Japan needs foreign workers in many fields

Published November 7, 2018, 10:31 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

e-cartoon-nov-7-2018Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called on Japan’s parliament to enact a law, supported by the country’s business leaders, aimed at getting more foreign workers for sectors having severe labor shortages.

The sectors most in need of workers in Japan today are agriculture, construction, hospitality/tourism, and nursing. Businesses in these areas have been lobbying for looser immigration rules to allow them to employ more foreign workers. There are said to be 165 job vacancies for every 100 job seekers.

It could be coincidence, but most of these areas are precisely where there are so many trained Filipinos today. All over the world, notably in the United States, in the Middle East, and in Asia, one is likely to find Filipino engineers and workers at construction sites, nurses along with doctors, medtechs, and rehabilitation workers in hospitals, and trained staff along with workers at hotels.

These are among the most common areas in which Filipinos are working around the world today, along with information technology, shipping, and caregiving. In the first seven months of this year, the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas recently reported these Overseas Filipino Workers sent $16.6 billion to their families here through the banking system and $18.5 billion through personal remittances.

In the ongoing discussion in Japan over the proposal to relax that country’s immigration rules to get more foreign workers needed for Japan’s agricultural, construction, hospitality, and nursing sectors, concerns have been raised over potential culture clashes – how well the new foreign workers will be able to fit into Japanese society which values social harmony and order.

Japan should have no problem with Filipino workers on this issue. We share these same basic societal values. Filipino workers all over the world have cited by heir host countries for their ability to fit into their host communities.

When our own need for construction workers rise with our “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, many of these trained workers will be needed here. We also hope to keep most of our agricultural workers as their expertise is badly needed for our own agricultural development. But there wiil be many who will opt for foreign employment with higher pay.

Japan has become one of our country’s closest friends and allies in recent years, one of our biggest trading partners, and, like us, it has close ties with the United States. When it finally enacts its bill to address its chronic labor shortages, it will not have to look far for trained and capable foreign workers to meet its needs.