National / Politics

Liberal Democratic Party’s General Council approves draft immigration control bill despite members’ concerns

by Sakura Murakami

Staff Writer

The Liberal Democratic Party’s General Council approved on Tuesday a government-drafted bill on immigration control, which will introduce new visa statuses for blue-collar and skilled workers, despite concerns within the party over whether the country can properly handle the possible influx of workers and the issues that may present.

Approval by the ruling party’s top decision-making body Tuesday followed hours of discussion and debate at the LDP’s Judicial Affairs Division throughout Monday.

Party members there raised concerns over whether the eligibility criteria for the visas were strict enough and how the inflow of long-term foreign workers would affect Japan’s pension scheme and medical welfare system.

The LDP’s Health, Labor and Welfare Division, which had convened earlier Monday to discuss social security issues, made a number of recommendations to the Judicial Affairs Division regarding the bill.

These included establishing a system that would prevent misuse of the medical system, funding the provision of translators at hospitals and ensuring the fair treatment of foreign workers in the workplace.

Despite the recommendations, some party members were still wary of the Judicial Affairs Division’s decision to approve the draft bill.

“At this rate, the government won’t have the time to prepare a social security system that can accommodate the new foreign workers,” said Shigeharu Aoyama, an LDP Diet member who has been vocal in his concerns over the reform, on Monday evening.

He added that the draft was being passed too quickly, saying, “I’m just hoping that the bill will take a turn for the better after debate at the Diet.”

The General Council gave the green light after agreeing to revise the current draft bill by adding a requirement for the government to revisit the immigration control law after a set number of years and amend it as necessary.

The Cabinet is expected to give its approval to the bill on Friday, with the proposed measure then set to be discussed at the current extraordinary Diet session.

While the bill does not mention which occupations are eligible for the new visas, the government is apparently considering industries including agriculture and shipbuilding amid severe labor shortages in such sectors.

Although the Judicial Affairs Division failed to reach a consensus, it adopted a resolution, with caveats, to accept the draft bill.

The resolution called on the government to apply stricter application conditions to the second visa category, which allows skilled foreign workers to bring their immediate family to Japan and renew their visas.

It also requests that the government discuss the implementation of the new law with the LDP should the bill pass.

In an attempt to quell concerns, Gaku Hasegawa, the director of the Judicial Affairs Division, invited Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita to the meeting to secure his support for the division’s recommendations.

Yamashita assured the meeting that the Justice Ministry would make the eligibility requirements for the second visa type stricter, before pledging his commitment to the bill — to applause from those in attendance.

“Today is not the end, but rather just the beginning,” Hasegawa said after the close of the meeting. He added that he will continue to closely follow Diet debates over the bill.

Information from Kyodo added