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Filipino and Japanese workers to lose out in JPEPA

Both Filipino and Japanese workers will lose out under the proposed Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) according to a report by Mr. Takemasa Ando, a researcher from Waseda University in Tokyo.

Mr. Ando’s report outlines the rationale of Japan’s pursuit of Economic Partnership Agreements or EPAs in the region, and discusses problems for both the Japanese and Filipino workers under the the proposed bilateral agreement. The report gives particular emphasis on the issue of Filipino caregivers and nurses and what he calls the new form of deprivation resulting from the export of labor to Japan.

JPEPA is part of the plan of the Japanese government under Prime Minister Koizumi to establish stronger economic presence in the East Asia/Southeast Asian region particularly in ASEAN. According to Ando “Japanese government strongly believes that Japan has developed under GATT system by liberalizing its market, promoting export and winning out competition with other countries, so it helps businesses to build the region as an open market for Japanese goods.”

The Philippine government has been touting increased access to the Japanese labor market for Filipino caregivers and nurses as one of the gains under the JPEPA. According to Ando however, “ the liberalization of the labor market would mainly benefit Japanese corporations who are looking for cheap labor”.

Furthermore, Filipino nurses and caregivers will be employed as “dispatched workers”-a term used to describe a system of labor contracting, where employment agencies and not the actual employers hire and fire workers. Under the dispatched workers system, Ando fears that “Philippine nurses and caregivers will be integrated into the bottom of the Japanese labor market even though they acquire professional skills.”

Ando adds that “dispatched workers work under unstable working conditions. They do not have the chance to develop their skills, because workers are hired under short contracts, and dispatched workers are not provided enough social security.”

Both the Philippine and Japanese governments have been wanting to conclude the agreement since September last year despite strong opposition from trade unions and social movemements in both countries. In the Philippines, a case was recently filed by some members of the House of Representatives against the Department of Trade and Industry for failing to disclose the contents of the proposed agreement to Congress.