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Regarding Yosuke Kaneda’s Feb. 21 letter, “Encourage foreign students to stay“: Encouraging more foreigners to settle in Japan as a solution to the growing labor shortage — due to the declining and aging population — would be difficult to implement and would have various negative side effects.

A much more practical and satisfactory solution would be to make it easier for the growing legions of older citizens to either stay on or return to the workforce. At present, with the exception of a few professions, most people over the age of 45 or so [who have lost their jobs] are pretty much unemployable in a full-time position. Generally, the resumes of such applicants will be automatically dismissed regardless of their qualifications and experience.

Ageism in Japan may well be a bigger barrier to employment than sexism, but it has gotten almost no attention. In this time of rising unemployment and underemployment, ending ageism should be the most obvious solution — aside from improving working conditions for women — to any labor shortages.

The Feb. 21 Japan Times Gone By column (compiled by Edan Corkill) cites a 1985 article in which the then Labor Ministry announced that in the face of a “rapidly aging society,” it would step up efforts to expand employment opportunities for older workers. Twenty-five years later it appears that those proposals have been forgotten.

My hope is that the now combined Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will take a fresh look at older workers — with all their experience, qualifications and wisdom — as a resource and turn them from a perceived burden into a valued asset.

ronald sabatini

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