National

Japan aims to attract more foreign workers amid growth in tourism

Kyodo

The government compiled a plan Tuesday to ease visa restrictions for foreign workers in designated special economic zones to address the growing need for tourism services.

The move signals a shift in the nation’s immigration policy, which has traditionally focused on allowing only highly skilled migrants into Japan. By increasing the number of foreign workers, the government hopes to revitalize the country’s regional economies.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed relevant ministers to work toward submitting necessary bills during the current Diet session for a legislative amendment on national strategic special zones, government officials said.

The sectors in which the foreign workers will be allowed to work will depend on the specific needs of the economic zones, they said.

The Osaka prefectural and municipal governments, for instance, have asked the central government to expand the intake of foreign workers for hotels and merchandising.

The Japan Tourism Agency said last month the number of foreign visitors reached a record 24.04 million in 2016, up 21.8 percent the previous year, with the country aiming to attract 40 million foreign tourists in 2020 when Japan will host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.