Japan will aim to accept more foreign workers from April next year as the nation attempts to deal with a serious labor crunch across many industries, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday.

Abe told Cabinet members to speed up preparations for a plan that will effectively open the door to blue-collar laborers in addition to the currently accepted highly skilled foreign workers.

The new system may help prevent a scarcity of labor from posing a serious challenge to the economy's growth prospects, but critics view it as a way to import cheap labor — pointing out that workers from developing countries who receive on the the-job-training in Japan under government-sponsored programs are often found to have experienced poor working conditions.