From April 2019 Japan is expecting to welcome between 260,000 and 340,000 foreign workers in the next five years through an envisioned immigration control law revision. This is due to the fact Japan are aiming to deal with their country’s labour crunch, government sources have said.

The numbers of workers are a rough estimate, opposition parties are criticising the government for hastily moving ahead to pass the bill without revising the law and disclosing important details, such as how many workers will be accepted and in which sectors.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the government will announce the official estimate soon while deliberations on the bill are still going on at the House of Representatives.

According to the sources, the government is expecting a labor shortage of around 1.30 million to 1.35 million workers in the five-year period. For the fiscal year from April 2019 alone, it expects to accept about 33,000 to 47,000 foreign workers for an estimated shortage of more than 600,000 laborers.

Abe has said at the lower house plenary session that the act figures are to be confirmed but there won’t be any major changes unless the economic situation improves.

The government aims to pass the bill during the ongoing parliamentary session through Dec. 10, with an eye to introducing the new program from April next year.

The bill will create a new visa status for foreign workers who will be accepted in the sectors that are suffering from the worst labour shortages, this could possibly range from construction, farming to nursing care.

There is also a possibility that the new system could pave the way for foreign workers to live permanently in Japan. This has caused some controversy as this will be a major shift for Japan, which has always has largely restricted imported labour.

Abe reiterated the government position that the new system is different from an “immigrant policy” — defining it as an idea to “maintain the country by accepting foreigners and their families indefinitely.”

Japan has mainly accepted highly-skilled professionals in such fields as medicine and law, while taking in only a tiny number of refugees. But it is now in need of more foreign laborers due to the rapidly aging population and low birth rate.

Critics have argued that the government is pushing for the legal revision without fully preparing social security and Japanese language education systems.