Japan’s plan to let in more low-skilled migrants is half-baked

Feb 28, 2019

CHO LAN spreads out papers on the table as she explains that her job, sewing women’s clothing at a small factory in Gifu, a prefecture in central Japan, was based on lies. The 51-year-old Chinese worker came to Japan in 2015 on a foreign-trainee visa, hoping to earn a higher salary. But she says the details on her pay-slips bear no relationship to the number of hours worked (which she meticulously documented in notepads and with videos of the factory clock) or the pay she received. “I feel very tricked,” she says. Her story is echoed by many like her, says Ken Kai, the (also Chinese) head of a shelter in Gifu where Ms Cho is now staying.

From April Japan will for the first time openly accept low-skilled workers in certain industries facing labour shortages. That will remove one of the lies from stories like Ms Cho’s: neither she nor the firm she worked for believed she was a trainee (she had 20 years of experience in her field). Japanese firms have long used that scheme, on paper designed to give workers from poor countries the chance to develop skills to take home, to recruit low-skilled workers. Others enter the country on visas meant for students or people of Japanese descent. Now they will be able to come honestly. Workers will be able to change jobs, which they could not under the trainee scheme. And although Shinzo Abe, Japan’s...

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