Japan to relax work rules for expatriates

April 02, 2014 - 7:37:32 am

TOKYO: Japan is considering expanding a controversial programme that now offers workers from China and elsewhere permits to work for up to three years, as the world’s fastest-ageing nation scrambles to plug gaps in a rapidly shrinking workforce.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party yesterday submitted a proposal to let workers to stay for up to five years, relax hiring rules for employers and boost the number of jobs open to them.

“We will strengthen the governance of the programme,” LDP lawmaker Yasuhisa Shiozaki, who authored the proposal, told reporters. “We are aware of the concerns and we allowed people who had objections to voice their objections.”

Shiozaki said the LDP wanted to see harsher penalties for Japanese companies that abused foreign workers and would use external inspectors and local governments to monitor compliance.

The programme, started in 1993, sponsors around 150,000 workers, mostly Chinese, for jobs in areas such as the garment industry and farms.

In theory, the foreign workers come to Japan as trainees to acquire technical expertise, but lawyers and labor activists say many face abuse, from illegally low wages to the confiscation of their passports. REUTERS

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