Japan should welcome skilled foreign workers-panel

TOKYO, June 10 (Reuters) - Japan should open its doors to more skilled workers from abroad in order to boost economic growth, the government’s top advisory panel said on Tuesday.

The council called on the government to come up with programmes by the end of this fiscal year to create a business and living environment that would attract highly skilled workers from around the globe.

“It is impossible to achieve economic growth in the future if we do not press forward with the ‘open country’ policy,” the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy said in its annual growth plan, which was released on Tuesday.

The panel, which is chaired by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, did not set a specific target for the number of foreign workers. There were 158,000 foreigners in Japan with visas categorised as skilled workers in 2006.

The strategy also includes a plan to nearly triple the number of foreign students to 300,000 by 2020 as well as increase foreign visitors to 10 million in 2010 from 8.35 million in 2007.

The proposals, many of which have already been partly announced by government ministries and panels, will be incorporated into the government’s annual policy guidelines to be released by the end of June.

Following are key points of the growth plan:

-- Extend assistance to 2.2 million people who are having difficulties finding jobs because of their age, childcare problems or their lack of experience.

-- Discuss tax reforms, including corporate tax of nearly 40 percent, to boost foreign direct investment. [nT368311]

-- Introduce reforms to induce repatriation of corporate funds held at overseas affiliates, in order to promote spending on research and job creation at home. [nT269908]

-- Increase the number of countries with which Japan forms an economic partnership to 12 countries and areas by early next year from currently nine. [nT101958]

Reporting by Yuzo Saeki