Japan's foreign minister says country to open to foreigners

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, right, gestures as he shares his views on Asia's Geopolitical Outlook in the ongoing World Economic Forum on ASEAN at the National Convention Center Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 in Hanoi, Vietnam. Listening at left is South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. The World Economic Forum has attracted hundreds of participants with the theme: ASEAN 4.0: Entrepreneurship and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, center, gestures talks about Asia's Geopolitcal Outlook in the ongoing World Economic Forum on ASEAN at the National Convention Center Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 in Hanoi, Vietnam. Listening at left is South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Lynn Kuok, International Institute of Strategic Studies, Singapore. The World Economic Forum has attracted hundreds of participants with the theme: ASEAN 4.0: Entrepreneurship and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

HANOI, Vietnam — Japan is gearing up to accept more foreign workers as its own population is on the brink of a steep decline, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Friday.

Kono told a World Economic Forum meeting in Hanoi that Japan gains "value added" by accepting foreigners, especially since its aging population and low birth rate mean the country is shrinking by a half-million people a year.

"We cannot sustain our society like that," he said in response to a question during a panel discussion. "We are opening up our country. We are opening up our labor market to foreign countries. We are now trying to come up with a new work permit policy so I think everyone shall be welcome in Japan if they are willing to assimilate into Japanese society."

Japan has traditionally resisted accepting migrant workers, at times easing such restrictions but then re-imposing them during economic downturns. Many Japanese are uncomfortable with outsiders who might not speak their language or conform to expectations for how to behave.

Still, there are millions of foreigners living in Japan, including those who work in technical training-related programs or labor-short industries such as restaurants, construction and elder care.

The country has gradually been loosening restrictions to enable families to hire domestic help. It also has short programs to bring in foreign nurses from Indonesia and other countries. But language requirements have made long-term employment in such jobs difficult.

Kono cited sports stars including tennis sensation Naomi Osaka, the daughter of a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, as an example of the benefits of welcoming outsiders. Osaka, who was born in Japan but raised in the United States, is being lauded by Japanese as the first from the country to win a Grand Slam singles tennis title.

"It's good to have diversity. It's good to have an open policy," Kono said.

People also read these

China pledges further cuts in excess steel, coal production

Jan 10, 2017

China's top economic planner has pledged to continue cutting steel and coal production, which have...

IMF raises China growth forecast but warns on debt

Jan 16, 2017

The International Monetary Fund has raised its growth forecast for China but warned that rising...

China faces political conflicts in moves to cut debt burden

Jan 25, 2017

Chinese leaders face conflicting political pressures as they begin tackling a swelling mountain of...

China manufacturing activity in January close to 2-year high

Feb 1, 2017

A government survey shows China's manufacturing activity expanded in January at close to its...

China's exports jump 7.9 pct in January from year earlier

Feb 10, 2017

China reports its exports rose 7.9 percent in January over a year earlier, rebounding from the...

AseanCoverage is a next-gen news site focusing exclusively on online news from South East Asia.

Contact us: sales[at]aseancoverage.com