Photo/IllutrationForeign technical trainees hold masks they use when welding. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

While opinion is divided about the government's decision to allow more foreign workers into Japan, there is near unanimous agreement that the country lacks sufficient social structure to cope with such an influx.

That is one finding from a national survey by The Asahi Shimbun on various aspects of the graying population and falling birthrate that Japan now faces.

Questionnaires were mailed out between November and December to 3,000 voters chosen at random. Valid responses were received by Dec. 25 from 2,038 individuals.

Faced with a worker shortage, the government plans to establish a new work visa system from April following a revision to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law earlier this month.

Survey respondents were asked if more foreign workers should be allowed in and opinion was split with 44 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed. Among those under 50, more respondents were in favor than opposed.

However, when asked if an adequate social structure was in place for foreign workers to adapt to living in Japan, 86 percent said "no," while only 7 percent said "yes."

Forty-eight percent of respondents felt having more foreign residents in their community would have a negative effect, while 32 percent said the opposite.

To the question of whether foreign workers and their families should more widely be granted permanent resident status, 40 percent said "yes," while 47 percent said "no." Among those who favored allowing in more foreign workers, more than 70 percent also favored granting permanent resident status more freely.

Respondents were also asked about the working environment facing women.

Only 35 percent said Japan was a society where women found it easy to work, while 56 percent said it was a difficult society for working women. Among female respondents, only 31 said they found it easy to work, while 59 percent said it was a difficult society in which to work.

While 69 percent of respondents favored a greater number of female workers in the work place, 48 percent said to do so would result in a further drop in the birthrate.

Seventy-two percent of respondents said Japan today was a society in which it was difficult to bear and raise children. Among those who said Japan was a difficult society for working women, 86 percent said it was also a difficult place to bear and raise children.

When asked about the graying of the population, 58 percent said it was a major problem. When combined with those who said it was somewhat of a problem, a combined 92 percent of respondents said the graying of the population represented a major issue facing Japan.

When given four alternatives for what was the biggest problem arising from a rapidly aging population, 53 percent cited the inability to maintain the social security program in terms of pensions and health care. Thirty-one percent said Japan's economic power would decrease because of the decline in the workforce.