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Will 'strategic special zones' turn into hotbeds of prostitution?

45 Comments

In late August, newly elected Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike attended a meeting of the Council of National Strategic Special Zones, at which she supported visa deregulation to enable foreigners to engage in housekeeping services. Government approval, expected within this year, will make Tokyo the third prefecture in Japan to adopt this system, following Kanagawa and Osaka.

Such services would include cooking, laundry, cleaning, child care and other forms of housework.

"The special zone system to permit entry of foreign domestic workers aims at reducing the burden of housework, enabling more females to join the labor force," a reporter from a nationally circulated newspaper tells Shukan Jitsuwa (Oct 6). "It is being enthusiastically promoted by the Abe government."

In an exception to previous stipulations to the Immigration Control Law, foreign nationals engaging in housekeeping services would have legal resident status, which would enable those in the special zones to be hired directly and work anywhere in the capital.

But journalist Masaki Kubota has some reservations about how this system is likely to turn out.

"Stated simply, the law allows the import of unskilled foreign workers. As we can see already from the admission of care providers, many who perform these jobs are Filipinos. But as Asian countries are becoming more affluent, most of the ones most likely to come to Japan will be those who are desperately poor," he said.

Even if such workers learn the Japanese language, the magazine notes, it's understood they will not possess usable skills.

"After their work is completed, it's unlikely that they'll return home," Kubota warns. "Instead we're likely to see a flood of overstayers, the overwhelming share of which will be female. And the jobs they find are likely to be in the entertainment business or prostitution. If that comes to pass, it'll be just like the previous situation with the 'Japayuki-san.'"

"Japayuki-san" refers to mostly Asian women who came to work in Japan during the economic bubble two decades ago, and fell victim to sex traffickers, many of whom had ties to organized crime. The word derives from "Karayuki-san," Japanese women who were sent abroad to work in brothels from the late 19th century. "Kara," meaning China, is written with the same character as Tang in Tang Dynasty, but Japan's "Karayuki-san" also plied their trade in Southeast Asia, Manchuria, the Russian Far East and even British India.

Kubota continues: "As it can be presumed the Japanese government intends to use and discard the workers, I suppose this will result in the creation of a latter-day version of the Japayuki-san, perhaps under even worse circumstances."

This is going to result in lots of problems, Shukan Jitsuwa opines gravely.

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45 Comments
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Boy talk about a loaded topic; should be interesting to see how folks come out on this obviously xenophobic article

0 ( +11 / -11 )

Kubota is exactly on the money.

Be careful what you wish for, there are always unintended consequences.

On the surface, it seems like a good idea to loosen restrictions. Yet, what happens when you get a flood of 'third world' types who don't have the education, skills, experience, etc., qualified to do no menial type jobs? Their only option will be to find jobs such as those mentioned in the article (sex trade, etc.).

2 ( +11 / -9 )

So they are going to let them come over to perform housekeeping services. Then the article suggests they will be thrown away after their work is completed. Well, how long is the work? Can't they find housekeeping jobs at other homes? Keep them on the job long enough and most likely they will become too mature for the sex trade.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Even poor Filipinos can speak English. Surely that counts as a special skill in Japan where many large companies are incapable of providing English support for their products or services.

17 ( +19 / -2 )

Kubota is a wise man. South Korea and Singapore are having the same problems.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

“After their work is completed, it’s unlikely that they’ll return home,” Kubota warns. 

But there will always be a need for cooks, cleaners, housekeepers etc these aren't seasonal jobs. I dont get Kuboka's 'completed' argument tbh.

If these workers are paid and treated decently i don't think most will dream of becoming a prossie anyway. Japan isn't/wont be the first country to employ a majority of foreign workers in this industry.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

The catch is they'll be able to go anywhere in Japan as the article says. To this day, there are overstayers and permanent residents who were on fake marriage and fake nikkeijin visas. I simply agree with Kubota San that there are downsides to it. But I trust the govt is devising ways to offset that possibility what with the My Number system and some other plans that need not be divulged.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Kubota is being a zenophobic alarmist. They will not become prostitutes because, as we have read here at JT, Japanese men don't have sex anymore.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

I think it will be good if we get more Filipina "entertainers" in Japan.

4 ( +11 / -7 )

Why is it that whenever a Japanese person rightfully expresses concern over matters such as these, they are automatically considered 'xenophobes' and 'racists,' yet when people of other countries express concern over being lax about letting foreigners in, they are then praised for protecting the best interests of their citizens and nation? Double standards anyone?

