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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fukuda gets report on boosting immigrants

Staff writer

Members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party submitted a bold report Friday to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, calling for Japan to increase its foreign residents to up to 10 percent of the nation's population in the next 50 years.

The group, headed by former LDP Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa, has been promoting a more open immigration policy to attract foreigners to Japan in the face of the nation's low birthrate, depopulation and aging society. Nakagawa told reporters after the report's submission that Fukuda said he would take it seriously.

"The prime minister said he, too, has been thinking about how to secure human resources amid a society whose population is declining heavily, and that he must do something about it," Nakagawa said.

The report, titled "Proposal For A Japanese-style Immigration Policy," says that for Japan to become an "immigrant state," it must create a "multiracial symbiotic society."

"The biggest problem has been the fact that Japan is exclusive," said Hirohiko Nakamura, an LDP Upper House lawmaker. "(Fukuda said) that overcoming (the exclusivity) will be the key to establishing (a new immigration) system."

In the final proposal handed to Fukuda, however, certain parts on the issue of nationality were changed from the original version. It was originally proposed that Japanese nationality would be granted to those who have lived in Japan for 10 years after their arrival or have a permanent resident visa.

But the latest proposal only says it would mitigate the naturalization system.

Participating LDP members admitted they decided to rewrite the section on nationality Thursday after concerns arose of strong opposition from within the LDP.

"If we took (the proposal) on nationality further, there would be strong arguments against it and we may not be able to accomplish the things we wanted," said one of the participants, who asked not to be named. The part on nationality "was too high a hurdle and we avoided giving too strong an impact . . . but our basic ideas have not changed," the member said.

Suggestions in the newest proposal include forming a plan to have 1 million foreign students in Japan by 2025, nurturing talent through education and professional training, and providing opportunities to live and work in Japan.

The report also calls for establishment of an entity to be called the Immigration Agency to unify the management of foreigners' affairs, including legal issues like nationality and immigration control.

The group stressed that their definition of "immigrant" is the same as that of the United Nations, and includes individuals who have lived outside their countries for more than 12 months. Immigrants include foreign students, refugees, people on state or corporate training programs and family members of immigrants.

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The Japan Times

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