The new immigration control system for accepting more foreign workers has gotten off to a slow start. Problems involved in the situation must be identified, and quick measures taken to address the problems.
Six months have passed since the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law took effect.
As of the end of September, less than 400 people had obtained a new type of residential status established under the system for holders of “specified skills.” The figure accounts for less than 1 percent of the 47,550 foreign nationals that the government estimated would be the maximum granted the status during the first year of the new system.
According to the Immigration Services Agency, more than 2,000 foreign nationals have applied for the status. However, the reality is that it takes time to carry out the certification procedures.
To apply for the status, applicants must submit about 20 types of documents, including employment contracts and resumes. There have been a succession of cases in which applicants are required to resubmit necessary documents because of improper descriptions and omissions.
Naturally, applications should be strictly examined to prevent unauthorized labor. However, the procedures involved seem to be too complicated. If left uncorrected, the present situation could cause corporations to hesitate to use the system.
The government must seek to simplify pertinent documents and shorten the time needed to examine applications.
More than 2,000 organizations and individuals, including administrative scriveners, have been certified as capable of assisting recipient companies with accepting foreign workers under the new system. They are expected to serve as intermediaries between foreign nationals and corporations.
Another issue is that the home nations of potential foreign workers have yet to make sufficient arrangements.
The Philippine government intends to establish a new system suited to the specified-skill holder status, but it has taken time to make the necessary legislative arrangements. Although nursing-care skill tests have been conducted in the country, successful examinees have yet to be granted permission to leave.
In Vietnam, there have been delays in selecting business operators in charge of sending workers to Japan, and the necessary tests have yet to be conducted.
The Technical Intern Training Program, which aims to aid developing nations, has faced the problem of foreign nationals coming to Japan loaded with huge debt because of the involvement of unscrupulous business operators.
Foreign governments likely are acting cautiously in order to prevent their citizens from being exploited under the new system.
It is indispensable for the government to share information with other countries, thereby assisting in their preparations. The government should also hasten to promote negotiations with China and Thailand, neither of which has exchanged memorandums with Japan on the new system. It is necessary for the Immigration Services Agency to cooperate with the Foreign Ministry and other organizations in this respect.
It is worrying that more than a few domestic corporations are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the new system. Specified-skill holders must be paid wages equal to or higher than those of Japanese workers, and they can also change jobs. Firms are finding it difficult to estimate the cost of accepting foreign workers, causing them anxiety.
Amid the worsening labor shortage, the significance of securing foreign personnel who can immediately perform their jobs is great. The government should make the significance and details of the system fully known to domestic companies, and call on them to actively utilize it.