Category Archives: Organized by MMN

MMN Conducts Country Visit in Tokyo, Japan

Between 6-9 July, 2019, the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) conducted a series of field visits in Tokyo, Japan, to better understand Japanese policy on migrant workers, the efforts of civil society organisations and labour unions in providing support to populations from the Greater Mekong Subregion and migrant workers’ working and living conditions in Japan. Nine participants took part in the visit, including representatives of the Legal Support of Children and Women, Cambodia, the Future Light Centre, Myanmar, the Center for Development and Integration, Vietnam, and the MMN Secretariat, as well as an academic expert on labour migration.

The visits on 6 July began with a meeting with a resource person from the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare of Japan, who provided an overview of the reforms of the Technical Internship Training Programme (TITP) in 2017 and the recently created “Specified Skilled Workers” (SSW) visa scheme that would allow migrant workers to enter Japan through an alternative migration pathway. He explained that the SSW visa scheme, which came into force in April 2019, has been quickly implemented and therefore would require further refinement in the future. He also discussed how certain aspects of the SSW scheme, such as the ability for migrant workers to change employers in the same sector, can pose higher risks for companies hiring migrants.

In the ensuing session, the MMN spoke with members of the Vietnam Mutual Aid Association in Japan (VMAA) to learn more about working conditions of migrant workers from Vietnam. In the VMAA’s experience, most labour disputes between migrant workers from Vietnam and employers in Japan were rooted in language barriers and cultural differences. The VMAA currently runs a 24-hour hotline for migrant workers from Vietnam, establishes regular contact with migrant workers and will soon distribute a 300-page guidebook in Vietnamese to prepare migrant workers for life in Japan.

The day ended with a meeting with Mr Hongmyong Kim, who gave an overview of the history of migration to Japan and a demographic breakdown of migrant workers in areas within Tokyo. He stressed that Japanese language education for migrant workers is key to their social integration and is in the process of starting a community language school.

On 7 July, the MMN met with a representative of the Federation of Workers’ Union of the Burmese Citizen in Japan (FWUBC). He discussed a number of common issues that migrants from Myanmar face in Japan, such as employers who withhold salary from migrant workers as well as incidents of sexual harassment. When encountering abuse and exploitation, migrant workers are often unable to contact support hotlines due to the complicated procedures for foreigners to purchase a phone with a Japanese number. The FWUBC is requesting Japanese authorities to make it a requirement for employers to provide migrant workers with Japanese numbers.

Following the discussion, the MMN paid a home visit to four migrant workers from Cambodia in Kanagawa prefecture in Japan. The four had been in Japan for more than four months and were currently working in the construction industry. All of them expressed hopes that they could utilise skills acquired in Japan after they returned to Cambodia. However, they highlighted difficulties with obtaining a Japanese number and their lack of interaction with Japanese people outside of work.

On 9 July, the MMN met with representatives of the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO), who gave an overview of the TITP and the JITCO’s role in facilitating the implementation of the programme. The JITCO expressed hopes that countries of origin could better make use of the TITP by identifying industries that match the need of their economies and sending workers to these industries in Japan for skill development. Regarding the collection of recruitment fees in countries of origin, one representative of the JITCO pointed out that Japan and countries of origin have different ratification statuses of the International Labour Organization Convention 181 on Private Employment Agencies. Such a difference has led to varying standards in the collection of recruitment fees across countries of origin. 

The MMN concluded the country visit by hosting a roundtable discussion with representatives from the Solidarity with Migrants in Japan and the International Caregiver Talent Education Association, as well as academic experts on labour migration. During the meeting, MMN’s project partners from Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam and representatives from the two Japanese groups shared about their work with migrant workers in their respective countries. One issue highlighted during the discussion was that Japanese employers are often unaware of the high recruitment fees migrant workers are required to pay before migrating to Japan. All participants agreed that continued collaboration and joint information monitoring between organisations in Japan and countries of origin are important for the protection of migrant workers’ rights.


