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Jakarta Post

Businesses look to smooth way for jump in foreign workers to Japan


    Japan News/Asia News Network

Tokyo   /   Sun, January 20, 2019   /   09:41 am
Businesses look to smooth way for jump in foreign workers to Japan Over view shows a plenary session of the upper house at parliament in Tokyo on Dec. 7. Japan's ruling parties aim to pass through parliament on a bill to bring more blue-collar foreign workers into the country. (AFP/Kazuhiro Nogi)

With Japan set to begin accepting more foreign workers from April, more companies are extending support to foreigners in areas such as visa acquisition, administrative procedures and securing accommodations, aiming to make it easier for them to settle in the country.

Prestate, a Tokyo-based start-up focused on real estate development, has since last year been promoting a plan to renovate vacant private houses and other buildings into company housing for foreign workers. It aims to transform 100 such buildings across the country into company housing for foreigners within the year.

On Wednesday, a 25-year-old Nepalese man moved into company housing arranged by Prestate in Hadano, Kanagawa Prefecture. Monthly rent including heating and electricity is ¥30,000 (about $275). That includes an air-conditioned private room and kitchen, as well as access to a common area with a refrigerator and microwave.

“The apartment I lived in before was not air-conditioned. I’ll be comfortable living in this company housing because the walls and bed are clean,” he said.

In many cases, when renting an apartment or condominium, it is difficult to contract with a landlord if a guarantor cannot be secured. As a result, especially for foreigners with no relatives in Japan, finding accommodations can be a challenge.

However, through a rental contract between a company housing operator and the company employing foreign workers, it becomes possible for all the workers to move into the housing at once, solving the difficult hurdle of finding accommodations in Japan.

A Prestate executive director said, “Our business helps solve the problem of vacant houses that are a serious concern in rural areas.”

According to a survey by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the number of households of foreign nationals is rapidly increasing, reaching 1.39 million as of January 2018 — an 11 percent increase from a year earlier.

With the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law taking effect in April, about 340,000 more foreign nationals are expected to arrive over the next five years.

However, for foreign nationals to settle in Japan, it is essential to streamline administrative procedures and the process for securing accommodations.

Akio Mimura, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry — an organization that claims there is a labor shortage at small and midsize companies — said, “It’s necessary to create an environment in which foreign workers can live comfortably in Japan.”

Under the circumstances, companies have been working hard to create businesses that support foreign workers.

In autumn 2018, major travel agency JTB Corp. began a service in which staff with experience mainly as tour conductors accompany foreign employees to their new housing, help them register for residence certificates and introduce them to nearby medical institutions. The company said it has received many inquiries about the service as a result of the revision to the law.

Meanwhile, start-up one visa Inc. plans to launch a service to support foreign workers in cooperation with Seven Bank and other entities. The service will enable foreign workers to open a bank account in three to four days at the shortest.

Albert Okamura, the president of one visa, said, “There are many foreigners in Japan who have difficulty completing the necessary procedures, so the demand for such services will increase.”