A controversial policy shift in Japan was recently made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to allow more overseas blue-collar workers in sectors facing Japan’s labour crunch. Immigration is a touchy topic as the Japanese are known to value ethnic homogeneity. However, an ageing and shrinking population leaves them with limited options but to learn to embrace the entry of foreign labour.

The new policy is expected to create two new visa categories for foreigners in more than a dozen sectors like farming and construction, hospitality, and nursing. Previously, the focus of Japan’s immigration policy was on highly skilled and professionals, but the government has decided that more needs to be done to meet business needs.

Read the full article on Channel NewsAsia: Japan aims to open door wider to blue-collar workers


Japan is known to be stringent in its immigration policies and has resisted opening its doors to foreigners and refugees seeking shelter. It is a political and social concern that letting foreigners in would result in higher crime rates and migrant backlash as witnessed in Europe.

While the new policy is a shift towards challenging old ways, PM Abe has framed it such that the visa is a temporary work permit, and workers are expected to return to their own countries. Another strategy of easing the labour crunch is via domestic reforms to encourage women and retired workers to return to the workforce (also known as Abe’s ‘Womenomics’ initiative back in 2015).

Shortage of labour is always a tricky situation. Low birth rates are part of the issue, and as women are encouraged to re-enter the workforce, this could result in even lower birth rates. On the other hand, society also needs time to adjust its mindset to embrace foreign workers into its midst.

Questions for further personal evaluation:

  1. Is Japan ready to embrace more diversity?
  2. Why do you think the Japanese place such high importance on ethnic homogeneity?

Useful vocabulary:

  1. ‘grapple’: struggle
  2. ‘de facto’: in fact, whether by right or not.
  3. ‘stymie’: prevent or hinder the progress of

Picture credits: https://pixabay.com/en/tokyo-japan-tokyo-tower-night-2138168/