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OSAKA — Prompted by serious concerns among small and medium-size firms over the shortage of blue-collar labor, the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry on July 10 created a working group to discuss how to attract more workers from foreign countries.

Chamber officials said the working group, made up of company executives and scholars, plans to put together a proposal next March calling for the creation of a working visa for skilled foreign laborers that would enable people to come to Japan with their families and work. The proposal will challenge the Japanese government’s policy of offering working visas to foreign engineers and researchers but not to skilled workers, which is based on the belief that accepting blue-collar workers could adversely affect Japan’s socioeconomic system.

The officials said small and medium-size firms are having increasing difficulty obtaining skilled labor, as fewer young Japanese want to work in such jobs as metal mold processing and industrial packaging. Under the current system, skilled foreign workers can work in Japan only as trainees, and their working period can be no longer than three years.

“The trainee program is aimed at training foreign people so they can take home Japanese technology and knowhow to foster their own industries,” a chamber official said. “But we want skilled workers to stay in Japan as long as possible, although we know there are a lot of problems to be solved before this actually becomes possible.”

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