Starting next year, expect a rush of Filipino nurses, farmers, construction workers, shipbuilders and those in the hospitality sector to make a beeline for available jobs in Japan.
This after the Japanese government announced that it would accept at least 50,000 Filipino workers as part of its new policy on residency status for foreign workers in various industries in the next six years.
They will join the 1.28 million foreign workers already in Japan, based on data from its Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare cited in various reports.
In his speech last Friday at the 44th Philippine Business Conference, Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda said in line with the new Japanese policy of employing at least 500,000 foreign workers for the next six years from 2019 to 2025, Japan will open its doors to more Filipino workers, mainly to serve its aging population.
‘Japan faces an aging society and lacks labor force, while the Philippines is abundant with young labor force with great potential,’ Ambassador Koji Haneda said.
“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,” he added.
Haneda said that the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will soon finalize its new rules for giving temporary residence to foreign manual laborers, as its 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.
The new policy effectively lifts the ban on the recruitment of foreigners for manual labor.
Haneda’s speech actually tackled the three defining aspects of the Philippines and Japan’s economic partnership: cooperation in infrastructure development, mutually beneficial trade policies, and “people-to-people ties.”
Haneda said there are 153,600 Filipino workers in Japan, or 12 percent of the total number of foreigners workers in that country.
Most of the Filipinos in Japan belong to highly specialized fields, such as engineering and the academe as Japan currently allows the hiring of only highly-skilled foreign workers.
Under the new program, however, one in 10 job openings starting the summer of 2019 will be filled by a Filipino.
Haneda said that based on Japan’s initial rollout of the Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform 2018, Filipino workers are allowed to work in the nursing, farming, construction, hospitality, and shipbuilding industries, while businesses in other industries—among them, manufacturing and fisheries‚ have also asked the government to allow them to hire foreigners too.
Presently, Japan only hires Filipino nurses and care workers due to special arrangements under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, which took effect in 2008.
“Japan has accepted more than 2,200 Filipino candidates under JPEPA,” Haneda said.
On June 5, during a Cabinet meeting, Abe cited the “reviews conducted by Chief Cabinet Secretary [Yoshihide] Suga and Minister [of Justice Yoko] Kamikawa on the acceptance of foreign personnel.”
Abe told the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy that “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. Some expressed concern that the influx of foreign residents (as opposed to tourists) might entail security risks and take away jobs from the Japanese, while others acknowledged that “our current society cannot be sustained without foreigners.”
Japan is the Philippines’ top export market and its largest foreign investor.
Over 1,500 Japanese companies operate in the country, mostly engaged in manufacturing and business process outsourcing. More than 900 of these firms are located in export processing zones.
Aside from the new jobs in Japan, Haneda also discussed the ongoing economic cooperation between Japan and the Philippines, including the railway projects in Metro Manila, as he affirmed that Japan is ensuring quality and speedy implementation to support President Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
Haneda also touched on bilateral cooperation, as he underscored the deepening business and investment ties between the two countries.
Haneda also said that he is proud of Filipino-Japanese athletes and sumo wrestlers who are making headlines these days, proof of a stronger people-to-people ties.
He also expressed hopes that more Filipinos will keep coming back to Japan.