National / Politics

51.3% of Japanese support bill to accept more foreign workers, Kyodo poll shows

Kyodo

More than half of Japanese support a bill to accept more foreign workers, a nationwide Kyodo News poll showed Sunday.

The phone survey conducted over the weekend found that 51.3 percent were supportive of the bill approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet on Friday, with 39.5 percent opposed.

The poll also showed 50.8 percent of respondents opposed a consumption tax hike in October next year to 10 percent from the current 8 percent, while 46.4 percent were supportive.

The approval rate for Abe’s Cabinet stood at 47.3 percent, up 0.8 percentage point from the previous survey conducted a month earlier.

The survey, covering 744 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 1,169 mobile phone numbers, obtained responses from 520 and 518 individuals, respectively.

The finding suggests the Japanese public is not as critical of the draft legislation as opposition lawmakers and some members of Abe’s ruling party had thought.

But 36 percent of those who opposed the bill said they are afraid of potential problems in their communities caused by foreign nationals with different cultural backgrounds.

The legislation, already submitted by the government to the Diet, will create new visa categories for foreign nationals possessing skills to work in sectors facing tight labor conditions, ranging from construction and agriculture to nursing care, amid Japan’s rapidly aging population and low birthrate.

The bill, if passed, will mark a major shift from Japan’s long-standing policy of accepting mainly highly skilled professionals.

The possible change has been widely welcomed by the business community. But many lawmakers have criticized the government for too hastily moving toward amending the country’s immigration law without preparing steps to cope with possible new challenges, such as in the areas of social security and education.

Asked about a scheme aimed at cushioning the impact of the consumption tax hike by offering reward points worth 2 percent of purchase prices if items are bought by credit card or other cashless methods at small and medium-sized businesses, 62.1 percent said they opposed the idea.

Under the government’s plan, the scheme may run for six months to a year after the tax increase, which is planned for next October.

Nearly 75 percent of respondents said regional revitalization minister Satsuki Katayama, the only female minister of the Cabinet, who is currently embroiled in a financial scandal, should provide a detailed explanation of the situation.

A weekly magazine report in October alleged that Katayama, a former Finance Ministry official, accepted money from the owner of a manufacturing company in return for asking tax authorities for special treatment on the firm’s behalf.