TOKYO – The chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Akio Mimura, urged the government to allow more entry of foreign workers to alleviate the growing shortage of labor.
At a press conference held on Thursday and reported by Japanese economic daily Nikkei on Friday, Mimura said the shortage was increasingly serious and causing difficulties in the private sector, particularly for the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which employ approximately 70 percent of workers in the country.
He highlighted the potential of foreign workers and called on the government to facilitate their access.
Japan has a low unemployment rate (2.8 percent) and is affected by a low workforce supply (100 jobseekers for every 152 job offers), according to an official data as of September.
Experts warn that the shortage of manpower is threatening Japan’s economic growth and the sustainability of its social security system, circumstances that are aggravated by the country’s demographic decline.
Sixty percent of Japanese SMEs are affected by a lack of workers, forcing them to delay or cancel orders or to resort to solutions such as automating their production processes and services, according to a survey by the Chamber of Commerce.
Mimura proposed to the government the creation of a panel to study the flexibility of the national immigration regulations and other measures that facilitate the access of foreign workers to the Japanese labor market.
In 2016, the number of foreign employees surpassed one million for the first time in Japan, a figure which accounted for 0.65 percent of the total workforce in the country, according to the Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare.