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Japan's agriculture workforce impacted

Japan’s agriculture workforce has been steadily declining for the past thirty years, and a recent report by the USDA has highlighted the country’s dependency on foreign workers, despite them only making up 2 per cent of the total workforce.

According to the report, Japan’s foreign farm workforce has increased from 0.5 per cent to 2 per cent over the last decade.

Many of these workers are hired through the country’s technical intern training programme, which is limited to five years of employment.

Coronavirus restrictions have led to the closure of borders, limiting the number of foreign workers available for the industry to call upon.

The availability of foreign labour is especially critical for fruit and vegetable production which often requires cultivation by hand and is far more labour intensive.

The report estimated 90 per cent of foreign agricultural workers gain temporary employment through the technical intern training programme.

This programme was introduced in 1993 with the purpose of promoting international cooperation and enabling foreigners to acquire skills to bring back to their home countries.

However, in practice the programme has become a critical source of inexpensive labour for Japan’s farm industry with the number of technical interns growing every year.

Japan’s minister of agriculture, Taku Eto, recently announced 1,900 foreign technical interns for agriculture were unable to enter the country as a result of Covid-19-related restrictions.

Read more here.