And not many above are actually addressing Kubota's comments. It is most definitely a legitimate concern when loosening restrictions to allow foreigners with little to no skill, who will be trapped in the country with no options but to do menial jobs and degrading jobs like the sex industry. In fact, Kubota's statements should be praised, because there is concern that these low skilled foreigners will be taken advantage of by Japanese males in the sex industry.

How exactly is that 'xenophobic?'

4 ( +10 / -6 )

Many of the concerns expressed are already taking place. The relaxing of the restrictions will simply amplify the poitive and negative effects of such a decision.

This is what I have personally seen while living here:

1) They will complete their contract, and return because they have other plans or most likely they didn't like it.

2) They will work their contract, and engage in illegal work on the side then return home.

3)They will work their contract and stay illegally after it finishes, then work under the table for lesser pay, and the conditions will almost certainly influence their decision to participate in the sex trade or other illegal work.

4)They will come over for their contract, then immediately begin illegal work because they were taken advantage of by a criminal organization.

*I personally think #2&3 are the most common scenarios.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

They will work their contract and stay illegally after it finishes

It sounds like the thing people are worried about is that staying after their contract finishes will not be illegal.

After all visas are not tied to work right now. When a foreigner on a visa quits a job or gets fired, they aren't required to leave, or at least, not right away. Generally they can stay until their visa expires, though I know they changed the rules slightly a few years back.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Strangerland

Sorry for the confusion. I meant visa, but considering the situation they could be one and the same. The topic is unskilled laborers. Even though visas are not tied to contracts, unskilled laborers will not have the luxury of finding many other companies willing to sponsor them. They could in theory switch jobs, but when their visa expires, there will be few options to stay legally.

Go back home, then reapply. How many will have the money for that? These will mostly likely be poor and under educated workers. I wouldn't be surprised if many are being fronted the money for travel and housing to be paid back at a later date. (initial debt) With their wages, it will be awhile before getting paid back, and there won't be much savings for employee until that taken care of. Most of these jobs will have long or strange hours, so finding the time to upgrade their skills will be almost zero. I don't believe these middlemen (which everyone know will be involved.) will not make it easy for these employees to hop from job to job. They would loose their initial investment. The ALT and eikaiwa companies are synonymous for this type of employment.

There only hope we would be to possibly get a direct hire once they arrive, but they we need to have the skills already or show some adept aptitude.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

unskilled laborers will not have the luxury of finding many other companies willing to sponsor them.

But they have to find someone to sponsor them in the first place. If they can find someone in the first place, why will they not be able to find someone after? When I'm hiring, someone in-country is always preferable to someone overseas, as the person in-country already has a visa.

Look at your average eikaiwa teacher - they change jobs regularly.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Look at your average eikaiwa teacher - they change jobs regularly.

Yeah, but most of them are college educated in a country where they still expect the English speaker to be Blond hair and blue eyed or foreign. Which means most of the locals (Japanese mostly still don't do it). Eikawa and English instructors have other options both here and at home and a better support system. Most are no longer tied to company housing. There are also networks in place to guide them.

For them to emulate the Eikawa industry, the salaries will need to increase for all parties involved which I don't see happening because the majority will be under educated workers that are doing menial jobs. Jobs that could easily be done by Japanese workers especially older workers or students. Which means it will highly likely be akin to the internship programs that we hear about in the news. (dorms, low pay, bad conditions, long hours)

There will be some who are skilled and educated that will use it get a foot in the door. I don't think there is anything wrong with that.

It is all about the Olympics! Yeah, they will need more cooks, staff and maids (Japanese workers can also these jobs), but they will also need more sex workers more willing to be with foreigners and Japanese people visiting the city

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Some of your points about eikaiwa teachers are definitely valid. But the point I was making was that they are essentially unskilled, asspeaking English is not a skill, it's knowledge. The skill is being able to teach, yet most eikaiwa teachers have not been educated as teachers. They may/usually have some other skill, that they gained from their university degree, but this being Japan, unless they can speak Japanese at an advanced level, more often than not their university degree isn't something that makes them employable in Japan other than as an English teacher.

Disclaimer: I'm not dumping on english teachers here - I was one at one time, and I respect anyone who works to make their money, especially in a foreign country. I'm just pointing out the reality of the environment here.

My point being that there is an industry in place in Japan, for unskilled foreign workers (the eikaiwa industry), and that foreigners are able to move around within that industry. And within that, I would imagine (though I'm only speculating) that foreigners being hired in Japan would probably get higher preference than those outside of Japan.

I don't see any reason why this wouldn't be the same for these unskilled laborers coming to work in the 'strategic special zones'.

