TOKYO, March 22 (Xinhua) -- As Japan is planning new moves to lure foreign talents in efforts to cope with its aging population and shrinking workforce, questions and doubts abound as to whether the country's fragile economic outlook and rigid workplace culture can retain the skilled workers amid the intense global competition for talents.
The Japanese government is mulling over introducing new rules that simplify the application process for the highly skilled professional visa starting in April.
The new policy will grant visas to foreign applicants if they meet certain conditions including having an annual income of 20 million yen (about 151,100 U.S. dollars) and a master's degree. They will also qualify for permanent visa after one year of residency.
For graduates from top foreign universities, an extended two-year period of stay is allowed as they search for employment in Japan, longer than the current 90-day limit.
The policy comes as Japan is struggling to address a severe shortage of technology and engineering workers to power its urgently needed digital transformation.
According to a report on the digital transformation of enterprises released by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications in 2022, nearly 70 percent of surveyed Japanese companies said there is a "shortage of human resources," much higher than the share in the United States, China, and Germany.
Though the latest policy move marks a step forward for Japan's restrictive immigration policy, many doubt its effect.
"Is Japan's low-wage and depressing workplace environment really capable of retaining high-quality talent?" posted one netizen in a comment on Yahoo news.
As the global competition for talents is becoming increasingly fierce, many countries and regions have created preferential policies for talents by developing new visa types, reducing restrictions on working visa conditions, shortening the visa approval process and lowering foreign labor quota restrictions.
Besides Japan's unique working culture featuring rigidity, slow decision-making and hierarchy, the country's relatively low wage amid the fragile economy is another major hinderance for attracting global talents.
According to a survey by Japan's National Tax Agency, only 0.6 percent of all workers in Japan earn more than 20 million yen a year in 2021, and their average age is more than 57 years old.
Industry insider engaged in visa businesses for overseas talents to Japan told Xinhua that "it is extremely rare for applicants whose income reaches this level of 20 million yen."
The increase in income levels in other Asian countries and the devaluation of the yen in recent years have further exacerbated the difficulty of spurring talent inflow to Japan.
According to the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2022, Japan ranked 24th for attracting and retaining talents, behind countries like Switzerland, Singapore, Denmark, and the United States.
Ding Ke, senior research fellow at the Institute of Developing Economies of the Japan External Trade Organization, took note of other factors that may affect Japan's appeal, including the weak support of Japanese society for innovation and entrepreneurship, the small scale of venture capital and the lack of tolerance for entrepreneurial failure.
"The best talents are not only concerned about external conditions such as the relaxation of visa conditions, but also whether the working environment is free and relaxed, whether there is enough room for growth, whether they can get sufficient resources needed for career development, whether the society and culture are diversified and tolerant, and whether they are friendly to foreigners," Ding added. ■