What should we give weight to, concerning foreign labor?

Cabinet Survey. ”Opinion poll concerning international flow of labors”(‘10/Sep/13)

With declining birthrate and growing proportion of elderly people, Japan is in need of careworkers overseas. Under such circumstance, Japan and South East Asian countries have concluded an agreement (EPA/) in 2008 that Japan would accept careworkers from such countries as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. For those who have come to Japan to work, the salary that they earn in Japan is unbelievably high compare to that in their home countries. The agreement seems right to the point. However, things are not as easy as they look.

There is a requirement for them to meet in order to continue working in Japan; they may not ‘officially’ work as careworkers unless they pass a national exam. If they do not pass it, they have to go back to their home countries in a couple years no matter what. And the thing is, the national exam, which is conducted in Japanese, is so difficult for those whose mother tongue is not Japanese that none of them passed the exam in the first year of the agreement, and even in the next year, only three workers passed it.

The survey above shows that, concerning international flow of labor, approximately 90 percent of Japanese people give weight to the understanding of Japanese language (94%), custom (88.8%), and culture (85.5%), more than to specialistic ability and skill (74.3%). Here is shown Japan’s conservative attitude to foreign labores not only as Japan’s national systems but also as the public views. Japan and the other Asian countries can help each other; the supply and demand are perfectly matched. But still, Japan seems not want them to stay permanently in Japan. It seems because people in Japan think that too much flow of foreign labores can ruin Japanese culture and custom, and it is more important than the big demand from healthcare agencies.

Also, on the agreement, Japan has guaranteed to burden all the cost for training and langage lesson for foreign workers, which for now has reached more than 100 million yen. Language skill to be actually needed for careworking can be learned after working of half an year, says Maria Sagawa, who is from the Philippines and has been working as a careworker in Japan for 26 years now. Does Japan have to spend another 100 million yen in a couple of years again, which is not needed to if Japan allow the workers to continue working for another couple of years without the exam? It is such a waste of money, isn’t it?

by Koji Arai

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2 thoughts on “What should we give weight to, concerning foreign labor?

  1. I got interested in this topic and almost agree your opinion. The problem on the ability of non-Japanese workers to speak Japanese is Important. However, I think, the national exam of Japanese is necessary, because many people need to be cared are elderly people who cannot listen broken Japanese well. In my opinion, the cost of all Japanese training should be covered by Japanese government and the other’s government which non-Japanese workers come from, since the activities by non-Japanese workers in Japan can contribute to their countries in various ways like their remittance. Making the exam easier and basic and diminishing the cost burden by Japan is a one way which we should take.

  2. I am very interested in this topic because I watched some news on this topic.
    Even if it costs much, I think we have to maintain enough training system for foreign workers including language lessons. Off course we also have to change some systems like changing national exams so that foreign workers can have more chance to pass. However, even though you criticized the situation which foreign workers are required to understand Japanese language and culture rather than their ability and knowledge, it is difficult to work in Japan without understanding language and culture, especially when they serve as care-workers for the elderly.

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