Keidanren: Immigrant worker influx vital to halt labor shortage

Japan should expedite an increase in immigrant labor to engage in fields ranging from welfare to manufacturing, construction and agriculture to offset the shrinking domestic workforce, the nation’s largest business lobby said Tuesday.

Japan has essentially not accepted unskilled workers in those areas, but the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) now argues the country should introduce “medium-skilled” workers, the group said in a report.

The transport and fishery industries should also be opened to foreign labor, Keidanren said.

The federation argued that Japan should accept unskilled workers as well as recruit more foreign students and provide social infrastructure to encourage immigrants to stay for a long time. It said this can be accomplished through such measures as stabilizing their legal status and helping them study Japanese.

Keidanren, like the government, has until now welcomed only high-skilled foreign workers, including information technology engineers, office professionals and language teachers.

The proposal underlines the serious labor shortage facing Japan.

The population, now at 128 million, is estimated to drop by about 30 percent to roughly 90 million in 50 years. By that time there will be 1.3 persons in the 15-64 age bracket tor each person aged 65 or older, compared with 3.3 in 2005.

“The business circle is deeply worried about the aging population,” Keidanren Managing Director Masakazu Kubota said.