Category Archives: MMN Updates

Press Release: The MMN welcomes commitments made by governments of CLMTV on the portability of social security for migrant workers

20 September 2019

Press Release: The MMN welcomes commitments made by governments of CLMTV on the portability of social security for migrant workers 

During a two-day Policy Dialogue on the Roles of Countries of Origin organised by the Mekong Migration Network (MMN), representatives of governments, recruitment agencies’ associations and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) from Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam jointly developed recommendations to enhance migrant workers’ access to various social protection schemes, including social security systems. 

From 16-17 September, representatives of governments, CSOs, recruitment agencies’ associations from Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, the Embassies of the Republic of the Philippines and Japan in Phnom Penh and intergovernmental organisations gathered in Phnom Penh to hear research findings from the MMN’s most recent publication and discuss how countries of origin can expand their role in enhancing migrants’ access to social protection across borders. The Policy Dialogue took place in tandem with a Labour Ministerial Conference held on 17 September in Siem Reap between governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam (CLMTV) aimed at creating a joint framework on the portability of social security for migrant workers in CLMTV. The MMN welcomes commitments made by governments of CLMTV in this regard.

Between 2018 and 2019, the MMN conducted a research project to examine current efforts in countries of origin, namely Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, to facilitate migrant workers’ access to social protection throughout the migration cycle and highlight migrants’ experiences in accessing these mechanisms. The resulting study, entitled, “Social Protection Across Borders: Roles of Countries of Origin”, is based on case studies of migrant workers currently in Thailand, migrant returnees in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam and interviews with government officials, CSOs and recruitment agencies’ associations. The report highlights recurring issues faced by migrant workers across the three countries in accessing social protection schemes in destination countries and at home.

Her Excellency Ms Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of State, Ministry of Interior, Royal Kingdom of Cambodia, noted in her keynote speech the importance of multilateral collaboration among countries of origin in protecting migrants’ rights. She stated, “We face common issues across countries of origin and need common solutions. Sometimes we can work separately, but the results are different when we collaborate to bring issues to destination countries.”

Ms Yin Yin Ohn, Deputy Director-General, Social Security Board, Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, Myanmar, remarked, “We recognise the importance of social protection for migrant workers…Myanmar is currently negotiating with destination countries such as Malaysia and Thailand to enable the portability of social security for Myanmar workers.”

During the Policy Dialogue, participants addressed a number of topics, including the current initiatives by different stakeholders to disseminate information relating to social protection schemes of destination countries, types of support available to migrant workers by embassies and diplomatic missions, the roles and responsibilities of recruitment agencies in assisting migrant workers’ access to social protection and the current progress regarding the establishment of mechanisms to support portable social security between destination countries and countries of origin.

In order to better promote migrant workers’ access to social protection, participants collectively developed recommendations focusing on several aspects of the migration journey. Key recommendations for governments of countries of origin include:

  • Ensuring information relevant to migrant workers’ benefits and rights is available, understandable and accessible; 
  • Enhancing cooperation between Labour Attachés/Counsellors and different stakeholders, such as CSOs, in order to strengthen migrant workers’ access to social protection; 
  • Effectively monitoring recruitment agencies to make sure they comply with legal standards; and
  • Encouraging recruitment agencies to adopt and uphold industry Codes of Conduct.

In the long term, countries of origin should ensure uninterrupted and transferrable social protection regardless of migrants’ location of work; encourage the formation of a subcommittee under the ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers to establish a framework for the portability of social protection; develop inclusive social protection schemes that migrants can voluntarily participate in and access when abroad; and establish flexible money transfer systems enabling migrants to contribute to social protection schemes through digital systems. Countries of origin should also take steps towards establishing a welfare fund for migrants in their respective countries at the appropriate time.

About the Mekong Migration Network 

The Mekong Migration Network (MMN), founded in 2003, is a subregional network of migrant support NGOs, migrant grassroots groups and research institutes. The central goal of the MMN is to promote the welfare, well-being, dignity and human rights (especially labour, women’s and family rights) of migrants in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), and to build mutual support and solidarity among migrants and advocates within the GMS. To achieve this goal, the MMN jointly carries out research, advocacy, capacity building and networking. For more information about the MMN, please visit www.mekongmigration.org


Contact Information

For more information about the Policy Dialogue, please contact: 

Reiko Harima, MMN Regional Coordinator, at reiko@mekongmigration.org (English or Japanese);

Sokchar Mom, Executive Director, Legal Support for Children and Women, Cambodia, at sokchar_mom@lscw.org (Khmer and English); 

Ms Thet Thet Aung, Director, Future Light Center, Myanmar, at thet2aung2012@gmail.com (Burmese);

Mr Brahm Press, Executive Director, MAP Foundation, Thailand, at brahm.press@gmail.com (English or Thai); and

Ms Trang Hoang, MMN Project Coordinator, at trang@mekongmigration.org (English or Vietnamese). 

VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT: Project Coordinator

The Mekong Migration Network is looking for a PROJECT COORDINATOR (“Migrants in Informal Sectors” Collaborative Research and Advocacy Project) to join our team. Please see the job announcement below.

The Mekong Migration Network (MMN) in coordination with the Foundation for Migrants from the Mekong Neighbourhood (MMN Foundation) is looking for a full-time PROJECT COORDINATOR (“Migrants in Informal Sectors” Collaborative Research and Advocacy Project) The successful applicant will be based at the MMN Secretariat office in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The position requires the successful applicant to frequently travel within Thailand as well as within the Mekong region. There is no special support (i.e. support for relocation costs, etc.) for people applying for this position from overseas or other provinces. This initial contract is for one year (September 2019-August 2020) which may be renewable depending on job performance and funding availability.

Deadline for application: 25 August 2019

Reports to: Regional Coordinator
Job location:
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Salary and Benefits: 
Local NGO rate subject to qualifications and experience.
Start Date: 
1 October 2019 (or earlier)
Contract Duration:
 One year contract (subject to 119 days probation at the beginning of contract); may be renewable depending on work performance and funding availability.

Qualifications and Experience Required

Essential

*Commitment to MMN’s approach and values

*A Master’s degree or equivalent experience in a relevant field, such as development studies, migration studies, gender studies, international relations or law;

*Minimum of 2 year of relevant work experience in a field related to human rights, migration, gender or development;

*Fluency in speaking and strong writing skill in English and Thai

*Strong public speaking skills

*Strong research skills

*Strong commitment to and understanding of migration issues in Mekong countries

*Ability to work independently and as part of a team

*Ability to work in a diverse linguistic and cultural environment

*Ability to work effectively under pressure and meet deadlines

*Excellent interpersonal and communication skills

*Excellent attention to detail

*Proven computer literacy (Microsoft Word, Excel & PowerPoint)

*Ability to travel

Desirable

*Experience in carrying out collaborative research projects

*Experience doing national and regional-level advocacy

*Some experience on website or visual material production e.g. posters, multimedia presentation

*Experience using social media (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) for awareness raising

About the Mekong Migration Network

MMN is a sub-regional network of civil society organizations and research institutes working on migration issues in Mekong countries. MMN’s joint areas of work include advocacy, information monitoring, research, capacity building and networking. Please visit our website: www.mekongmigration.org for further information about MMN.

As a staff member of the MMN Secretariat, the successful applicant must commit to working as a team to strengthen the network and achieve MMN objectives in strengthening protection and promotion of migrants’ rights in the Mekong region.

Overview of the Project:

MMN is currently carrying out a collaborative research and advocacy project focusing on migrant labour in informal sectors in Thailand. The main focus of this project is on migrant labour in agriculture and fisheries, while also examining the impact of more general labour and migration policies on migrant workers in Thailand. The project involves collaboratively conducting research with MMN project partners in respective Mekong countries, organising workshops to enhance the capacity of civil society organisations to advocate for migrants’ rights, developing materials to raise awareness, and organising policy dialogues.

The following are the expected outcomes of the project:

1) Increased knowledge among migrants’ rights advocates, policy makers and other stakeholders on the issues and needs of migrant workers and their families, especially of those in informal sectors;

2) Greater capacity of migrants’ rights advocates in both destination and countries of origin in promoting the rights of migrants, especially those in informal sectors.; and

3) Greater awareness on the issues in Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia as well as in countries importing and consuming products produced by migrant labour in Thailand.

The successful applicant will play a key role in ensuring the timely implementation of the project in consultation with MMN project partners. The Project Coordinator will directly report to the MMN Regional Coordinator. The Project Coordinator will also oversee the work carried out by the project team, interns and volunteers for the project.

