TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's new visa program to admit more foreign workers faced vocal opposition within his own ruling party Friday as members raised such issues as a potential increase in crime and the need to limit arrivals.
The judicial affairs division under the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council discussed legislation that would create two new visa categories, for skilled and unskilled foreign workers. With members expressing deep reservations, internal approval of the legislation, initially targeted for that day, was postponed at least until Monday.
Some took issue with a program that would allow skilled workers to bring their families and stay beyond the initial five-year limit.
"Isn't this essentially an immigration policy?" one member asked. "Such a drastic overhaul should be debated in a regular parliamentary session," said another. The legislation is slated for submission to the extraordinary session that convened Wednesday.
Anxiety about crime was also cited. "There should be a provision in the legislation to stop accepting workers if the crime rate goes up," a member suggested.
As for the number of foreigners to be admitted under the new visas, Justice Ministry officials at the meeting were vague. "We plan to present future prospects, including estimates, when we compile policy guidelines for separate business sectors," an official said.
The judicial affairs division drew up a resolution asking the government to reflect the voices of host businesses and regions in the guidelines for individual sectors.
The government hopes to endorse the legislation in the cabinet by the end of next week and submit it to the Diet for approval. The plan is to start accepting workers under the new programs starting next April, as the nation faces severe labor shortages.