Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Japan should extend skilled foreigners' residency to 8 years: advisers

TOKYO -- As part of new economic policy recommendations, top advisers to the government will propose lengthening the residency period for qualified foreigners to a maximum of eight years to help attract talent to the country.

     Nongovernment members of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy will also argue that steps to encourage more women and seniors to enter the labor force could lead to the creation of some 5 million jobs, according to a draft of their recommendations.

     The advisers will present their ideas at a council meeting Friday, intending them as a to-do list for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's reshuffled cabinet starting next month.

     Abenomics, the prime minister's plan for revitalizing the economy, is about to enter a "second stage," Abe wrote in a campaign flier for re-election as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. (He won another term unopposed.) The advisers' recommendations are expected to serve as a basis for new reforms.

     When Abenomics began, the emphasis was on monetary and fiscal stimulus. The recommendations add up to a different approach. Taking into account China's slowing economic growth and other developments, the CEFP members will propose a program of structural reforms aimed at building "resilience" in domestic demand, borrowing from the name of an LDP plan for strengthening the country's physical infrastructure.

     Employing skilled foreigners falls under the heading of boosting corporate productivity. The advisers will recommend lengthening the maximum stay for skilled foreigners, which was last extended from three years to five in 2012. This would make it easier for talented foreigners to work in Japan in a number of ways, including less frequent renewals of their residency qualifications.

     The number of foreigners residing in Japan grew to around 2.12 million as of the end of last year. This increase is attributed partly to the extension, so adding another three years could produce more gains. About half of foreigners employed in Japan complain that the residency period is too short, a Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry survey has found.

     The advisers will also recommend internships as a way to increase the domestic employment rate among foreigners who have received higher education in Japan from about 20% to 50%. This could help Japanese companies struggling to fill jobs.

     To boost female employment, they advisers will call for overhauling spousal stipends for civil servants. Since these payouts are cut off when spouses' incomes exceed certain thresholds, they are seen as an incentive for women married to government employees to work fewer hours than they could. The recommendations will urge the national government to lead the way in revising this perk of public employment.

     The advisers will also propose reworking rules that lower pension payments for those aged 60 and over who choose to work while receiving the old-age benefit.


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