World News

Japan must boost immigration - ruling party panel

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan should tackle its dearth of young people by boosting the number of immigrants to 10 percent of the population, according to a ruling party panel report set to be presented to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda next week.

Japan faces a bleak future as its population ages faster than that of any other country, and is set to shrink by a third in 50 years if current trends continue.

Foreigners made up less than 2 percent of the nearly 128 million population in late 2006, government statistics show, but many have expressed concern that crime could rise if more immigration was allowed.

“We think it would be appropriate for Japan to accept immigrants to make up 10 percent of the population over the next 50 years,” the lawmakers said in the report, which was unveiled late on Thursday.

“Japan is an island country situated in the Far East, and seen as having a relatively homogeneous population, so some say it is not suited to accepting immigrants,” the lawmakers said.

“It is a fact that we have less experience of immigration than do Europe and America. But we are facing harsh times,” they added.

The report also called for Japan to accept more refugees. Asylum seekers are currently admitted to Japan only in very rare cases.

Japan, which faces a shortage of people to care for its rapidly ageing population, is already set to bring in hundreds of nurses and elderly care workers from Indonesia starting this year, under an Economic Partnership Agreement sealed with Jakarta.

Editing by David Fogarty