Of course some will likely overstay visas, but that's the price to pay for this decision. I don't think it will be all of them by any means.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@Strangerland

I also think you make a lot valid points especially about the eikaiwa industry. My point is the level of desperation of some of these workers compared to workers in the eikaiwa industry is not the same. Also, the reasons for coming here are also usually quite different. I have never met or heard of an English overstaying their visa. Is it possible? Sure! Has it happened? Probably!

Despite the bad rap that many English teachers get, there salaries are about on par with many other Japanese workers. We can't say the same for many of the other foreign workers not in professional jobs. Unless they have a support system or assistance from friends, family, or partner, they will be dependent solely on these middlemen companies for sponsorship. I doubt they will make it is easy for them to move on to other companies. This is one of the reasons why most of the larger Eikaiwa chains and some universities only hired outside of Japan. They don't want employees that knew the score. People would get a one year visa and move on to something else. Only the smaller Eikaiwa schools look for people in Japan because they can't offer much assistance. Some offer sponsorship but not all. At least most them make a high enough salary to sponsor themselves. The unskilled workers could also get the visa then leave to find other work, but what will that other work be for an unskilled and under educated workers. The same type of job as before or illegal? I don't know to many of those jobs that actually sponsor because they can hire a Japanese worker. They can also try to sponsor themselves, but the salaries are too low which means engaging in illegal work that you have to prove on your taxes as requirement for self-sponsorship.

I concede that everything that you said is possible because people at some point may have had the same discussion about English teachers in the past. Honestly, I hope that everything works out.

I just find it hard to believe that there won't be wide spread exploitation of these workers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If I remember correctly earlier articles on this subject mentioned a quota of around 200 or so " housekeeper " visas per year. That's not a" flood "... That's a raindrop.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

So is this going to reduce the price for prostitution?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

If these workers are paid and treated decently

They won't. If the house helpers were paid even half decently, many Japanese people would take the jobs. They created the new scheme to get more cheaper under-workers.

eikaiwa teachers have not been educated as teachers. ..., unless they can speak Japanese at an advanced level, more often than not their university degree isn't something that makes them employable in Japan other than as an English teacher.

Even if they have skills (either higher skills in education than most senseis, or other skills) are bilingual, they are still not legally employable due to visa restriction.

They can also try to sponsor themselves

That's temporary arrangement and that does not lift the activity restriction. Japan doesn't want foreigners to stay in conditions equivalent to those of citizens.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Even if they have skills (either higher skills in education than most senseis, or other skills) are bilingual, they are still not legally employable due to visa restriction.

Well, kind of. Visa statuses can be changed. So they are employable, they just can't work on the same visa status.

That's temporary arrangement and that does not lift the activity restriction. Japan doesn't want foreigners to stay in conditions equivalent to those of citizens.

That's a pretty ridiculous statement when you consider that they have spousal visas (which are pretty much restriction free) and permanent residence (which is restriction free).

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The first thing they'll start doing is look for a man to marry. That's what I'd do. Learn the lingo, etc. It's expensive to hire and train. Can't let them go so easily. Other companies, like combinis, etc. will want them.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Visa statuses can be changed.

If you are not in the narrow criteria of specialties (degrees, yers of experience that must be outside Japan), you can still be very qualified to work in Japan and actually work, but you'll never get a work visas in your specialty.

permanent residence (which is restriction free).

It's only granted if you obtained the other visa and employment before. I was never eligible in 18 years. I could only get more eikaiwa visas, over and over, and keep 2 students in a sponsoring school to show I was legit.

they have spousal visas (which are pretty much restriction free)

They are very restricted. You must be married to a Nihonjin of the opposite sex. So, get a fake marriage for the visa. And your real partner has to marry someone Japanese too.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If you are not in the narrow criteria of specialties (degrees, yers of experience that must be outside Japan), you can still be very qualified to work in Japan and actually work, but you'll never get a work visas in your specialty.

Not in my experience. I've known a few people who changed, as they had employment. Once you're in the country, they will switch your visa to the necessary one if you get a job - with the exception of switching from working holiday visas, in which case they are pretty strict.

It's only granted if you obtained the other visa and employment before. I was never eligible in 18 years.

Single people are eligible after 10 years, married people after 5.

They are very restricted.

Nope, you can pretty much work in anything.

You must be married to a Nihonjin of the opposite sex.

Of course you need to be married to a Japanese person for a Japanese spousal visa. Unfortunately, you're correct that they also have to be of the opposite sex.

your real partner has to marry someone Japanese too.

But I can't agree with fake marriages for a visa.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Nope, you can pretty much work in anything.

Yes, usually. I don't deny that. It's the way. My point is it's the only real door to permanent career in Japan. How many long time foreigners have used spouse ? In my acquaintances, 98% .

