Japan looks to immigrants as population shrinks: report

TOKYO, May 5, 2008 (AFP) – Japan’s ruling party is considering plans to encourage foreign workers to stay in the country long-term, a daily reported Monday after the birth rate fell for the 27th successive year.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has proposed setting up an “immigration agency” to help foreign workers — including providing language lessons, the Nikkei economic daily said without naming sources.

The party also intends to reform current “training” programmes for foreign workers, which have been criticised for giving employers an excuse for paying unfairly low wages, the paper said.

LDP lawmakers believe that immigration reform will help Japanese companies secure necessary workers as the declining birthrate is expected to further dent in the nation’s workforce, it said.

A group of about 80 LDP lawmakers will draw up a package of proposals by mid-May, it said. No immediate comment was available from the party on Monday.

A government report on the falling birthrate warned in April that Japan’s workforce could shrink by more than one-third to 42.28 million by 2050 if the country fails to halt the decline.

The government said Monday the number of children in Japan has fall