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Japan may accept more workers from Thailand

The Japan Times
Sunday, February 13, 2005

Japan may accept more workers from Thailand

The government is considering allowing in more Thai workers by relaxing employment conditions for cooks, masseurs and caregivers under a proposed free-trade agreement, sources said Saturday.

With the proposal, the government hopes to proceed with FTA talks with Thailand at the end of the month, with the aim of reaching an overall basic accord by spring, the sources said.

The move may help secure greater access to the Japanese labor market for foreigners as Japan gears up for FTA talks with other nations, they said.

A basic agreement on a free-trade pact with the Philippines reached in November will allow Filipino nurses and caregivers to live and work in Japan.

Japan currently accepts Thai cooks with at least 10 years of experience. The Justice Ministry is considering shortening this period by bringing it in line with Thai standards to a minimum of around five years, the sources said.

Regarding Thai masseurs, who are currently barred from working in Japan, the ministry is thinking about accepting them on a limited basis by only allowing them to work for relaxation, not treatment, purposes, they said.

The masseurs might be accepted solely for work at Thai-style resort facilities here, they said.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, which oversees qualifications for masseuses, has barred Thai masseurs from providing treatment-oriented massage, which has stalled the FTA talks.

For caregivers, it is considering introducing a system similar to that for Filipino caregivers, the sources said.

Under the agreement with the Philippines, Japan will let a limited number of Filipino caregivers — who meet certain qualifications designated by Manila — to work in Japan for up to four years. They can stay longer if they pass Japanese qualification exams.

The government is now in the process of finalizing its proposal tor the FTA talks with Thailand on the movement of labor, which will center on deregulation of these three types of jobs, for formal submission to Bangkok, according to the sources.

 source: Japan Times