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Domestic workers for Japan

TOKYO (Mabuhay) : Japan is mulling opening the way for a trickle of foreign domestic workers to find employment in restricted areas of the country in the near future and is looking toward The Philippines for its first intake, Kyodo News reported on September 28.

In September the government ratified guidelines for a possible opening, mostly in the upmarket areas of Osaka, as well as Kanagawa prefecture north of Yokohama City, sometimes referred to as the Gold Coast.

The guidelines stipulate that foreign domestic workers would have to be employed on a full time basis and receive a salary at least equivalent to or higher than a local worker.

A contract would be limited to three years.

One recruitment service agency says it hopes to receive 50 workers every three months, who have gone through specialised training by a local agency in The Philippines, and have around 1,000 on its books at the end of three years.

Another company said it hopes to receive around 10 from The Philippines and Vietnam for a pilot programme, before trying to increase numbers.

Japan has the greyest population in the world and does not want to see its current population level of around 127 million drop below the 100 million mark, which it will do if extraordinary measures are not implemented.

It is estimated that unless this happens over 40 per cent of the population will be over 65 by the year 2060 and it is already experiencing labour shortages, which would trigger an explosion in the welfare budget.

The suggested importation of foreign domestic workers seems to be designed to free up women for employment after they have had a child. However, local home service providers are questioning the need to import domestic workers, saying that such services already exist on a contract basis.

Nevertheless, the government is clearly worried about its population levels, as the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has appointed a special minister to arrest the slide in population growth.

However, Japan is culturally a rather closed country and worries have been expressed about how a foreign domestic worker would survive without a working knowledge of language and customs.

In addition, especially wealthy Japanese can be extremely particular about how their food is prepared and Japanese culinary is a highly specialised art.