Interviews of Prospective Migrant Workers from Mekong Countries Bound for Japan

As Japan experiences a contraction in the labour force in recent decades, the government is increasingly looking to recruit workers from abroad to fill gaps in the labour market. In 2018, the Japanese government announced its intention to recruit 500,000 migrant workers by 2025, which led to much anticipation about Japan becoming a major new destination for workers in Asia. Following this announcement, Japan’s parliament amended immigration laws to create a new Specified Skilled Worker visa category with the specific aim of attracting migrant workers to fill gaps in the country’s labour market. The new visa scheme came into effect in April 2019, and the Japanese government has since entered into bilateral agreements with governments of several Asian countries to facilitate the recruitment of workers from abroad. Among these selected countries of origin are Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam, whose nationals have already been migrating in greater numbers to work in Japan through a separate migration pathway known as the Technical Internship Training Program.

In anticipation of increased labour migration from Mekong countries, MMN organised a series of multi-stakeholder workshops to build knowledge on Japan’s evolving policies regarding the admittance of migrant workers and discuss strategies and interventions to better support migrant workers throughout the migration cycle. The workshops were organised in MyanmarCambodia and Vietnam, in October 2018, February 2019, July 2019 and July 2019 respectively.

During visits to Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam, MMN took the opportunity to speak with prospective migrant workers who were about to depart for Japan. The interviews were aimed at better understanding migrant workers’ expectations for work in Japan and may not necessarily reflect actual experiences during recruitment processes and working conditions in Japan.