Immigration policy to favor wealthy, skilled

To prepare for the expected population decline, the Justice Ministry plans to welcome highly educated professional foreign workers, but it will make entry tougher for descendants of Japanese.

The planned new immigration policy, based on a point system, is intended to maintain Japan’s future economic growth by taking in more skilled foreigners, such as researchers, doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs.

These measures were featured in a report submitted Tuesday to Justice Minister Keiko Chiba by an advisory group on immigration control policy. The group, the fifth of its kind, is chaired by Tsutomu Kimura, an adviser at the education ministry.

The Justice Ministry is expected to review the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law and related laws and ordinances, and submit a revision bill to the Diet as early as next year.

A point system for skilled workers has already been introduced in countries like Britain and Canada.

By grading would-be workers in Japan based on their education levels, professional skills, qualifications, work experience, incomes and other criteria, the Justice Ministry will recognize those above a certain level as highly skilled workers.

Those recognized will receive preferential treatment, such as longer periods of stay in Japan, as well as permanent resident status after five years of living in Japan, instead of the usual 10.

But the ministry plans to establish more rigorous entry requirements for foreign nationals of Japanese descent.

At the request of the business community in need of labor, the immigration control law was revised in 1990 to grant resident status–without employment restrictions–to second- and third-generation Japanese. That led to a steady inflow of unskilled workers, mainly from Brazil and Peru.

But now, unemployment has become a serious problem among these nikkeijin, as manufacturers have closed factories amid dwindling demand in the struggling economy.

In admitting foreign citizens of Japanese descent, the Justice Ministry plans to require “an ability to make a living in Japan on their own” by, for example, having secured employment beforehand.

The ministry later intends to demand of the nikkeijin “a certain level of proficiency in the Japanese language” through a certification exam or other measures.