Shrinking Japan OKs divisive bill to get more foreign labor

TOKYO (AP) — Japan is set to approve legislation that would officially open the door to foreign workers to do unskilled jobs and possibly eventually become citizens.

Lawmakers were due to vote late Friday on a government proposal to allow hundreds of thousands of foreign laborers to live and work in a country that has long resisted accepting outsiders.

It's seen as an unavoidable step as the country's population rapidly ages and shrinks.

Many short-handed industries, especially in the services sector, already rely heavily on foreign "trainees" and language students. The country also selectively grants visas to white-collar professionals, often from the west.

Bringing in foreign laborers is a last resort after the government tried to meet labor shortages by encouraging more employment of women and older workers and using more robots and other automation.