Category Archives: Japan

Vietnamese take advantage of Japan’s new skilled worker visa

Vietnamese account for the largest number of new skilled worker visas introduced in April, Japan’s immigration agency said.

The new visa policy introduced to ease Japan’s labor shortage had taken in 219 foreigners as of the end of September, with Vietnamese accounting for 93, Indonesians for 33, Filipinos 27, and Thais 23, the Immigration Services Agency said.

The Specified Skilled Worker visa allows holders to work in Japan without a professional qualification.

Before its introduction, all foreign workers were required to have specific qualifications such as an academic degree, special skill or work experience, meaning unskilled workers could not get a visa.

The new visa allows foreigners to work for up to five years in 14 sectors: caregiving, building cleaning management, machine parts and tooling, industrial machinery, electrical, electronics and information, construction, automobile repair and maintenance, aviation, hospitality, agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, food services, and food and beverages.

Proficient workers in the construction and shipbuilding industries can extend their stay by earning the No.2 status, which allows them to bring in family members and renew their visas any number of times.

Japan’s aging population and low birthrate has caused a severe labor shortage.

The number of Vietnamese in Japan jumped by 26.1 percent last year to 330,835, or 8 percent of all foreign nationals, to make them the third largest ethnic group behind Chinese and South Koreans, the Japan Times reported in March.

The growing presence of Japanese companies in Vietnam has sparked interest among younger Vietnamese in getting technical training in Japan, the report said.

The Immigration Services Agency said Vietnamese overtook Chinese as the largest group of technical trainees last year after increasing by 30 percent to 164,499.

Written by Ming Nga
Source: Vietnam Express
Published on 16 November 2019

Foreign students in Japan hold back on applying for newly created visas due to past illegal overwork

Many foreign students in Nagoya have recently been found to be reluctant to apply for newly created visas intended to bring more workers from abroad, fearing their applications might not be accepted because they have been working more part-time hours than permitted for those with student visas.

Even if they pass the exam for the new visas, they have strong concerns that their past work records could prevent them from obtaining the residence status, although such cases have not been confirmed so far.

Some international students and their employers say the problem lies in the fact that many foreign students have to work more than allowed to support themselves while in Japan, where the cost of living is high and businesses are relying on them to cover a labor shortage.

“I want to reduce my part-time work hours from now even if it might be too late,” said a 23-year-old Vietnamese man studying at a vocational school in Nagoya.

Hoping to work in the restaurant industry, the man passed a proficiency exam to qualify for the new “specified skills” visa in July, but people have told him he shouldn’t file a visa application with the Immigration Services Agency.

The man came to Japan in the fall of 2015 to study restaurant management. His mother got cancer the following year and he became unable to receive financial assistance from his parents.

He worked part time at a convenience store and a restaurant, working nearly double the maximum of 28 hours a week set for people on a student visa under the ordinance for the enforcement of the immigration control law.

“I needed to make a living by myself,” he said.

He has a dream of managing a restaurant in his home country and wants to work in the restaurant sector in Japan with the new visa to acquire know-how. But after passing the exam, he was told by a staffing agency that having worked excessive hours as a student might be a problem.

Now he works fewer hours and covers living expenses on ¥25,000 a month.

Jin Yokoyama, 49, of Jtown, a Nagoya-based company that supports workers with skills covered by the visa, said he has interviewed some 20 students who passed the qualifying exam, but most have not applied for the visa for fear of being rejected due to working illegally long hours.

A 29-year-old Nepalese man, who consulted another support firm in Nagoya, said his student visa renewal application was rejected because of excessive work hours. He has given up working in Japan with the new working visa and plans to go back to his home country.

“I want to work more in Japan, but it can’t be helped,” the man said.

An Immigration Services Agency official said that generally speaking, a person would not qualify for a visa if he or she violated the ordinance. “We are not sure how many applications were rejected because of overwork,” the official said.

The new residence status was created in April under the revised immigration control law. The government was expecting to accept a maximum of 47,000 workers in the current fiscal year across 14 business sectors, including nursing care and food services, but as of Oct. 25, only 732 people were granted the visa.

The number of people coming to Japan to study, especially from Asia, has increased sharply since the government announced a plan in 2008 to raise the number of foreign students to 300,000 by 2020.

According to the Japan Student Services Organization, the number of foreign students totaled some 299,000 as of 2018, 2.4 times higher than a decade ago.

Yuriko Sato, an associate professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology specializing in foreign student policy, said the number of students from China and South Korea declined after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and instead more students started to come from Vietnam and Nepal.

This is because many Japanese-language schools and vocational institutions recruited students from those countries, telling them they can study while working, she said.

