tokyo foreign workersTokyo Gov Yoichi Masuzoe on Monday pledged aggressive deregulation drives to lure foreign talent to the city to spur growth and take back its reputation as Asia’s business hub from rivals such as Singapore. Japan has very strict immigration policies and business has to battle reams of red tape to attract skilled workers, two factors that tend to put off global firms and foreign investors.

“We have to import many intelligent people from abroad. We badly need young talented persons,” he said at a press conference for foreign media. By working with the central government, Masuzoe promised to relax labor regulations in a planned special district of his metropolis to make it easier for foreigners to live and work.

The pledge is part of his wider drive to make Tokyo a more vibrant hub for finance, health care and pharmaceutical development. His initiatives come amid a general view in Japan that Tokyo has lost its appeal as an international business center after two decades of economic stagnation and because of archaic regulations ill-suited to an era of globalization.

Masuzoe, who said he regards Singapore as the top Asian hub for finance and pharmaceutical development, said Tokyo can shine again. “I will bring those centers… back to Tokyo before 2020,” when the Japanese capital hosts the summer Olympic games, Masuzoe said.

He also pledged to amend the tax system and residential requirements to encourage business startups, including those by foreign students. Masuzoe came to power in February on a platform of reform, enjoying a wide-range of support, including from conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as labor unions.

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