TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's party has decided to extend debate on the pros and cons of legislation to admit more foreign workers, as lawmakers worry about the potential backlash from conservative voters.
The Liberal Democratic Party's judicial affairs division under its Policy Research Council initially targeted Friday for internal approval of the bill but decided to push it back until at least Monday.
The legislation would create two visa categories. One would be for unskilled workers, who could stay up to five years without their families and with no possibility of extensions. The other would cover qualified workers, who would be allowed to bring their families and could be granted extensions beyond the initial five years.
Senior members including Policy Research Council chief Fumio Kishida decided Thursday on the postponement in light of various concerns, including a possible rise in crime and the challenge of creating a system to handle increased arrivals. They determined that rushing to a conclusion without a thorough debate could anger party supporters ahead of the upper house election in the summer of 2019.
In a two-day session that ended that day for expert comment, LDP members appeared divided. "Allowing workers to bring their families and letting them stay indefinitely does not sound right," said a member of the opposition camp. "We should first think about raising wages for Japanese workers," another member said. An identification number program to keep track of foreign workers was also proposed. Some pointed out the need for deeper debate on foreigners' rights.
The plan is to pass the legislation during the current parliamentary session to start accepting foreign workers in April under the new program, as the nation faces a severe labor crunch.