However, if they follow the rule of working up to 28 hours a week, they can earn only about ¥100,000 a month.

Several foreign students said there are cases of students working more than permitted — despite knowing that it is illegal — for various reasons, such as being unable to gain assistance from parents or being in debt.

“There is not one foreign student around me who is working only 28 hours,” said a 26-year-old Nepalese student in Nagoya.

Many of them have part-time jobs in two or more places, and some employers pay them using cash so that their work records won’t be kept.

“In busy times, I can’t run the place without them working long hours,” a restaurant owner said.

Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Sato said: “Instead of placing responsibility only on foreign students, we should focus more on structural problems.”

Source: The Japan Times
Published on 15 November 2019

[Japan] Only 895 granted blue-collar visas since April, immigration agency admits

The immigration service had issued just 895 working permits as of early November under the new visa system for skilled blue-collar foreign workers, a far lower number than had originally been forecast for this time, agency officials said Wednesday.

The program, which was introduced in April, was intended to attract up to 345,000 blue-collar workers over five years for jobs in 14 sectors, including the hotel industry, to ease the nation’s labor shortage.

Those who received the new permits would be allowed to work for five years in the country, longer than the three-year period allowed under the government-sponsored Technical Intern Training Program.

As of the end of June, a record 2.83 million foreign nationals resided in Japan, including 783,513 permanent residents and 367,709 technical interns.

According to the Immigration Services Agency (ISA), the process of introducing industrial skills tests mandatory for those who apply for the new visas has not been smoothly implemented, which has slowed down an anticipated influx of workers.

As of the end of October, the tests had been conducted only in Japan and six other countries — and for only six of the 14 industrial sectors — leaving companies struggling to fill vacant jobs and pinning their hopes on the results of skills tests scheduled in coming months.

Of the 895 foreign nationals granted permits under the new visa statuses, 440 passed the exams while the remaining 455 changed the status of their visas to the new type.

Foreign nationals who wish to participate in the program can obtain the working permits if they pass tests in industrial skills and Japanese-language ability, while former technical interns can qualify if officials recognize their skills and experience from prior technical training.

Aiko Omi, director of the Office of the Specified Skilled Worker Planning at the immigration agency, explained that the blue-collar visa program has been attracting candidates from similar demographics as the government-sponsored Technical Intern Training Program.

Of the 895 workers granted permits so far, 219 were in Japan as of the end of September — up from 20 at the end of June. Of those, 80 percent, or 176, had come to Japan previously under the Technical Intern Training Program and had completed a three-year training program.

But by Nov. 8., 3,299 foreign workers had applied for the new visas and were in the process of trying to qualify for the program. Of those, 1,566 had never worked in Japan, Omi said.

Of the 219 workers in Japan as of the end of September, the largest proportion hailed from Vietnam, at 42 percent, followed by those from Indonesia and the Philippines.

Among the cohort, 22 percent were working for food and beverage manufacturers, again with Vietnamese nationals representing the largest group at 32. Other sectors where the workers were placed were industrial manufacturing, machine parts and tooling industries as well as agriculture.

By prefecture, Gifu has so far accepted the highest number of such blue-collar foreign workers, followed by Aichi and Osaka. In the individual industries, the food sector, which did not participate in the technical trainee program, saw 1,546 out of 2,194 applicants for the new visas pass skills tests held in April, June and September.

In the hotel sector, of 391 applicants who took tests in Myanmar and Japan, 280 qualified for the new working permits.

Although Japan opened up its nursing care sector, which has long faced a severe labor shortage, to foreign nationals wishing to work as technical trainees from November 2017, none of the trainees taking part in the program so far have completed the training. Of the 16 caregivers accepted into the program as of late September, those from the Philippines who were former caregivers under bilateral economic partnership agreements comprised the majority. The skills tests were only introduced in Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal and Japan in October.

Skills tests for job categories such as building cleaning and airport ground handling are scheduled to be held in Japan and overseas for the first time in November and December.

Written by Magdalena Osumi
Source: Japan Times
Published on 13 November 2019

Japan’s immigration agency to adopt stricter measures to curb disappearances of foreign trainees

The Immigration Services Agency (ISA) announced Tuesday it will strengthen measures aimed at curbing disappearances of foreign nationals working under the government-sponsored Technical Intern Training Program.

The agency will ban companies and organizations that participate in the program from taking in new trainees if they are found to have violated its conditions and their trainees have gone missing, immigration officials said.

The agency will also share information with overseas organizations and brokers to prevent rogue brokers from imposing conditions that violate trainees’ rights.

