Editorial: Ramping to accept workers from abroad

December 27 , 2018

Japan must undertake every step and measure to ensure that workers from abroad will be able to live and work in safety and without discrimination.

Following the passing of the revised Immigration Control Law earlier this month, the government is set to roll out a comprehensive program to support foreign workers and local governments. Up to 345,150 foreign nationals will be able to work over a five-year period starting from April 2019, primarily to address the growing labor shortfall in 14 industries, including construction, agriculture and food services. Consisting of 126 measures—many of which were adopted at Komeito’s behest—the program will receive a total 22.4 billion yen in fiscal 2018 and 2019.

Under the program, the government will conclude bilateral treaties with nine major countries from which the bulk of foreign workers will be recruited. The treaties are the first step in preventing unscrupulous brokers from exploiting these workers and to ensure a safer and more satisfying work environment.

Another vital step is measures to safeguard workers’ quality of life. Toward that end, a nationwide hotline, manned at 100 call centers, will be established to help these workers and their families cope with life in Japan.

The hotline will help callers on a wide range of issues, from healthcare, welfare and child care, at the local government level. Other areas of local government support include the assigning of interpreters and expanded use of translation apps and devices, as well as programs to promote local understanding of cultures and lifestyles of other countries.

In some areas with large foreign worker populations, foreign residents are being encouraged to take part in volunteer fire corps, enabling them to engage their Japanese peers at the community level, while another initiative promotes use of simpler hiragana Japanese characters to facilitate communication. Information on such initiatives should be made widely available for other communities to adopt or modify.

Among the increasing needs to accept foreign workers in other countries, ensuring safe and comfortable lives is a leading priority. Japan should follow their example, and Komeito is committed to achieve the same goal.