With the advent of “globalization,” not only the “movement of goods” such as commodities and capital across national borders, but also the “movement of persons” has been increasing dramatically. It seems clear that these movements will gain momentum in the future, and Japan will also be affected by them.
In Japan, there is a growing debate on the movement of persons across national borders. First, the public is concerned over the issue of how the nation will manage the anticipated future decline of the Japanese workforce, given the dwindling birthrate and accelerating aging of the population. The mass media has focused on the debate over whether the anticipated shortage of domestic labour should be replenished using foreign workers. Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in anticipation of a shortage, in particular, of labour that doesn’t require expertise, skills or experience (referred to as “unskilled labour”), argue for the acceptance of foreigners as unskilled labour.
In addition, moves are being made not only toward the conclusion of free trade agreements (FTA) between Japan and its trading partners over goods and services, but also toward economic partnership agreements (EPA) that involve the exchange of people. In these talks, Japan has been strongly pressured by Asian countries to accept workers, and the movement of persons has become a big focus in these talks.
However, the “movement of persons” differs in character from that of goods. This is because the movement of persons entails diverse and broad problems, ranging from frictions emerging in everyday life due to encounters of people from different cultures, to ideological controversies over what a nation should be in terms of ethnicity.
In 1988, RENGO, which was then the private sector trade union confederation, published “RENGO’s View on Conditions and Criteria for Accepting Foreign Workers.” In it, RENGO confirmed its stance in the following wording: “Foreign workers should only be accepted into job types that require expertise, technology, or skills, and in principle their acceptance should be in balance with the employment of domestic workers and based on a national consensus.” This statement was reconfirmed in 1989, when the present JTUC-RENGO was formed. However, the current situation of the movement of persons both internationally and in Japan has drastically changed from that in 1988, and debates over foreign workers have entered a new phase.
Therefore, based on developments in both the world and Japan, RENGO has compiled and proposes the following “RENGO’s Current Stance on the Issue of Foreign Workers.”