-year-old man for attempted murder after he broke into the home of his ex-girlfriend and stabbed her and her parents. (Japan Today )
Feeding black-tailed gulls has been a popular activity on the sightseeing boats that cruise around the Matsushima islets, considered to be one of the three most beautiful spots in Japan, but local authorities banned the practice this month in a bid to protect the islets' famous pine trees from withering as a result of nitrogen in the droppings of the gulls, who have bred in large numbers in the area. (The Japan News )