To protect trainees participating in the program and to stop them from fleeing, the agency is considering disclosing the names of companies whose trainees have gone missing and who thus have contributed to them illegally seeking employment elsewhere, the officials said.

Based on the set of new measures, the agency will compile specific provisions by March, they said.

At a regular news conference Tuesday, Justice Minister Masako Mori said that despite numerous preventive measures being put in place, the problem of foreign trainees fleeing their workplaces is rampant.

The ISA, which oversees the technical training program, said that 4,499 interns went missing in the first half of this year, up from 4,243 during the same period a year before. For the whole of 2018, a total of 9,052 foreign interns disappeared, nearly 2,000 more than in 2017, when the number stood at 7,089.

“We will do all we can to reduce the number of those who go missing by steadily enforcing these measures,” Mori said after approving the new measures proposed by immigration officials.

“Some efforts specified in the revised immigration law, which is also aimed at protecting the rights of foreign trainees that went into effect in November 2017, have been proving successful, but we haven’t succeeded yet in reducing the number of interns’ disappearances,” she said.

Mori took over the post of justice minister on Oct. 31 after her predecessor, Katsuyuki Kawai, resigned over alleged election law violations by his wife, who was elected to the Upper House from a Hiroshima district in July.

With the 2017 law revision, immigration authorities improved supervision of companies employing foreign trainees through on-site inspections to protect their working environment. The law also required authorization of training programs offered by organizations and companies planning to accept technical interns. The government also improved language support for foreign trainees.

But such measures turned out to be insufficient in curbing the number of trainees who disappeared, officials said.

The agency has concluded that abuse of trainees’ rights by failing to pay agreed salaries, demanding deposits or imposing other inappropriate conditions are the main reasons behind interns’ disappearances.

The agency believes that many companies that started employing foreign workers under the new blue-collar visa system, which was introduced in April, still rely on technical interns or employ their former trainees under the new visa program. The agency will conduct interviews with trainees from the same workplace as staff employed under the blue-collar visa system to verify their working conditions, officials said.

“If we discover any forms of mistreatment, which might push them to flee, we’ll be able to implement preventive measures at an early stage and thus solve the problem before it arises, before they disappear,” said Isao Negishi, a manager at the agency that supervises the program.

He added that the agency will also intensify efforts to crack down on trainees who have fled from their workplaces by working more closely with the labor ministry on revoking the escapees’ residence cards to curb their unauthorized employment.

Written by Magdelena Osumi
Source: Japan Times
Published on 12 November 2019

MMN Releases Proceedings of the Consultation on Labour Migration from Vietnam to Japan

On 24 July 2019, the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) organised the Consultation Meeting on Labour Migration from Vietnam to Japan in Hanoi, Vietnam. The consultation provided a platform for representatives of different stakeholder groups to exchange information about recruitment procedures from Vietnam to Japan, and jointly explore interventions and strategies to improve protections provided to migrant workers. The workshop was organised in anticipation of increased labour migration from Vietnam to Japan as Japan seeks to plug gaps in its rapidly shrinking labour force. Under the Technical Internship Training Programme (TITP), Vietnam is Japan’s largest source of migrant workers, and numbers are expected to increase following the Japanese government’s announcement that it intends to welcome an additional 345,000 migrant workers within five years. To facilitate this policy change, Japan amended its strict immigration laws and added a new “Specified Skilled Worker” (SSW) visa category. In July 2019, Japan signed a bilateral Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) with Vietnam to facilitate the implementation of the new scheme.

Given these developments, MMN gathered a diverse group of over 50 participants to exchange views, including representatives of the Embassy of Japan in Vietnam, the Department of Overseas Labour (DOLAB) under the Ministry of Labour-Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) in Vietnam, the Vietnam Association of Manpower and Supply (VAMAS), intergovernmental organisations, civil society organisations (CSO), and recruitment agencies.

The day’s plenaries addressed a number of topics, including challenges faced by migrant workers throughout the migration cycle, issues related to high recruitment fees involved in migration from Vietnam to Japan, international standards on the collection of recruitment fees and other related costs, the roles of the governments of Vietnam and Japan and recruitment agencies in supporting migrant workers, and the trajectories and concerns surrounding migration to Japan under the newly created SSW scheme. Following the plenaries, participants discussed the opportunities and challenges involved in the migration of workers from Vietnam to Japan, specifically the themes of developing human resources, achieving decent work, and facilitating ethical recruitment practices. The consultation ended with participants collectively developing recommendations to improve existing migration mechanisms, improve channels of information dissemination, enhance international cooperation, and expand support for migrant returnees.

Click here to read the full proceedings.

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