[ Nippon Keidanren ] [ Policy ]

Recommendations on Accepting Non-Japanese Workers

April 14, 2004

Nippon Keidanren
(Japan Business Federation)

Nippon Keidanren released its vision paper, "Japan 2025: Envisioning a Vibrant, Attractive Nation in the 21st Century," in January 2003. The paper proposed the development of an climate in which both Japanese and non-Japanese are able to play a vital role from the perspective of "restoring socioeconomic vitality in Japan through the dynamism of diversity." The working group subsequently established jointly under Committee on Industrial Affairs and Committee on Employment held hearings to canvas opinions of members of the Japanese business community, those associated with relevant ministries, local governments involved in this issue, and academia. After publishing its interim recommendations on November 14, 2003, the group solicited comments on initial proposals from a broad spectrum of the Japanese public. The feedback received has been incorporated into the final recommendations, which are outlined below.

1. Concept

(1) Utilizing Non-Japanese to Enhance Value-Adding Creativity

Global competition for top-rate human resources is becoming increasingly intense while Japan's socioeconomic composition is changing with lower birthrates and a graying population. These changes must be countered by bringing the dynamism of diversity into Japan from outside so that it could enhance the "value-adding creativity" of each man and woman among the Japanese public, thus maximizing the contribution of non-Japanese workers within this process. It must be remembered that Japan's population will begin to decline from 2006, and yet accepting non-Japanese workers into the country is not yet being considered as a viable option for filling this gap.

(2) Three Guiding Principles for Acceptance

Acceptance of non-Japanese workers should be considered according to the guiding principles outlined below.

  1. Acceptance must be well organized to ensure sufficient control over the quality and quantity of those accepted.
  2. Human rights and dignity of accepted non-Japanese workers must never be compromised.
  3. Acceptance of non-Japanese workers must also benefit the countries of their origin.

In line with these three principles, the government must lay down concrete policy measures on definite three-year and five-year timetables that address acceptance of non-Japanese workers.

2. Proposals

(1) Reform Employment Contracts and Personnel Systems at Japanese Companies

It must be said that human resource utilization systems at Japanese companies be reworked, employee mindsets at these companies be reformed, and a philosophy emphasizing the creation of transcultural synergies in management be instituted. It is crucial that Japanese companies provide non-Japanese workers appropriate positions and ensure other benefits that provide worth and security in working climate.

(2) Promote Uniform and Coordinated Measures Taken by Central and Local Governments

Vertical hierarchy inherent in the Japanese government structure has adversely affected the system for accepting non-Japanese workers. To counter this, it is imperative that an Office for Accepting Non-Japanese Workers must be established within the Cabinet, and a Cabinet-level Ministerial position on Accepting Non-Japanese Worker be created. In terms of subsequent steps to be taken, it is recommended that the possibility of enacting a "basic law" to regulate acceptance and the creation of an Agency for Non-Japanese Residents be created.

It is further recommend that a Non-Japanese Employment Law (provisional title) be enacted and a new labor management structure be introduced, under which Japanese companies would be held responsible for submitting to the government information on individual non-Japanese at the time they are employed at and/or leave the company.

(3) Facilitate Acceptance in Specialist and Technology Sectors

Existence of Intra-company transferees are particularly important from the standpoint of enhancing global operations, and Japanese companies need to be able to accept non-Japanese workers, even those with less than one year of business experience, as intra-company transferees.

It is also recommend that the creation of a Japanese equivalent to the "green card" be studied as a means of promoting the long-term residency in Japan of highly skilled non-Japanese workers.

(4) Enhance Quality of Non-Japanese Students and Promote Their Employment in Japan

With the attainment last year of the National Plan to Accept 100,000 Non-Japanese Students (proposed by the Nakasone cabinet in 1983), the emphasis should now shift to further enhancing the quality of students accepted. It is recommended that Japanese language education, both in Japan and overseas, be further expanded. At the same time, it is also recommend that steps be taken to promote employment for non-Japanese students in Japan and overseas by instituting a new system for granting one-year visa status to enable non-Japanese students to participate in internship programs for post-graduate training at Japanese companies.

(5) Accept Non-Japanese Workers in Sectors Expected to Face Future Labor Shortages

In response to strong demands from Thailand and the Philippines that their citizens be accepted as employees in Japan in nursing, healthcare, and other sectors, efforts to establish a system that will guarantee the well-organized acceptance of non-Japanese workers are an urgent priority. It is particularly important that acceptance under this system: (1) be based on a clear understanding of the types of occupation and skills, the length of time and number of workers needed; and (2) include a structure for sending/accepting non-Japanese workers from/to public institutions governed by bilateral agreements.

(6) Improve Non-Japanese Worker Training Programs

Although training programs are for the most part used for legitimate purposes by local industry, problems involving escaping employees or employers not paying wages and benefits have occurred in limited cases. Greater focus must be given to stronger punitive measures against unfair practices by organizations that accept non-Japanese workers, introduction of systems to allow trainees and technical interns to be sent back to their countries early, and other systemic improvements.

(7) Improve Working and Living Conditions for Non-Japanese

It is recommended that local government offices set up special sections to provide information, counseling and opportunities to learn Japanese for non-Japanese workers and students as part of the role of local government in promoting multiculturalism. Education for the children of non-Japanese workers is another important issue. It is recommended that applicants be required to specify the educational institution their children will attend as a requisite for being granted a visa to reside in Japan.

It is further recommended that the social security system be improved and enhanced by concluding social security agreements with the greatest possible number of countries and resolving the issues associated with membership in public pension and medical insurance schemes as quickly as possible.

(8) Resolve Issues Associated with Foreign Nationals of Japanese Descent Entering and Working in Japan

It is recommended that visa status be granted in the future only to those foreign nationals of Japanese descent wishing to enter Japan who have signed an employment contract with a company and can demonstrate stable employment in Japan.

(9) Coordinate Measures on Illegal Residents and Public Security with Acceptance Policy

Exercising greater control over illegal residents is an important consideration in alleviating the anxiety among the Japanese public over this issue. At the same time, however, greater attention must be paid to striking the proper balance between public security measures and acceptance policy in order to ensure a fully developed acceptance policy so that non-Japanese workers and students are not drawn into criminal activity.

It is entirely within means of the host country to reduce crime by creating a socioeconomic climate that encourages non-Japanese workers and students to work and study in Japan by ensuring they are able to live stable, confident lives in the country. It is essential that uniform and coordinated measures taken by central and local governments be promoted in order to develop a well-rounded acceptance policy that addresses Japanese language education, employment assistance, eradication of discrimination, and the needs of the children of non-Japanese workers and students arriving in Japan.

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