On March 19, 2019, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs, Health, Labor and Welfare and the National Police Agency of the Japanese government.
According to Gillian Cortez, writer for BusinessWorld, “The agreement reserves for Filipinos about 30% of the 350,000 jobs available under Japan’s new immigration law, which will admit workers with in-demand skills in 14 industries.” The new law took effect on April 1, the start of Japan’s new fiscal year.
Under this new agreement, Filipinos will be employed in Japan as either Specified Skill Worker I or Specified Skill Worker II.
Erma Edera of Manila Bulletin says, “The Specified Skilled Worker I are workers with first level of expertise and allowed to work in Japan for a maximum of five years while the Specified Skilled Worker II refers to workers with a higher level of specialization and allowed to work in Japan indefinitely based on the renewal of their employment contract.”
The jobs that fall under the specified skills criteria include jobs in health care, building maintenance, food services, industrial machinery, electronics, food manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality, construction, shipbuilding, fisheries and aquaculture, parts and tooling and aviation.
In response to the new MOC, Bello said, “This is why we are very thankful to the government of Japan. Aside from giving preferential priority to Filipino workers for the requirements of their industries, our workers are assured of better benefits.”
In June 2018, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged Japan’s labor shortage at the 9th meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy held concurrently with the 18th meeting of Council on Investments for the Future. The Prime Minister said:
“The Japanese economy is facing an urgent need to increase our potential growth rate by increasing productivity and securing human resources both in terms of quality and quantity as labor shortages become prominent.”
Koji Haneda, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines also noted the country’s labor issues, “Japan faces an aging society and lacks labor force, while the Philippines is abundant with young labor force with great potential.”