Tokyo blames discrimination for lack of plans to hire foreigners

Despite the recent reversal of the Home Affairs Ministry’s policy, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will not take immediate action to hire permanent foreign residents for general clerical positions, Gov. Yukio Aoshima has indicated.Aoshima said he has no plans to launch a study group to discuss the issue. “We don’t have such a plan, although I think it is a matter that we have to continuously consider,” Aoshima said in an interview with The Japan Times.In a surprising change of policy last November, Home Affairs Minister Katsuhiko Shirakawa stated that local governments should decide for themselves whether to hire foreign residents for general clerical positions. The types of jobs that should be open to foreigners, as well as criteria for their promotion, should also be left to the discretion of local governments, he said.The central government had earlier told them that foreign residents should be excluded from “general clerical positions” in which promotion to management positions that involve the use of public authority are possible. It said the use of public power should be limited to Japanese nationals and that foreign residents should be thus excluded from any general clerical positions.But Shirakawa eased the rule so each local government could determine which jobs were devoid of public power and how foreigners should be promoted. The Home Affairs Ministry still maintains that foreigners should not be allowed to take up positions that exercise public authority.Aoshima said he is worried that hiring foreigners for general clerical positions could cause new discrimination because the government would not be able to promote them to managerial jobs given the central government’s policy. “I want to protect fundamental human rights as much as possible and widen the scope of work (for foreigners),” Aoshima said. “But to maintain consistency with other local governments and the national government, we cannot open all jobs (to them).”He stressed that about 60 percent of the job categories in his government — jobs that require special skills and knowledge and do not involve the use of public power — have already been made open to foreign residents. The metropolitan government now plans to establish a council consisting of foreign residents in fiscal 1997, which starts in April and ends in March 1998.