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Strict conditions hamper certification system for foreign skilled workers

A policy initiative designed to encourage highly skilled foreign professionals to come and stay in Japan is not working out as the Justice Ministry had envisioned.

In fact, the point-based system has proved so unpopular that it is being reviewed only a year after it was introduced.

The program covers the following fields: research, engineering and management. Points are awarded on the basis of a person’s experience and capabilities.

An individual who receives a certain number of points can, for example, bring his or her parents to live in Japan or gain permission for a spouse to work, something that few foreign workers had been able to do until a year ago.

According to the Justice Ministry, less than 1,000 will likely be certified in the initial year, compared with 2,000 that officials had expected.Foreign applicants have complained to immigration offices about the strict conditions, particularly one pertaining to income levels.

Shao Huaiyu, a renewable energy researcher at Kyushu University, applied at the recommendation of school officials soon after the system was introduced last May.

He was certified as highly competent after receiving 100 points out of a maximum 140 in the researcher division based on his doctor’s and patented inventions.

Shao planned to ask his parents to come from China and help raise two daughters, aged 2 and under 1 year old.

But his application was refused because of an additional condition that called for an annual income of 10 million yen ($106,000) or more.

“It is almost impossible for a university researcher in his or her 30s to earn 10 million yen,” Shao said. “By the time I can earn that much, my children will have grown up.”The Justice Ministry plans to review the system. An Immigration Bureau official said the system has not been widely publicized overseas due to limited budgets.

Junichi Goto, a professor of labor economics at Keio University, is opposed to the planned review, saying looser conditions could jeopardize a ban on unskilled laborers.

He has also expressed concern that some foreigners could abuse the system by bringing their parents over simply to get advanced medical treatment under the nation’s universal health insurance system.

A similar point system has been introduced in Canada, New Zealand and other countries eager to accept skilled immigrants.

According to the Canadian Embassy, 90,000 to 110,000 engineers and their families enter the country each year.

Even among industrialized countries, Japan is regarded as exercising very strict control over immigration.The Japanese program is intended to attract only those whose skills are needed in Japan, rather than increasing the number of foreign nationals working in this country by loosening the immigration control law.

SEINOSUKE IWASAKI

March 24, 2013

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201303240055

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