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Foreign worker influx presents business opportunity in Japan

Service industry businesses catering to foreign workers are popping up all over Japan.


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Updated: May 23, 2019

As companies hurry to prepare for the acceptance of foreign workers that they hope will solve their labor shortages, other businesses are offering services to help foreigners obtain visas under the new system and help them in their daily lives.

Matsuya Foods Co., which runs a major chain of beef-bowl restaurants, has about 4,000 foreign workers that make up 20 percent of its workforce. Twenty-four of them, mainly from Vietnam, took the restaurant worker skills test for the new Type-1 residence status for specific skills introduced in April. When the results were released on Tuesday, many received good news.

All of them had been part-time workers on student visas. Now, they will be among the first to transition to the Type-1 residence status.

“If they want, we’re willing to hire them as regular employees and train them to manage their own stores,” said the Matsuya employee in charge of the matter.

Companies and organizations can directly hire foreigners who pass the skills tests. There are many companies that aim to solve their serious labor shortages by accepting foreign workers. Some companies are directly helping foreigners obtain their qualifications.

Around March, major hotel chain Toyoko Inn Co. began Japanese-language training for about 20 of its employees on Cebu Island in the Philippines. The plan is to have these workers take special skills tests, then transfer them to Japan after they receive their visas.

Support organizations

One of the biggest challenges for businesses employing foreign workers is figuring out how to help them settle into their jobs.

As part of the new residence status system, a framework was created for registration-support organizations that specialize in assisting foreigners in their daily lives. These organizations need to be accredited by the Immigration Services Agency.

Under the conventional technical intern training program, the supervisory organizations that were supposed to intermediate between foreign interns and their employers and provide guidance were found to have employed slipshod labor management practices, which led to about 9,000 workers disappearing from their workplaces. The new framework is intended to prevent these problems in the new system.

Many companies, particularly small and midsize firms, have little experience employing foreigners. For registration-support organizations, helping foreigners obtain visas and settle into their jobs presents a major business opportunity.

In April, major staffing company Pasona Inc. launched a service aimed at companies and organizations to help foreign workers settle into their jobs. The company said it has already received inquiries from about 100 companies and organizations, and aims to sign contracts with 500 firms in the next three years.

Tokyo-based Global Trust Networks (GTN) Co. has hired about 30 foreign workers to mediate for foreigner-only rental housing units and handle inquiries from both tenants and management companies. Services are available in 16 languages, including Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese.

About 1,400 companies and organizations are seeking to become registration-support organizations, with 35 already having obtained accreditation. Pasona and GTN have both submitted applications and hope to complete their registrations quickly.

Farm-bound

There is a growing need for businesses that can introduce or dispatch foreign workers to employers. As foreigners tend to congregate in big cities, these services could help solve the lack of manpower in local areas.

A staffing company in Hokkaido is currently introducing part-time foreign workers to restaurants and other companies for a fee of ¥50,000 to 60,000 per worker.

Up to 53,000 foreign workers could receive visas to work in the restaurant industry under the new system over the next five years. “We’ve already received a lot of inquiries,” a company representative said with expectation.

Dispatch employment is allowed under the new system only for agriculture and fishing jobs.

Abridge Inc., a Tokyo-based information technology venture capital firm, plans to launch a business to recruit about 100 people from Cambodia and Vietnam in this year, help them obtain special skills visas, then dispatch them to work at farms in places like Hokkaido and Okinawa Prefecture. The company wants to quickly expand the program to the 1,000-person range.

“Nationwide, more and more farmers are unable to deal with the harvest using only Japanese staff. There is a big demand,” said the person in charge of the program at the company.



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The Japan News
About the Author: The Japan News is published by The Yomiuri Shimbun, which boasts the largest circulation in the world.

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