Prime Minister Shinzō Abe Supports Loosening Restrictions on Foreigners Working in Japan
Since 2002, the Japanese government (specifically, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) has promoted Japan’s wealth of cultural exports — anime and manga, of course, but also cuisine, fashion, and traditional culture — through the international branding campaign “Cool Japan.” At a meeting of the Special National Strategic Section’s advisory committee on January 20, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe offered his support for the initiative and made suggestions for how to advance it.
Abe focused on foreigners who study Japan due to its cultural exports, calling them “human resources that can act as suspension bridges between Japan and other countries.” He sees the recruitment of foreigners in Japan’s animation, fashion, culinary, distribution, lodging, and other service industries as especially important and advocated a loosening of restrictions on foreigners residing and working in Japan. The committee is duly preparing a revision of the relevant laws to submit to the Diet (Japan’s parliament).
Despite a historically hostile attitude toward immigration, Japan is gradually embracing immigrants, mainly due to its demographic squeeze and the growing demand for workers, especially unskilled laborers. Abe supports looser immigration policies as part of his economic reform agenda; he has loosened visa restrictions and reduced the amount of time needed to qualify for permanent residency in Japan, with the result that Japan now has 2.23 million foreign permanent residents.