TOKYO -- The Japanese government will seek bilateral agreements on foreign workers with eight Asian countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, under a new type of visa to be introduced in April.
Japan expects more overseas workers to arrive under the new "special skills" visa status, following revisions to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.
Cambodia, China, Thailand and Myanmar will also be targeted. Talks with another country are ongoing.
The deals will not require Diet ratification. That is a result of requests from some countries, including Vietnam, to protect the rights of their citizens while they are employed in Japan. Tokyo also wants to ascertain the identities and living conditions of foreign workers and improve working environments.
Through the agreements, the government aims to establish a framework that will allow police to gather information on malicious labor brokers who prey on foreign workers coming to Japan.
Under the existing intern system, unscrupulous brokers were found to have charged foreign workers high fees and forced them to pay large deposits. Under the bilateral deals, law enforcement in the two countries will share information to help expose shady brokers.
A new policy on foreign workers, which is to be set by the end of the year, will include plans to improve living conditions.
The Financial Services Agency is setting guidelines for financial institutions. This will allow foreign workers to open bank accounts at any financial institution, making it easier to manage wages. It is currently difficult for technical interns to set up bank accounts. Many of them receive their wages in cash.
Under the new regulations, the government requires companies to pay foreign workers the same or more than the standard wage for Japanese employees. If a conflict occurs, more widespread use of bank accounts would allow authorities to check wages.
The government will set up multicultural consultation centers in every prefecture, including government-designated cities. About 100 such sites will be set up.
Every medical facility will be equipped to offer foreigners medical services.
Public institutions will employ translation systems at their contact windows. To help workers find places to live, the government will inform workers of rental housing available to them. Leasing forms will be in multiple languages and tenants as well as intermediary agents will receive a manual on how to support foreigners.
The budget for fiscal 2019 will include 20 billion yen to 30 billion yen ($177 million to $265 million) for educational facilities that teach conversational Japanese-language skills.
To resolve the issue of overstaying, Japanese educational institutions will be required to file reports and undergo regularly scheduled reviews.
Currently, foreigners often come to the country for Japanese-language training but continue to work and end up staying longer than the legal limit.
While opening up the opportunity for work, the new measures will allow the government to eliminate illegal workers.