Big in Japan

In 2005 some 82,000 Filipinos working in Japan as Overseas Performing Artists (OPAs) sought the help of the Philippine government to help convince the Japanese government to reconsider its new visa requirements that affected their employment status.

The new Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act that was to take effect at the time in Japan was going to have a negative impact on our country’s Japan-bound labor export industry, our country’s third-largest source of OFW remittances. The Philippine government’s appeals and requests for a transition period prior to the actual implementation of more stringent immigration controls were denied.  Japanese officials remained adamant on implementing the new immigration policy, which was passed by the Japanese Diet after Japan was put in the Tier 2 list of countries in the 2004 United States Annual Human Trafficking Report.

Although the Japanese government had assured the Philippine government then that it would not impose quotas on fewer visas to issue, the requirements of that new law virtually guaranteed that the number of OPAs working in Japan would be significantly less. Under that new law, all foreign entertainers would have to comply with three requirements before they can work in Japan—a certificate of at least two years’ study in a performance academy, a certificate of two years’ experience in the entertainment industry outside Japan, and an artist accreditation certificate from their country of origin.

Not many of our OPAs working in Japan at that time could qualify for new working visas under those stringent requirements. Most Filipino entertainers who worked in Japan came from poor families whose parents cannot afford the cost of a two-year course in a performing arts school. Also, there were not enough performance arts schools to train or accommodate all our OPAs.

The same goes with the two-year overseas work experience requirement. Most of the OPAs who went to Japan were working for the first time, even traveling outside the country for the first time. They came from poor provinces and went through the requisite six-month training offered by their promotion agencies precisely to work in Japan. They did not have the option of working anywhere else abroad.

Before that new law took effect, the Philippines was sending around 50,000 OPAs to Japan every year, who in turn were sending back home millions of dollars in remittances. Japanese promoters were required by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to maintain $20,000 escrow accounts with local banks, amounting to millions more in foreign-exchange deposits. Then there were the travel agencies, the medical clinics, the training centers used by the POEA, the costume makers, shoe manufacturers, door-to-door delivery services and all the ancillary businesses of the Japan-bound entertainment export industry. This included the tourism industry, since our OPAs were instrumental in inviting thousands of Japanese tourists to come to the Philippines.

These all took a hit when our OPAs stopped going to Japan because of that new policy. But that was then. Times have changed. Now, Japan’s parliament has decided to ease visa restrictions and accept 350,000 foreign workers starting April, and Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said Filipinos can get at least 30 percent or 100,000 of these jobs, in a wide range of industries.

Our columnist, Susan Ople, wrote about this new policy in her column, Is Japan the next Saudi?  on March 6. “Among industry players, the country that most excites our recruitment agencies is Japan. From farmworkers to hotel workers, Japan is in need of employees in almost all categories.”

She said Japan’s new law would enable skilled migrant workers to extend their stay from five to 10 years and bring in family members with a path toward Japanese citizenship. All foreign workers to be considered under this new law would have to pass a language competency and skills assessment tests. Technical interns, including those from the Philippines, are now eligible for employment as long as basic language requirements are met. The Japanese principal will even shoulder the tuition fee for the interns’ training here in the Philippines once they are accepted.

Ople noted that the number of foreign workers needed by Japan is sizable. For caregivers alone, the recruitment industry needs about 800,000 to care for the Japanese elderly.

We urge the Philippine government to provide all the guidance and help to Filipinos who wish to work in Japan under the newly created visa categories and to get rid of questionable intermediaries preying on poor applicants.

Image credits: Jimbo Albano


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Previous Article

BOC set to conduct audit on importers

Next Article

MMDA ties up with Elmo, Cookie Monster to teach kids road safety

Related Posts

Most wasted foods in PHL households

The World Food Programme is the largest humanitarian organization delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities all over the world to improve nutrition. WFP said global hunger is not about lack of food because the world produces enough food to nourish every child, woman and man on the planet.

Column box-Sonny Angara 2
Read more

Addressing the impacts of the Mindoro oil spill

IT has been over a month since the MT Princess Empress sunk off Oriental Mindoro, causing a massive oil spill that has reached parts of Batangas, Palawan and Antique. Around 9,400 liters of oily water and 3,514 sacks of oil-contaminated materials have been collected from the oil spill that has directly affected 34,000 families in MIMAROPA and in Western Visayas, including no less than 13,600 fishermen and farmers, based on data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Read more

Three development imperatives: Follow through

The phrase “follow through” is a reminder I repeatedly got from my tennis instructor a long time ago. It is about the racquet swing and body position after hitting the ball. The reminder to focus, to position properly, and to follow through became a valuable lesson. Similarly, development outcomes, which take time to be realized, can be facilitated by constant and purposeful follow throughs.