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Reaction to Japan's plan to accept more foreign workers mixed overseas

In this undated file photo, people line up at the exclusive entrance for OFWs at Manila International Airport in the Philippine capital recently. (Mainichi/Aya Takeuchi)

Countries sending their citizens as workers to Japan are closely monitoring the revision of the immigration law to accept more foreign workers as a countermeasure for acute labor shortages in the country. Many tend to welcome the move, but some question if Tokyo is ready to expand its foreign workforce. Those countries are also trying to figure out which countries can offer better conditions as Middle Eastern countries, South Korea and Taiwan are also competing to lure more overseas workers.

Vietnam is showing a high interest in Japan's moves, welcoming the planned expansion of industries such as farming or construction that would accept more foreign newcomers. A Vietnamese female interpreter, 32, involved in an organization sending out technical trainees to Japan, said, "Many people were complaining that the three-year limit (for trainees) was too short and hoped to work longer."

In Bangladesh, the Dhaka Tribune newspaper described the latest development as something that has "opened up unforeseen opportunities for countries like Bangladesh, which are already battling persistent unemployment."

According to a Bangladeshi man running a business related to Japan in the capital Dhaka, he receives many inquiries from people hoping to work in Japan. "Bangladeshi workers in Arab countries face discrimination, and Japan, despite its high language barrier, can be a popular destination for workers if conditions are good," the man said.

Meanwhile, some media outlets are critical of the new Japanese policy of opening up its doors to foreign menial laborers. In the Philippines, where many people go overseas for work, an AFP article posted to the Rappler internet media outlet pointed out that the plan of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government to allow workers with high skills and Japanese-language ability to extend their stays for a long time sounded "alarm among conservatives, including some within Abe's own administration." It also introduced the opinion of an activist supporting foreign workers that Japan should treat foreigners "not just as workers but humans."

The Singapore Times newspaper reported that the Abe administration was emphasizing that the new measures are not about allowing immigrants into Japan, questioning if the people of Japan understand the issue at all.

Rianti from Indonesia had worked in Taiwan and Hong Kong between 2009 and 2017 as a nursing care worker, but the 31-year-old next wants to work in Japan. She divorced her husband as her overseas work got extended, and her son in elementary school has been living with her parents since the age of 1. Families breaking down due to their parents' overseas work is a common story in Indonesia, she said. "I want people in accepting countries to understand that no one wants to live away from their families."

(Japanese original by Shinichi Nishiwaki, Bangkok Bureau; So Matsui, New Delhi Bureau; and Aya Takeuchi, Jakarta Bureau)

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