I've known a few people who changed,

Those that meet the criteria. I've met them too. But keep in mind you're more likely to meet the few that succeeded than the many that couldn't and left the country.

they will switch your visa to the necessary one if you get a job

No. I can tell you because I did try. I've met more cases being in foreign resident associations, and a good friend was doing application files as a full time job. The immig' don't care that you have a thousand job contracts proposed to you. They will give the agreement only if a work visa exists for your profession and you fill the said work visa criteria. If they have baker in the list, you can get the visa if you have obtained the baker degree and experiene abroad (not if you got training to become baker while you were in Japan), but if butcher is not on the list, you'll never get a butcher visa. Also while the "Specialist in humanities" visa in theory allowed me to work in any J-company, in practice, not at all. I had to submit them employment deals and they refused as the companies were not international groups, not doing enough export, etc .Foreign companies have a quota of expats, and then they cannot hire more foreigners on visas (they are allowed to hire eijusha permanent residents). So I signed consulting deals. I probably had it better than I would have as an employee (I can compare as back in my country I'm an employee in a kaisha). But we're discussing the reality of visas.

with the exception of switching from working holiday visas,

They ask them to go back home and apply via the consulate there, but criteria are the same.

Single people are eligible after 10 years,

That's only one of the many conditions. The next ones are to make enough money, to know the language, pay taxes (I did). Then to show steady employment (which my status rendered impossible, even if I had consulting deals that continued over 10 yrs). Some eikaiwa teachers did obtain the permanent residency but they had been full-time employed for the decade by one or two big school or uni and first that's not so common to last 10 yrs in that industry, then if you've done teaching during a decade, do you still have another job specialty ? I don't think it's doable at all for someone that come as a maid. 10 yrs and steady employment as a maid ? And then, how can they meet the income criteria ? That's how they reject unqualified Asian people. A Chinese friend married during 25 yrs to a Japanese man (real love story), they lived 22 yrs in Japan and she was refused permanent residency on income criteria, her husband had a steady but low paid blue collar job and she did baitos over 40 hours a week (she applied 4 times, no way, and the week he died, she received a letter saying she had 3 months to leave Japan).

Other companies, like combinis, etc. will want them.

Except that they won't be able to be employed legally in a combini with their visas.

But I can't agree with fake marriages for a visa.

I don't do it personnally. I can't blame those that do because it's their last optiion. I'd say 80% of my Asian friends did that at some point and at different degrees (some marriage were arranged but real, some were friendly agreements, some a pure business deal or scams ). They felt they had to. And not just for bar hostesses arrived on entertainement visas. I've known many Chinese students, bilingual people that did post-grad degrees in Japan, they had jobs on student visas and employers wanted to keep them permanently, but they had no way to get work visa...while their family was in debt to finance their studies in Japan. Just while you hear Abe and co say they welcome qualified workers... Same hypocrisy for the Filipino nurses and the impossible exam. Japan is faker than any fake marriage will be.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Well, if you put it this way, I think it's a "well-planned" loophole.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Kubota San is so desperately ill informed and so overly opinionated as to be excruciatingly out of touch with normal reality. I wonder if he is an adult as I cannot imagine an adult could be able to sprout such pure tripe! Has he, I wonder ever met a foreigner in his life of insularity? Maybe he should do a piece on the real villains in Japan? Maybe he should investigate on how unappealing it is to work and/or to find decent work in Japan?

Anyhow, his fears won't come true as Phillipinas will choose first world countries like Australia, Canada, the US etc where rights are protected and there is no need to worry about the intricacies of Japanese.

Oh, and if he is worried about prostitution then he might go and interview the hordes of Chinese prostitutes working in the clubs and street corners all over Japan!!!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This is a myopic policy and does little to stem the falling population in Japan. Get the least skilled - i.e. least economically and politically powerful type of immigrant in the country - so they pose the least threat to the establishment. Most people except for the up 1/3 demographic can afford domestic helpers, so this new immigration program will not help the majority of hard working citizens. Again again again again again if you want to helping women reenter the workforce after having a child do something about the staggering waiting lists at daycare centers. Also make daycare much more affordable. This type of potential exploitive labor program will neither improve access to daycare or housekeeping help or it's overall affordability. The only way forward for Japan is skilled labor immigrants with meaningful long term roles in companies in leadership positions and boosting the IT sector. I do not want to see skilled IT people from other countries continually railroaded into telemarketing jobs selling products and services from Japanese companies overseas.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The fact is it is highly paid White American expats who demanded special visa treatment for their "servants" from South East Asia.

