Japan to increase foreign workers over next five years, Taiwan labor force may be affected

On Dec. 25, Shinzo Abe's government approved new legislation permitting more foreign workers in Japan

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Shinzo Abe

Shinzo Abe (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – In Tokyo on Dec. 25, the government of Shinzo Abe approved legislation amending laws on immigration and foreign labor with 126 new policy measures, which will increase the number of foreign workers permitted into Japan beginning in April 2019.

From April, the cap on foreign workers in 14 industries will be increased. Some media reports in Taiwan speculate that expanded opportunities for foreign laborers in Japan, may adversely affect the labor force in Taiwan.

Starting in April, 2019, laborers from Mongolia, China, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines will be eligible for a new residence status outlined under the amended act. Notably, laborers from Taiwan are not listed among those who are eligible for residency under provisions of the new measures.

An estimated 345,150 foreign laborers from these nine countries are expected to be granted residency over the next five years, reports Straits Times.

Nursing and elderly care, food service, and the construction industry, areas where Japan currently faces serious labor shortages, will be given priority. Workers in these industries can apply for residency starting in April, while other industries will be open to hiring more foreign workers from October, 2019. These three industries also have the highest cap for foreign workers.

Other industries that will be expanding the number of workers from abroad includes "janitorial work, manufacturing, the hotel industry, agriculture and fishing, as well as food processing," reports Japan Times.

In order to keep the number of foreign laborers from becoming too concentrated in major metropolitan areas, the Japanese government will conduct industry surveys in prefectures and cities throughout the country.

These surveys will help determine an appropriate number of residency visas to grant in each region for new workers coming from abroad.

Over the past few decades, Japan’s reluctance to allow for large numbers of foreign workers in the country has ensured that many skilled workers from Southeast Asia would place priority on employment in Taiwan.

If Japan is capable of offering higher quality immigration services and better job opportunities to laborers from the region, then Taiwan’s labor force is likely to be affected, with more skilled candidates competing for employment in Japan rather than Taiwan.

This could especially be a problem in the nursing and agricultural industries in rural areas of Taiwan, where the population is rapidly aging and relies more and more on the support and assistance of foreign workers, reports Upmedia.