TOKYO — Toyota Motor and other Japanese companies will jointly set up an agency to offer help and counseling services to foreign employees working for them and their suppliers, Nikkei learned on Wednesday.
The agency will provide centralized multilingual consultation services for those who are ill and those who are facing problems or disputes at work. It will aim to mediate in serious cases and offer legal help.
The move comes amid growing awareness of employee rights, particularly as more Japanese companies are hiring foreigners who may have more legal coverage in their home countries. Complex bureaucratic operations in Japan’s national and local governments have made it difficult for foreign workers to find help and it is hoped that this centralized service will meet their needs.
The agency will be managed by JP-Mirai, also known as Japan Platform for Migrant Workers towards Responsible and Inclusive Society. JP-Mirai is a private organization under aid agency Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The agency will be funded by fees from each company, based on their sizes.
It will provide services this year on a trial basis to around 20,000 foreign employees of around 10 companies, including Toyota, and their suppliers. By next year, the agency hopes to be able to offer its services to 200,000 foreign workers and expand that to all by 2024.
The employees covered will be able to seek consultations via chat and on the telephone about a range of issues, from workplace concerns to problems in daily life, illness, pregnancy, and their immigration status. The service is offered in eight languages, including Mandarin, Vietnamese and Tagalog.
If required, agency staff will accompany users to their meetings and appointments, including to hospitals. The agency is planning to form a relationship with Tokyo Bar Association to gain access to alternative dispute resolution procedures in cases of serious problems between staff and their employers.
There are approximately 1.7 million foreign workers in Japan. For technical intern trainees, there is already a consultation service available in multiple languages under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. However, other foreign workers cannot access the service.
Japan will need 6.74 million foreign workers in 2040, nearly four times more than it has today, according to a study by JICA.