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Japan immigration

Worker shortage in Japan to hit 6.4m by 2030, survey finds

More women, elderly and foreign workers needed to keep future economy healthy

Japan needs to consider new measures, both human and technological, to refill its shrinking labor pool.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan will face a shortage of 6.44 million workers in 2030, making wage hikes, increased child care and other labor-related reforms vital to ensuring a stable workforce, according to a joint survey by Persol Research and Consulting and Chuo University released on Tuesday.

The figure equals about 5% of the country's 2017 population, and would mark a fivefold increase from 1.21 million in 2017, a shortage estimated by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

The survey projected that demand for workers will reach 70.73 million in 2030 with supply -- excluding the unemployed -- at 64.29 million. Wages should be up 14% in 2030 from 2017, the survey also forecast. "If wages fail to rise as projected, the labor shortage could hit 10 million," said Masahiro Abe, professor of economics at Chuo.

The employment of women, elderly people and foreigners should be encouraged to address Japan's labor scarcity, Persol and Chuo said. The M-shaped curve, which shows how employment declines among child-rearing women, is ending, said Persol research chief Chiaki Tai. "We can add 1 million workers if we eliminate [this trend]."

An increase of 1.02 million workers can be expected if 1.16 million more children are accepted into child-care centers, she noted.

Extending the retirement age and other measures aimed at elderly people could add 1.63 million workers, survey results indicated. The figure comprises 220,000 men and 1.41 million women, suggesting more job opportunities for women. In addition, 810,000 foreign workers could be added if the government pushes ahead with its program of accepting more of them into the country.

The measures mentioned in the survey could add up to 3.46 million women, elderly citizens and foreigners to the labor pool, but would still cover little more than 50% of the projected shortage. Advances in artificial intelligence and other technology could make up for the rest, Abe said.

The scarcity of workers may adversely affect the country's economy. In fiscal 2017, 114 companies went bankrupt due to the labor shortage, marking a year-on-year increase for the fourth consecutive year, a study by Teikoku Databank found.

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