Japan Needs More Foreign Workers, New Government Adviser Says

(Bloomberg) -- Japan will need more foreign workers to reach its 2 percent economic growth target, according to a new adviser to the government.

Japan Needs More Foreign Workers, New Government Adviser Says

“If we’re going to do something in the next five to 10 years I can’t think of any other way than to systematically bring in more foreign workers,” said Shunpei Takemori, who recently joined the government’s economic and fiscal policy council. “It’s obvious that 350,000 more people over five years really isn’t enough.”

The government plans to issue up to 345,000 new visas over the next five years to foreign workers to help alleviate a labor shortage.

But Takemori, who is an economics professor at Keio University in Tokyo, said in an interview last week that with Japan’s working age population declining by around 800,000 a year since 2012, the country needs to open its borders more.

The policy council, which is led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is comprised of six Cabinet ministers, the central bank governor and four external experts to bring a diversity of opinions to economic policy making.

Takemori acknowledged that the government is pushing to improve productivity and use technology to overcome the labor shortage but said this won’t happen fast enough to raise real gross domestic product by 2 percent a year.

The government forecasts real GDP will rise 0.9 percent in the year ending March 2019, below the mid-to-long term target of around 2 percent.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.