Roles and responsibilities:

1. Research and advocacy

*Carry out research on migration policies in Thailand, especially those affecting migrants in agriculture and fisheries and ensure MMN has up-to-date information.

*Monitor development of relevant migration and recruitment policies and practices, including those of countries of origin that are applicable to this project. 

*Develop concrete research plans following discussion during the project consultation meetings. This includes, but is not limited to, developing an overall research design, formulating questionnaires for interviews and preparing request letters for interviews.

*Provide guidance and/or training to research partners where necessary to ensure the research carried out by the partners is done in accordance with the plan and is of high quality.

*Alert MMN members and the Secretariat when there are urgent issues to which MMN should respond, to enable MMN to carry out timely advocacy work.

*Draft relevant articles, position papers, or press releases that are necessary to carry out advocacy

*Write up the research reports.

2. Project coordination

*Coordinate the implementation of the MMN’s Collaborative Research and Advocacy project under the guidance of the Regional Coordinator.

*Actively follow up with research partners and provide clarification and/or advice as necessary.

*Assist the Regional Coordinator in managing the overall project budget.

*Ensure that expenses for the respective activities are reported on time and in accordance with MMN policies and requirement.

*Alert the Regional Coordinator if/when the project encounters challenges (in relation to time, finance, political environment, personnel etc)

*Undertake travel relating to project implementation such as for the purpose of following up with project partners, carrying out key informant interviews, and organizing consultation meetings, as required.

3. Organising meetings in coordination with the Administrative Officer and the relevant program team

*Organise meetings as required by the project.

*Ensure proceedings and meetings minutes are recorded appropriately by staff designated for the task.

*Ensure timely publication of the meeting outcome on the MMN Webpage and/or circulation of the minutes of respective internal meetings with participants.

4. Awareness Raising, MMN Webpage and Social Media

*Strategise for awareness raising on key issues affecting migrants especially those in agriculture and fisheries.

*Conceptualise visual materials that may be necessary for awareness raising in consultation with the project partners, and coordinate the production process.

*Develop a section on the MMN webpage specially dedicated to the project on Migrants in Agriculture and Fisheries. (Technical assistance will be provided by other staff in charge of the webpage but the Project Coordinator will be in charge of developing content in consultation with the MMN project partners.)

*Regularly update the relevant sections of the webpage and circulate the news.

*Use other social media such as Facebook, Twitter etc, to effectively promote the achievement of the project and key advocacy points.

5. Coordination and management of MMN partnerships and media contacts

*Regularly communicate with MMN members and follow up with them to ensure that MMN Secretariat has most updated contact information of respective members.

*Assist the Information and Advocacy Officer in updating the MMN membership database to ensure smooth communication with members.

*Regularly update the MMN media contact list.

6. Reporting

*Prepare concise narrative reports on the outcome of respective project activities and submit them to the Regional Coordinator in a timely manner.

*Assist the Regional Coordinator in preparing the interim and final project reports to the donors.

7. Managing the MMN Chiang Mai Office including Coordinating Foundation Matters

*Supervise and guide the work of the MMN Administrative Officer in applying for and renewing the work permit and other relevant documents for MMN staff members.

*Assist the MMN Administrative Officer in ensuring that government requirements are met in order to keep MMN’s Foundation status.

*Be the focal point in hosting the visitors and interns at the MMN Chiang Mai Office.

*Provide orientation to the new staff and interns regarding the MMN operational rules.

*Be the focal point in arranging MMN Foundation board meetings in coordination with the Regional Coordinator.

8. Other tasks

*As a member of the MMN Secretariat, assist tasks related to other MMN projects and the overall work of MMN. These may include, but are not limited to, assisting in the organization of meetings and various activities for other projects, representing MMN in various events, and being a part of MMN team to organize regional events, etc.

*The Project Coordinator may carry out other tasks as assigned.

S/he will work as a part of our multi-cultural team and report directly to the Regional Coordinator. The working language of MMN is English. However, strong writing and speaking skills in Thai are needed for the Project Coordinator to carry out tasks assigned to this position. As an employee of the sub-regional network, the job involves frequent travel. 

APPLICATION PROCEDURE

For those interested, please email your CV and a cover letter along with a list of two referees’ contact details and a writing sample in English for the attention of MMN Regional Coordinator, Ms. Reiko Harima at application@mekongmigration.org by 25 August 2019.  Only short listed candidates will be contacted. Interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis.

