On the days preceding the Japanese government’s revision of the Immigration Control Law, which establishes two new visa residency statuses so that in April 2019 Japan can start accepting blue-collar workers from Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, China, Myanmar, Cambodia, and another country that is yet to be selected, several concerns surrounding Japan’s Technical Intern Program arose. As a result, the government has set some measures that intend to fix the issues addressed during the hearings.
The specific policies the Japanese government will be introducing include:
As of June 2018, there are 285,000 foreigners residing in Japan under the Technical Intern Program, which was introduced in 1993, and one of the major concerns critics of the revision of the Immigration Control Law had was that many of these technical interns are subject to schedules that force them to work illegally long hours. Additionally, due to the difficulties interns have when trying to open bank accounts in Japan, the firms they work for pay them in cash. This in turn has allowed numerous companies to pay very low wages.
As a result, the Financial Services Agency (FSA) will establish certain guidelines aimed at making it easier for foreign residents to open bank accounts in Japan. Financial Institutions will then know what to do so as to facilitate this process and prevent firms from paying low wages to their foreign workers and technical interns. As a side note, the two new visa residency statuses specify that foreign workers have to be paid a salary equal to that of Japanese workers’. Moreover, the Japanese government has mentioned that they will create further initiatives that will establish the basis of fair and safe work environments for foreign workers, and that bilateral relations will allow foreign workers to know their rights before coming to Japan.
Because finding apartments and houses that allow foreign tenants can be extremely challenging, the Japanese government plans to create information and a manual that will make it easier to find housing in Japan. The changes related to housing will also see the introduction of leasing agreements in several languages since the long and repetitive documents new tenants have to sign can become one of the biggest problems or obstacles foreign residents face when looking for a place to live.
The government will open educational facilities throughout the nation so that foreign residents can learn Japanese, particularly useful words and phrases that can make life in Japan easier. To do so, the government has set aside between 20 and 30 billion yen (about 176 million and 265 million USD) for both their housing and Japanese language measures.
One of the biggest ongoing problems is the amount of foreigners staying in Japan after their respective visas expired. To track down these overstayers, the Japanese government will establish bilateral relations so that Japan and the eight selected countries can share information more easily and apprehend those who have overstayed their visas. Additionally, Japanese language schools will have to file reports so that the government can keep track of foreigners who come to Japan to study the language, but then decide to stay after their visas expired in order to work.
The government will also make healthcare easier by creating a system meant to allow foreign residents to receive medical care from all medical institutions as opposed to the current system that sees foreigners living in Japan for more than three months having to register for national health insurance, which not all hospitals and clinics accept. Additionally, all public institutions will have consultation desks where foreigners will get multilingual support and translation services. What’s more, one hundred so called “one-stop life support centers” will open across Japan’s prefectures and designated cities. These support centers will help foreigners with questions related to life in Japan.
Prime Minister Abe has called for an inter-Ministry meeting by the end of this year so that all the ministries involved can make formal decisions related to these policies and measures.