Photo/IllutrationA Japanese language school in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The government on Dec. 25 unveiled its package of policy measures to make life easier for foreign workers coming to Japan in line with its recent amendment of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law.

It also defined how the newly introduced "specified skills" visa status should work.

The package contains 126 policy measures, but many lack detail and clarity, exposing the government's obvious failure to have made adequate preparations.

It turns out that some of the measures had been proposed before, but fell by the wayside.

The government now must demonstrate it can ensure the viability of its policy measures in the days ahead.

We are especially concerned about language-related issues.

Without a certain level of proficiency in Japanese, foreign workers are bound to encounter problems not only at work, but also with following the rules of the communities where they reside and communicating with their neighbors. And this will be an especially serious matter if they fall ill or get hurt, or become involved in crime.

Yet, in dealing with such eventualities, the government has traditionally relied entirely on NPOs and local governments of regions with large foreign communities.

Even though the new comprehensive policy package claims to "support" those NPOs and local governments, few concrete measures, including budgetary projections, are offered.

And just as elusive is how the government intends to secure enough qualified Japanese language teachers for foreign workers.

The policy package encourages foreigners to take advantage of NHK's (Japan Broadcasting Corp.) Japanese language lessons and voice translation apps, but we have to wonder how helpful they are.

In Germany, where a liberal immigration policy has been pursued, the federal government assumes the responsibility of providing several hundred hours of German language classes to every immigrant. The difference between the German system and ours is quite stark.

Even at this late date, the government should start deliberation to adopt a system similar to Germany's.

Correcting atrocious working conditions is another urgent task.

Registered support organs are supposed to be established anew to deal with workers' grievances and help them switch jobs, under contract with companies hiring foreign workers. The organs will also be run with funding from those corporations.

But can we expect such organs to provide the support the foreign workers really need?

This question was raised in the Diet, but never discussed fully nor answered to our satisfaction.

On the issue of foreign nationals working as "haken" temporary employees sent from agencies, which the government initially said would be allowed "only in industry sectors that truly need temp staff," the new policy package cites agriculture and fisheries as such sectors. There is no question that it is more difficult to ascertain the conditions facing haken temporary workers in those industries than those of individuals employed directly by corporations.

So far, the government has turned a blind eye to numerous instances of labor law violations. The government should understand that unless it cleans up its act and truly proves itself capable of practicing vigilance, it cannot hope to recover its lost credibility.

The Diet is slated to deliberate on the new policy package next month. It should not accept the government's explanation at face value. The deliberations must be thorough to flesh out the system.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 26