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First group of Filipinas arrive in Japan under new foreign housekeeper rules

A group of Filipino women who will work as housekeepers in Japan arrives at Narita Airport on March 9, 2017. (Mainichi)

A group of Filipino women set to work as housekeepers in Japanese homes arrived in Japan on March 9, the first batch to arrive after restrictions on housekeeping services provided by foreign workers were lifted in "national strategic special zones."

"I love my job and am passionate about it. I'm also looking forward to living in Japan. It's clean and safe," said a 42-year-old Filipina in Japanese, one of the 25 new arrivals employed by staffing agency giant Pasona Inc. They went through a two-and-a-half-month training program in the Philippines before coming to Japan, at a facility made to look like a Japanese house where they learned Japanese and Japanese home-cooked dishes such as miso soup. They will begin working in Kanagawa Prefecture in late March, after completing another two-week training stint.

Foreign housekeepers were approved under the revised National Strategic Special Zones Act in 2015 to reduce the burden of household chores usually borne by women, and to promote Japanese women's engagement in economic activity. Restrictions were lifted first in Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture and the city of Osaka, and six agencies including Duskin Co. and Bears Co. have been given permission to operate foreign housekeeper services.

The service operators are required to prepare housing for the foreign workers, as live-in housekeepers are not allowed. Pasona has rented five shared-house buildings as employee dorms in Yokohama.

Due to concerns over potential violations of the housekeepers' human rights -- as they work behind closed doors -- Pasona has created a guidebook for the foreign workers on life in Japan. The book includes contact information for public organizations where they can consult with professionals if they encounter any problems.

Pasona's Makiko Sawafuji says the company is taking extra care of its foreign workers, so that they will feel they have made the right decision by coming to work in Japan.

Pasona has already launched housekeeping services provided by 10 Filipinas already residing in Japan. The fees are about 2,500 yen per hour, and the service's main customers are households in which both partners, who are in their 30s and 40s, work. The business has been so popular that there is a waiting list of families looking to hire a housekeeper. The agency plans to hire about 1,000 Filipinos in the next three years.

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