Meeting with resource person from the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare of Japan

Meeting with the Vietnam Mutual Aid Association in Japan (VMAA)

Meeting with Mr Hongmyong Kim

Meeting with the Federation of Workers’ Union of the Burmese Citizen in Japan (FWUBC)

Meeting with Cambodian migrant workers in Kanagawa Prefecture

Meeting with the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO)

Roundtable discussion with representatives from the Solidarity with Migrants in Japan and the International Caregiver Talent Education Association, as well as academic experts on labour migration

[မြန်မာဘာသာ] Press Release: Stakeholders from Mekong Countries and Japan Discuss Ways to Protect the Rights of Migrant Workers from Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar in Japan

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2019年7月8日、Mekong Migration Network (MMN)は東京にて関係者を招いたワークショップを開催し、日本における特定技能をはじめとする外国人労働者に関する法令の改定、送り出し機関の批准する行動規範、斡旋手数料ゼロモデル、移住労働候補者への正確な情報伝達の必要性、関係者同士のネットワークの重要性等の問題について議論を交わしました。










Mekong Migration Network (MMN)は2003年に設立され、市民社会団体の地域ネットワーク及び研究機関として、第メコン圏における移住者及びその家族の権利保護と向上を目的に活動しています。MMNの共同活動は共同研究、啓蒙、キャパシティビルディング、ネットワーキング等多岐にわたり、MMNのメンバーは送り出し国・目的国双方で活動し、唯一無二の専門性を有し、草の根レベルで移住労働者と強い関係性を築いています。詳細はMMNのホームページ(をご覧ください。




  • 針間礼子、Mekong Migration Network地域コーディネーター(日本語、英語可): メールreiko@mekongmigration.org又は電話+81 (0) 80 38042244
  • 安里和晃、京都大学(日本語、英語可): メール
  • ソクチャ・モム、Legal Support for Children and Women代表理事、カンボジア(クメール語、英語可): メール
  • デット・デット・アウン、Future Light Center代表, ミャンマー(ブルマ語可): メール
  • キム・ティ・ハ、Centre for Development and Integration理事, ベトナム(ベトナム語、英語可): メール

Press Release: Stakeholders from Mekong Countries and Japan Discuss Ways to Protect the Rights of Migrant Workers from Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar in Japan

16 July 2019

Press Release: Stakeholders from Mekong Countries and Japan Discuss Ways to Protect the Rights of Migrant Workers from Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar in Japan

The Code of Conduct signed by recruitment agencies, the feasibility of a Zero Recruitment Fee model, the need to provide accurate information to prospective migrants, and the importance of networking were among the issues discussed at the multi-stakeholder Workshop organised by the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) in collaboration with Kyoto University on 8 July 2019 in Tokyo.

The workshop was organsied in anticipation of increased labour migration from Mekong countries, as Japan seeks to plug gaps in its rapidly shrinking labour force. Under the current Technical Internship Training Programme (TITP), Vietnam (72,637), Myanmar (3,692), and Cambodia (3,328),[1] make up a significant proportion of the migrant workers in Japan. However, these relatively modest numbers are expected to increase rapidly, following the Japanse government’s announcement that it intends to welcome an additional 345,000 migrant workers within five years. To facilitate this policy change, Japan’s strict immigration laws have been amended and a new “Specified Skilled Worker” visa category created. Japan has also signed bilateral Memoranda of Cooperation (MoC) with Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar to facilitate the implementation of the new scheme.[2]

Given these developments, MMN gathered more than 35 stakeholders to address potential challenges and opportunities from the perspective of both Japan and countries of origin. Participants included representatives from the Embassy of Vietnam in Japan, the Vietnam Association of Manpower Supply (VAMAS), the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies (ACRA), the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation (MOEAF), inter-governmental organisations, recruitment agencies and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Japan, as well as academic experts on labour migration.