MMN holds Multi-Stakeholder Meeting 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 stakeholders 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, the 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 under the Ministry of Labour-Invalids and Social Affairs in Vietnam, the Vietnam Association of Manpower and Supply VAMAS, intergovernmental organisations, civil society organisations and private recruitment agencies.

The consultation began with a plenary entitled, “The Recruitment and Deployment of Vietnamese Workers to Japan: Policies, Trends and Gaps.” In his presentation, Mr Nguyen Ngoc Quynh, Vice President of VAMAS, urged the governments of Japan and Vietnam to quickly design guidelines for the implementation of the “Specified Skilled Workers” visa category, especially on specifying responsibilities of recruitment agencies and details on the collection of recruitment fees. Having these guidelines could help prevent intermediaries from engaging in unscrupulous and illegal recruitment activities, such as charging prospective workers exorbitant fees. Mr Nguyen also shared about the VAMAS’s industry Code of Conduct (CoC), which provides guidelines on good recruitment practices, as well as a ranking system to rate recruitment agencies’ compliance with the code. So far, approximately 120 recruitment agencies have signed the CoC. 

In the following presentation, Ms Nguyen Thi Mai Thuy, the National Programme Coordinator of the Labour Migration TRIANGLE in ASEAN Programme, International Labour Organization (ILO) Country Office in Hanoi, highlighted a number of issues Vietnamese migrant workers face during their migration to Japan, including high recruitment fees. While recruitment agencies in Vietnam can charge no more than 3600 USD by law, there have been cases where prospective workers paid as much as 7000 to 10,000 USD. High recruitment fees can be one reason why migrant workers incur huge debt before they migrate. In 2019, the ILO published the General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment and Definition of Recruitment Fees and Related Cost, which provides a comprehensive definition of recruitment fees. According to the document, no recruitment fees or related costs should be borne by workers. The ILO has also raised issues related to high recruitment fees to the Vietnamese government.

In the second plenary entitled, “The Employment of Migrant Workers to Japan: Policies, Trends and Gaps”, Mr Mikio Hayashi, First Secretary, Embassy of Japan in Vietnam, presented on the trends of labour migration from Vietnam to Japan and details of the Memorandum of Cooperation on Specified Skilled Workers signed between Japan and Vietnam. Mr Hayashi also highlighted activities of the Embassy of Japan in Vietnam in supporting migrant workers, such as cooperating with the Vietnamese government to clamp down on intermediaries that have engaged in illegal and unscrupulous behaviours and organising seminars in different parts of Vietnam to disseminate information on migration under the TITP and the Economic Partnership Agreement between Vietnam and Japan.

Associate Professor Asato Wako from Kyoto University noted that while the Japanese government has adopted a more rights-based approach in developing the “Specified Skilled Workers” migration pathway, certain well-intentioned components of the scheme will be difficult to implement. For example, the SSW scheme enables employers in Japan to directly hire migrant workers in order to prevent illegal recruitment activities. However, in reality, prospective migrant workers in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia will still have to go through recruitment agencies for the foreseeable future due to a lack of job-matching services for migrant workers, as well as due to requirements of countries of origin. Professor Asato also stressed that the use of the term “runaways” to describe migrant workers who have left their jobs without terminating their contracts is not appropriate, as it implies wrongdoing on the part of migrants. Migrant workers sometimes leave their jobs in search of better employment opportunities if they have a heavy financial burden, which is often a result of high recruitment fees. On average, migrant workers who leave their jobs under the TITP paid 5000 USD as recruitment fees before departure, exceeding the legal cap in Vietnam. 

After the plenaries, participants explored the opportunities and challenges involved in ethical recruitment, human resource development and achieving decent work. Based on the results of the discussion, participants collectively came up with several recommendations to improve the protection of migrant workers throughout their migration cycle. These recommendations include improving the quality of pre-departure training provided to migrant workers, increasing cooperation between stakeholders in Japan and Vietnam, and clarifying the roles of government agencies, recruitment agencies and accepting organisations in Japan in efforts to protect migrant workers’ rights. 

