Business / Economy

Japan to seek more foreign maids

Kyodo

Japan will accept more foreign housekeepers in the future, with Tokyo and certain other areas becoming zones where working families will find it easier to engage in such hiring, sources familiar with the move said.

The government will draft legislation to that effect as early as this fall, the sources said.

Opening the door to maids and home helpers is part of the recommendations made by the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, they said.

The panel, chaired by the prime minister, urged foreign hires as a way of getting more Japanese women into work. At least 2.2 million women in Japan are thought to be unable to work because they have to care for children or their elderly parents.

Businesses, too, have been calling for more foreign workers, fearing the declining population could stunt economic growth.

However, skeptics say an influx of low-paid foreign workers might lead to a cut in the incomes of Japanese.

The plan for the maids is envisaged for Tokyo and some of the five other National Strategic Economic Growth Areas before being considered for expansion nationwide, the sources said.

Japan already accepts foreign workers in areas requiring specialized skills, such as research and the culinary arts. Official figures show about 720,000 foreigners were working in Japan at the end of October 2013.

Numbers have been rising, but growth is largely limited to those joining skills acquisition programs.

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