MANILA, Philippines – More than 50,000 skilled workers from the Philippines have the chance to get employed in Japan in the next 6 years once the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finalizes its new rules for giving temporary residence to foreign manual laborers.
Japan’s parliament is set to deliberate during its extraordinary session in autumn on the creation of a new residency status that would allow foreign workers in a wider range of industries to stay for 5 years.
"While we are waiting for the rules and regulations of this new scheme to be released, I personally estimate more than 50,000 workers from the Philippines will come to work in Japan with this new work permit by 2025,” Ambassador Koji Haneda said on Friday, October 19.
As earlier announced by the Japanese government, it is the nursing, farming, construction, hospitality, and shipbuilding industries that will be hiring. The new policy effectively lifts the ban on the recruitment of foreigners for manual labor.
The Japanese ambassador spoke on Friday at the 44th Philippine Business Conference about the 3 defining aspects of the Philippines and Japan’s economic partnership: cooperation in infrastructure development, mutually beneficial trade policies, and "people-to-people ties.”
"In order to accept more foreign workers in Japan, we will create a new residency status for foreign workers with a certain level of expertise or skill from next year,” Haneda said.
"In this area, Japan and the Philippines can form truly mutually complementary relations. Japan faces an aging society and lacks labor force, while the Philippines is abundant with young labor force with great potential. Filipino workers are expected to help Japan address the issues arising from aging society. Japan can provide qualified Filipino workers with job opportunities,” the ambassador said.
How many Filipino workers does Japan have? Haneda’s speech marked the first time the estimated number of workers who could work in Japan under the new policy was made known.
Last May, the government of Japan announced it would welcome over 500,000 foreign workers between 2019 and 2025 to help fill the labor shortage in the face of Japan’s aging population and the need to increase its potential growth rate. At the time, it did not say how many slots would be allotted for specific countries.
They will join the 1.28 million foreign workers already in Japan, based on data from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare cited in various reports.
Of the total foreign workers, 12% or about 153,600 are from the Philippines. They belong to highly specialized fields, such as engineering and the academe. Japan currently allows the hiring of only highly-skilled foreign workers.
Given Haneda’s estimates under the new program, 1 in 10 job openings starting summer of 2019 will be filled by a Filipino.
What industries can foreigners work in? In the initial rollout of the Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform 2018, the nursing, farming, construction, hospitality, and shipbuilding industries will be opened up.
Businesses in other industries – among them, manufacturing and fisheries – are asking the government to allow them to hire foreigners too.
At present, Japan is only able to hire Filipino nurses and care workers due to special arrangements under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), which took effect in 2008.
"Japan has accepted more than 2,200 Filipino candidates under JPEPA,” Haneda said.
Why is Japan softening its residency rules for foreign workers? Japan is facing labor shortage because a considerable segment of its population are senior citizens, while fewer Japanese are giving birth. Without enough laborers in a wide range of industries, the country won’t be able to sustain its economic growth, much less reach its target rate increase.
On June 5, during a Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Abe cited the "reviews conducted by Chief Cabinet Secretary [Yoshihide] Suga and Minister [of Justice Yoko] Kamikawa on the acceptance of foreign personnel.”
He told the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy: "Labor shortage is becoming an increasingly serious issue, particularly for small- and medium-sized enterprises in local districts. For this reason, there is an urgent need to establish a system for accepting a wide range of foreign personnel who have specific expertise and skills, and can be of immediate help. The draft Basic Policy that was presented today clearly sets forth the creation of a new category of residence status, as a matter separate from immigration policies.”
Abe announced the adoption of this policy in a June 15 meeting. "The Japanese economy is facing an urgent need to increase our potential growth rate by increasing productivity and securing human resources both in terms of quality and quantity as labor shortages become prominent.”
Japanese citizens are divided on the new policy, with some expressing concern that the influx of foreign residents (as opposed to tourists) might entail security risks and take away jobs from the Japanese. Others acknowledge, however, that "our current society cannot be sustained without foreigners."
Japan is the Philippines’ top export market and its largest foreign investor. There are over 1,500 Japanese companies operating in the Philippines, mostly engaged in manufacturing and business process outsourcing. More than 900 of these firms are located in export processing zones. – Rappler.com