In other parts of Asia, those expats can hire local servants at very cheap price to do all the housework for them. But not so in Japan. So, they demanded Japanese government to allow them to "import their servants" from South East Asia.

Once you know the this background, it is easy to understand why America-faithful Abe administration is "enthusiastically promoting" it.

For reference: http://www.japanvisa.com/news/sponsoring-japan-visa-maid-nanny-housekeeper-or-other-personal-help

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The special zone system to permit entry of foreign domestic workers aims at reducing the burden of housework, enabling more females to join the labor force

First, the sexist government's assumption here is that women do all the housework: not true.

Second, doing the housework is not a full time job. I can thoroughly clean our flat in less than two hours. All the single people in the country manage to work and do housework with no problems.

Third, the government is assuming that highly qualified women are choosing to spend their days cleaning the bathroom instead of working in a high-paying job, which is incorrect. If the women are unskilled there isn't much point in bringing in another unskilled person to do their housework whilst they become e.g. a cleaner somewhere else.

Fourth, if the visa quota is just 200 per year it will make no significant difference to anything.

Fifth, what is the meaning of "special zone" if the immigrants are free to work anywhere? Do they have to be hired by someone living in the "special zone"? If so, how can they "reduce the burden of housework" for the people hiring them if they work somewhere else? Like so many Japanese "rules" it just doesn't make any sense at all.

I don't think it is housework that stops women from working. It is the absence of child care (an Abe failure), the daft tax system (unreformed by Abe) and the lack of jobs paying a wage worth getting out of bed for (Abenomics again).

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The trouble is that Japan's government and a large number of Japanese just do not want foreigners in Japan except to do the out of sight 3k jobs that many are doing at present! Where is the ideal that Jpanese covet for themselves;namely a chance to make a better life, have security and betterment through education?

We never here that espousal, do we?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The trouble is that Japan's government and a large number of Japanese just do not want foreigners in Japan except to do the out of sight 3k jobs that many are doing at present!

People always say stuff like this, but I just don't see it. Japan is a pretty easy country to get a visa in if you are educated. And if you want to start your own business, there are literally no barriers to it being a foreigner that don't exist for Japanese - beyond a visa, which again is fair.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Malaysia is part of Asia, and the largest Muslim country in the world. Will Japan become like Germany and France?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Add this to the plight of many of Japan's "foreign trainees" and we see a growing underclass of workers who live and work in the "shadows of the rising sun," as I like to put it. Japan, please regulate this space more carefully and take anticipate problems like this. Do not let abuse of these immigrant communities fester, continually swept under the carpet, until you are forced to bow your heads and give a token apology.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@oldman_13 "Be careful what you wish for, there are always unintended consequences."

This should be engraved on every liberal progressive's tombstone.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

i thought there's plenty of domestic prostitution, but more is always very welcome

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How do you get from house work to prostitution? They think that all off them won't educate themselves and will not be speaking Japanese, and then get another job? You can also turn it around that employers will take advantage of this to turn them into modern slaves.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is such BS from the government side. Encourage housewives to go to work.... Are they really THIS tone deaf, or what is the real purpose for these visa changes?

The REAL reason housewives do not work is the double income limit, where they can only earn about 100,000 and change per month, if the husband is working as well. Which, obviously, is not worth the effort. Hiring a Filipino housekeeper is the opposite of solving the problem...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I thought prostitution by definition tmade use of "strategic special zones"...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I wish they'd allow skilled workers without uni degrees to get work visas :(

2 ( +2 / -0 )

JackKasketSEP. 26, 2016 - 03:24PM JST

The REAL reason housewives do not work is the double income limit, where they can only earn about 100,000 and change per month, if the husband is working as well.

The "income limit" is only relevant, if one does not want to pay 1 yen of tax and social security fees. "Income limit" is not the real reason.

This is such BS from the government side. Encourage housewives to go to work.

I agree with you that it is BS. It is ridiculous for housewives to work to earn money to pay for the housemaids. The real reason that the government push this policy is elsewhere.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I wouldn't exactly say prostitutes are unskilled workers, there are some highly skilled ones out there.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

To answer the question, No.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They do not have prostitution here and it is illegal anyway. They only have girls that wash you. Except if u are a foreigner of course. Now the biggest porn industry in the world, thats something Japan does have. I doubt many of the women will want to stay as the culture is so different and they will realise that they will never be accepted into society here. Phillipino people are very warm and friendly and the families are very closely knit. The opposite to here. They will earn as much as they can in their allocated position and then go home I would think.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They do not have prostitution here and it is illegal anyway. They only have girls that wash you.

There is most definitely prostitution here, and they do a lot more than washing. Full-on sex can be had at any soapland.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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