Data and anecdotal evidence suggest that Japan is suffering from labor shortages, which are large in an international perspective, have a negative impact on potential growth, and reduce the effectiveness of monetary and fiscal stimulus. This paper focuses on policy options to ease Japan’s labor shortages. In particular, we focus on possible measures to increase reliance on foreign labor. Other policy recommendations to deal with shortages include policies aimed at increasing female labor participation, encouraging wage growth, increasing investment, as well as training and other active labor market policies.
This paper argues that Japan’s excessive labor market duality can reduce Total Factor Productivity (TFP) due to a negative impact on non-regular workers’ effort and on firms’ incentives to train them. On the basis of cross-country empirical evidence, the paper proposes some reform options. In particular, our analysis suggests that reducing the difference in employment protection between regular and non-regular workers would substantially reduce labor market duality in Japan. One reform consistent with these findings is the introduction of a Single Open Ended Contract for all newly hired workers. This reform could be complemented by a shift towards a model that combines labor market flexibility and security (“flexicurity”) and by policies aimed at encouraging wage growth.