Participants at the Consultation Meeting

Ms Nguyen Thi Mai Thuy, the National Programme Coordinator of the Labour Migration TRIANGLE in ASEAN Programme, International Labour Organization (ILO) Country Office in Hanoi

Mr Mikio Hayashi, First Secretary, Embassy of Japan in Vietnam

Mr Nguyen Ngoc Quynh, Vice President of VAMAS

Associate Professor Asato Wako from Kyoto University

Discussion at the Consultation Meeting

 

MMN holds Workshop on Labour Migration from Mekong Countries to Japan in Tokyo, Japan

On July 8, 2019, the Mekong Migration Network held a multi-stakeholder workshop on Labour Migration from Mekong Countries to Japan in Tokyo, Japan. The workshop was organised 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), a significant proportion of migrant workers in Japan originate from Vietnam (72,637), Myanmar (3,692), and Cambodia (3,328). 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 amended its strict immigration laws and added a new “Specified Skilled Worker” (SSW) visa category. Japan also signed a bilateral Memoranda of Cooperation (MoC) with Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar to facilitate the implementation of the new scheme.

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. 

Professor Wako Asato from Kyoto University began with a presentation on the recent trends of migration under the TITP and trajectories under the SSW visa scheme. He 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, especially with regards to the collection of recruitment fees. 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.

Mr Ippei Torii from the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan gave an overview of the history of Japan’s migration policies and highlighted a number of issues migrant workers face in Japan, including labour rights violation, forced repatriation and physical violence. In particular, certain aspects of the TITP, such as the lack of freedom for migrant workers to change jobs, often facilitate a power imbalance between employers and workers and create environments conducive to abuse and exploitation. Regarding cases where migrant workers “run away” from their employers under the TITP, Mr Torii suggested that the term “runaways” is not appropriate, as it implies wrongdoing on the part of migrants. When migrants “run away,” they are in essence changing jobs–a right that all Japanese citizens, but not TITP workers, enjoy.

Professor Chiaki Osaki from the Japan Association of Certified Care Workers discussed her observations of pre-departure and post-arrival training provided to care workers in countries of origin and Japan respectively. She highlighted that many migrant workers are unable to access support hotlines or contact their family members due to difficulties for foreigners to purchase a phone with a Japanese number in Japan. In the following presentation, Mr Kazuomi Aoyagi from the Alliance of Associations for Diversity and Inclusion Acceleration in Japan spoke about the history of migration from the Philippines and the Filipino government’s current policies on outbound migration. According to him, the Philippines has strict regulations over the practices of recruitment agencies. In particular, recruitment agencies that are sending workers to Japan are prohibited from collecting any placement fees from migrants.

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, 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 (CoC). In Vietnam, Mr Luon​g Trao Nguyen from the Vietnam Association of Manpower and Supply (VAMAS) shared that the 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. Ms Aye Aye Nyunt from the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation also explained that overseas employment agencies in Myanmar are encouraged to regularly check on migrant workers and are required to submit a report every three months to the Myanmar government. In Cambodia, Mr Pin Vireak from the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies (ACRA) stated that a new CoC and an accompanying ranking system similar to that of VAMAS will soon come into effect.

The workshop ended with civil society organisations from Myanmar and Cambodia sharing about the common challenges of migrant workers in their respective countries. Ms Thet Thet Aung from the Future Light Centre shared that prospective migrant workers in Myanmar lack comprehensive information about private recruitment agencies, which makes them vulnerable to the exploitation of unscrupulous intermediaries. Upon return, a lack of job opportunities at home, combined with an inability to apply skills acquired in Japan, means that a number of migrant returnees have no choice but to re-migrate. In Cambodia, Mr Sokchar Mom from the Legal Support for Children and Women highlighted the lack of a standard recruitment fee in Cambodia as a major issue that has enabled some unscrupulous intermediaries to charge exorbitant fees. In his experience, a number of prospective migrants have been forced to incur debt to migrate. Moving forward, he urged the Japanese and Cambodian governments to collectively tackle the issue of high recruitment fees.

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.

Participants of the Workshop

Associate Professor Asato Wako from the Kyoto University

Mr Ippei Torii from the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan

Professor Chiaki Osaki from the Japan Association of Certified Care Workers

Mr Luon​g Trao Nguyen from the Vietnam Association of Manpower and Supply (VAMAS)

Ms Aye Aye Nyunt from the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation

Mr Pin Vireak from the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies (ACRA)

Mr Kazuomi Aoyagi from the Alliance of Associations for Diversity and Inclusion Acceleration in Japan

Ms Thet Thet Aung from the Future Light Centre (Myanmar)

Mr Sokchar Mom from the Legal Support for Children and Women (Cambodia)

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

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