In discussing the TITP, participants agreed that migrants employed under the scheme are in effect workers not “trainees”, and thus should be treated as such with full respect to their labor rights. Some participants also discussed instances of migrant workers “running away” from their employer under the TITP. In response, Mr Torii Ippei from the Solidarity Network with Migrants in Japan (SMJ) suggested that the term “runaways” was not appropriate, as it implies wrongdoing on the part of migrants. He said “We must be clear – the fundamental issue here lies with the system that denies migrant workers freedom to choose and change employers. I don’t think ‘running away’ is a bad thing. All Japanese citizens have the right to change jobs… When migrants ‘run away’, they are exercising the same right that all Japanese citizens enjoy.”

CSOs in Japan also highlighted a number of issues faced by migrant workers, including cases where migrant workers signed employment contracts in their own languages that contained clauses that did not appear in the Japanese original. In one example, a migrant worker signed a contract in her own language that included a clause requiring her to return home if she became pregnant, which is a clear violation of Japan’s labour law. Mr Kazuomi Aoyagi from the Alliance of Associations for Diversity and Inclusion Acceleration in Japan, remarked, “migrant workers are human beings. They should not be denied the right to love, reproduce and start a family.”

With regards to recruitment procedures in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, Professor Wako Asato from Kyoto University expressed concerns that even though Japan signed similar MoCs with the three countries to implement the TITP, recruitment practices differ greatly among the three countries. One such difference relates to recruitment fees that may be collected from workers. Recruitment agencies cannot charge more than USD 2,800 in Myanmar and USD 3,600 in Vietnam. In Cambodia, there are no legal caps. Higher recruitment fees impose a heavier financial burden on migrant workers and can be one reason why migrant workers are under pressure to leave their jobs in search of better paying employment opportunities. Professor Asato believed that under the new “Specified Skilled Workers” visa scheme, recruitment practices across different countries of origin will likely differ, because key components of the new scheme, such as the ability for employers in Japan to directly hire migrant workers, may be difficult to implement in some countries of origin. Moreover, the Japanese government has signaled its intention to avoid getting involved in the details of how the scheme will be implemented in countries of origin.

There was a general consensus at the workshop that countries of origin must avoid a “race to the bottom” scenario regarding the terms and benefits they afford workers migrating from their respective countries to Japan. Given the example of the Philippines, where workers bound for Japan are not charged recruitment fees and the cost falls on employers regulated by Memorandum of Circular, recruitment agency associations in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam discussed the possibility of looking into the Zero Recruitment Fee model, although they felt that it was not feasible to implement at this point. The recruitment agency associations have however developed measures to encourage and promote good recruitment practices, including an industry code of conduct. In Vietnam, VAMAS has developed a ranking system to rate recruitment agencies’ level of compliance. The results of the ranking can improve overall standards and provide prospective migrants with a useful tool to select between recruitment agencies.

To address challenges arising from labour migration from Mekong countries to Japan, many participants highlighted the need for enhanced collaboration among different stakeholders in countries of origin and destination.  Participants expressed an interest in deepening the dialogue to ensure migrant workers are well protected throughout the migration cycle.



Founded in 2003, the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) is a sub-regional network of civil society organisations and research institutes working towards the protection and promotion of the rights of migrants and their families in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. MMN’s areas of joint action include collaborative research, advocacy, capacity building and networking. MMN members operate in both countries of origin and destination, have unique expertise in the field, and are in close contact with migrant workers at a grassroots level. For more information on MMN, please visit MMN’s webpage at:




For more information about the workshop, please contact:



[1] Figures as of 2018. Source: Immigration Services Agency.

[2] MoC’s on the Basic Framework for Information Partnership for Proper Operation of the System pertaining to Foreign Human Resources with the Status of Residence of “Specified Skilled Worker”, were signed with Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam on 25 March 2019, 28 March 2019, and 1 July 2019 respectively.

Brochure of the Executive Summary of “Jobs in SEZs: Migrant Garment Factory Workers in the Mekong Region” is now released

Click here for the brochure of the executive summary of MMN’s forthcoming publication “Jobs in SEZs: Migrant Garment Factory Workers in the Mekong Region”,


To learn more about the workshop “Jobs in SEZs: Promoting Gender-Sensitive Policies in the Mekong Region”, please click here.

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