The government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are considering relaxing a range of curbs on the entry of Vietnamese and other Asian workers to cope with the labor shortage in the domestic construction market, they said.
Measures under consideration include extending the on-the-job training period to five years from the current three.
A process of necessary legal revision is expected to start in 2014. With the planned deregulation, the construction industry may become more dependent on foreign workers.
At present, about 150,000 foreigners are working in Japan with entry permits under the on-the-job training system, including 10,000 to 15,000 in the construction sector. Under the current regulation, the system is not applicable to simple labour and limited to skilled labour such as assembly of reinforcing steel for buildings and operation of construction machines.
The government and the LDP also envision allowing foreign workers who have already returned home after the three-year training period to reenter Japan as trainees, the officials said.
Mr Also being studied is the possibility of doubling or tripling the upper limit on the number of foreign trainees per company, now restricted to around 5% of each company's workforce.
The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry expects construction for stadiums and other Olympic facilities to get under way in 2015.
"We should start revising the system as speedily as possible by taking into account the time needed for immigration control authorities to examine applications" from foreign workers to enter Japan, a senior LDP official said.
But there are also concerns within the government and the LDP that some Japanese companies might seek to take advantage of the revised regulations to cut their regular workforce by hiring foreign trainees for simple labor.
At present, some 70% of foreign construction workers under the on-the-job training system are from China.
The government is keen on accepting more workers especially from Vietnam, which is enjoying a construction boom due to a growing number of Japanese companies relocating production bases to that country.