Japan should accept more foreign workers to address labor shortages in the economy and sustain growth, the head of the country’s largest business lobby said Friday.
Japan Business Federation Chairman Sadayuki Sakakibara also said in a speech that the lobby, better known as Keidanren, will hold a dialogue with its South Korean counterpart next month for the first time in seven years, despite prolonged political tensions between the two countries.
“It is essential to create a system” for Japanese firms to more aggressively accept workers from abroad, Sakakibara said at a seminar organized by Kyodo News, calling for a “reform in the way of working.”
He added that any reform must follow public debate, and that referring to measures employed by other countries will be helpful in that regard.
“Labor shortages are about to become a significant problem” in Japan with its aging population, Sakakibara said, suggesting the government and business community should cooperate in dealing with the pressing issue.
Sakakibara welcomed the government’s attempt to ease regulations on working hours, saying Japanese firms must strengthen competitiveness through “the creation of an environment where workers can manifest their aptitude as much as possible.”
He also praised Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s initiative to promote opportunities for women in society, pledging that Keidanren will take steps to realize that goal.
Sakakibara noted the importance of restoring Japan’s relations with China as well as South Korea, which have been complicated by territorial and wartime historical issues. The tensions have also affected Tokyo’s economic ties with the two neighbors.
Sakakibara said Keidanren will restart regular dialogues with its South Korean counterpart, the Federation of Korean Industries, following a seven-year hiatus.
He will head a mission to visit South Korea for two days from Nov. 30, the chairman said.
Last month, a delegation of around 200 executives from major Japanese firms, including Sakakibara, traveled to Beijing in the hope of opening a path toward improved bilateral relations.