[lg policy] Japan’s open-door policy for foreign workers - a boon for Việt Nam

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Aug 13 11:24:15 EDT 2018

 Japan’s open-door policy for foreign workers - a boon for Việt Nam
Update: August, 13/2018 - 09:00
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A Vietnamese intern working at a factory in Japan. -- Photo Nikkei Asian
Viet Nam News <http://vietnamnews.vn>

HÀ NỘI — With a rapidly aging population and declining fertility, Japan had
to adopt a more open-door approach towards foreign workers to staff its
labour-strapped industries, with Vietnamese workers among the fastest
growing groups.

The country’s previously strict approach to immigration changed in June as
the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, led by Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe, officially announced a set of measures to increase the flow of labour
to the country, including the creation of “a new visa status for
non-professional foreign labourers,” the *Japan Times* reported.

New policies would allow apprentices to remain in Japan for a maximum five
additional years under a labour visa after their standard three-year
training. The Japanese Government said it was also considering letting
these visa-holders stay in Japan indefinitely if they pass language
proficiency and technical skills tests during their five-year sojourn.

In a bid to offset a serious dearth of human resources in labour-intensive
fields, such as farming, construction, shipbuilding, and elderly care,
Japan wants to bring in as many as 500,000 overseas workers by 2025.

To reach this goal, the country has also relaxed its demands for language
proficiency for these low-skilled jobs – instead of N4 (the second lowest
level in the Japanese proficiency tests), now workers are only required to
understand basic sentences and utterances.

It is estimated that by April next year, the respective association of each
trade – farming, construction, caretakers, hospitality and shipbuilding –
would complete their own specialised exam.

According to Nguyễn Gia Liêm, deputy head of Việt Nam’s Centre of
Overseas Labour (COLab) under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social
Affairs, in 2015, there were 27,010 Vietnamese workers sent to Japan, but
in just two years, the number doubled to 54,504 in 2017.

Currently, there are about 126,000 Vietnamese trainees and apprentices
working in Japan, making Japan one of the main recipients of Vietnamese
‘exported’ labourers.

Liêm told *Nông thôn ngày nay* (Countryside Today) newspaper that while
demands for Vietnamese workers from markets like South Korea or Taiwan
remain stable, Japan’s demands are growing “by the day, in increasingly
diverse sectors.”

Starting from the beginning of August, the minimum salary for overseas
workers in Japan has reportedly risen from JPY789/hour to JPY823/hour,
which makes Japan an even more attractive destination for Vietnamese

“Aside from demand for low-skilled labour, Japan has plenty of positions
for skilled and highly trained technicians and engineers in special
programmes with attractive benefits,” he said.

“The Japanese labour market will be quite lively in the future, especially
given that the country needs a large amount of manpower to prepare
infrastructure and services for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo,” he said.

The country is also lifting its long-held ban on foreign farmers in
‘national strategic areas’ such as Niigata, Kyoto and Aichi prefectures,
however, the foreign farmers must possess certain levels of experience and
practical knowledge, in addition to a command of Japanese.

Niiaga City, for example, is also asking for manpower in hospitality, comic
or manga, and beauty industries.

*Not all smooth sailing*

While agreeing that Japan’s new policy is a golden opportunity, Phạm Đỗ
Nhật Tân, vice chairman of the Government agency Việt Nam Association of
Manpower Supply (VAMAS), said that the labour agencies, businesses and
Vietnamese workers themselves need to “overcome long-standing issues.”

“We need to remember that Japan’s policy is relaxed to workers from all
foreign countries, which means competition would be quite stiff. Vietnamese
workers need to equip themselves with fair command of Japanese and English,
technical skills, and most importantly, labour discipline,” Tân said.

Doãn Mậu Diệp, deputy labour minister, said at the beginning of June
this year, the ministry has permitted six businesses in northern Việt Nam
to pilot recruitment of caretakers and nurses to be sent to Japan.

The ministry is currently negotiating to reduce the language proficiency
requirements and increase benefits for Vietnamese to a level equal to
native workers.

After the negotiations concluded at the end of this month, the ministry
would expand the permissions to businesses in the south.

“Việt Nam is ready and able to supply manpower in farming, hotel services
or high-rise building maintenance jobs. In addition, we agreed to let
Japan’s human resource centres co-operate with Vietnamese counterparts to
recruit skilled Vietnamese IT technicians,” deputy minister Diệp said.

Vietnamese nurse trainees, for example, were particularly preferred by the
Japanese since the rate of training course graduation reached as high as
80-90 per cent,

However, several challenges stymied the departure of Vietnamese trainees to
Japan – workers’ illegal residence and legal infractions hurt the
Vietnamese reputation, in addition to risks of workers’ breaking contracts
(although this last issue is partly due to the arduous and unhygienic
nature of the caretaking jobs, both Vietnamese and Japanese authorities
have admitted).

VAMAS’ Tân also wanted the labour ministry to focus more resources into
monitoring and inspecting the labour export agencies, to make sure that
duplicitous ones are weeded out.

COLab recently warned against the scams, where some individuals and
agencies claimed they are qualified ‘intermediaries’ that can help workers
go to Japan via Japan’s International Manpower Development Organisation (IM
Japan) programme.

Phạm Thị Ngọc Lan, deputy head of COLab, said the centre was the
singular Government agency co-operating with IM Japan to send workers to
Japan and it was not in collaboration with any private labour agencies. —VNS


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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