Allow Japanese Citizens to Sponsor Foreign Domestic Workers

Posted by BDTI at the request of Kumi Sato, CEO of Cosmo Public Relations Corporation.

Prime Minister Abe’s requests to close schools nationwide, tele-work from home, and cancel sports events and public gatherings, have caused a great deal of strain on working mothers. More than ever before, now is the time when the Government of Japan (the GOJ) should be accelerating its stated policy to allow Japanese households to sponsor Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs).

Women are being encouraged by the government to enter the labor force, with the expectation that they will become executives and join Boards of Directors. If the government expects to reach its own goal for women to constitute 10 percent all corporate directors during this year (2020), it will need to rapidly increase the range of “options” that women have for childcare and elderly care.

Women are being encouraged by the government to enter the labor force, with the expectation that they will become executives and join Boards of Directors.  If the government expects to reach its own goal for women to constitute 10 percent all corporate directors during this year (2020), it will need to rapidly increase the range of “options” that women have for childcare and elderly care.

Recent surveys show that fully 75 percent of domestic household work is handled by women. While there has been minor improvement in this ratio because it has become a bit more “fashionable” for men to take paternity leave and to share household work, the burden of domestic work still falls most heavily on women.

In 2017, the Japanese government relaxed its rules regarding sponsorship of FDW under the Tokku (National Strategic Special Zones) policy, but only in those special “zone” areas: Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka, Hyogo, Aichi, and Chiba. The rule changes enabled six major housekeeping companies to sponsor foreign domestic workers, the majority of whom are from the Philippines.

However, Japanese individuals are still unable to sponsor FDW’s by themselves. They have to hire FDWs through these intermediary companies. This is because current Tokku regulations only allow companies to sponsor, not individuals. Moreover, the duration of the contract is limited to five years.

What are the reasons why these companies are not more proactively hiring FDWs to and dispatching them to households? According to Kisun Yoo, who runs a company (Chez Vous Co., Ltd.) specializing in “dispatching FDWs, “the initial costs, including training and accommodations, are too high to recoup within the maximum five-year visa/contract period that is allowed for FDW’s.”

Most likely, this is one major reason that the cumulative number of FDWs who have entered Japan was only 1000 as of 2019.  The government’s goal is to extend this to 3000 people by 2021, which is still a very modest figure compared to countries such as Hong Kong or Singapore. In those two countries, there are currently just over 200,000 and 250,000 foreign domestic workers, respectively.

Cultural barriers are often cited, such as claims that Japanese people “hesitate to allow non-family members into their homes”. However, such claims are myths. In fact, once they have experienced having a non-Japanese foreign helper, many Japanese people are satisfied with the outcome. According to Kisun Yoo, “Our surveys show that 97 percent of our customers were satisfied with the work of their FDWs.”

To make matters worse, under current regulations, even permanent residence visa holders with the status of “highly skilled worker” are unqualified to sponsor FDWs unless they have a partner or spouse who lives full time in Japan and also have one or more children under the age of 13. This means that a highly skilled non-Japanese executive holding a full-time job or running his or her own company is not permitted sponsor a FDW.

For example, an unmarried foreign CEO of a Japanese or non-Japanese company is unable to sponsor an FDW, even if they have an elderly parent to look after. This makes it difficult for Japan to attract the “global talent” that it so badly needs as it continues to age as a society.

Japanese women need to have many more options to consider in order to select the child and elderly care arrangements that best suit their particular circumstances. If the GOJ wishes to meet its goals for more women to enter the workforce, now is the time to take further action.

Reference Material: Proposal by Kisun Yoo of Chez Vous Co., Ltd.

Posted by BDTI at the request of Kumi Sato, CEO of Cosmo Public Relations Corporation.

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