People walk past a barber store in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Reuters/Thomas Peter
Last year marked the first time Japan became the most popular destination for Vietnamese migrant workers with over 68,700 people finding jobs there, beating Taiwan with nearly 60,400 people and the Republic of Korea (RoK) with over 6,500, according to statistics released by the Department of Overseas Labor.
The department's deputy director, Nguyen Gia Liem, said the Japanese market's rise in popularity was due to the implementation of a new law that allows migrant workers to stay for five years instead of three.
Furthermore, Vietnam was the first country to sign with Japan a memorandum of cooperation on the latter's technical intern training program, which came into effect last June.
In 2018, a total of 13 Vietnamese businesses were also licensed to directly bring Vietnamese citizens to Japan to work as caregivers. The long language and skill training required, however, limited the number of Vietnamese citizens taking this route last year.
However, Liem asserted: "These establishments would help increase even further the number of Vietnamese laborers going to Japan."
Deputy Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, Doan Mau Diep, has said the ministry will reduce the number of labor export firms. The move follows last October's request by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Vietnam shut down bad labor export agencies and reduce costs for people wanting to work abroad.
"The country currently has 2,000 companies taking workers overseas, which is too many, causing companies to compete with each other for contracts, and they collect high fees," Diep said.
The ministry would also review current regulations on overseas students to prevent this system from being abused as many Vietnamese citizens wanting to work in Japan have been using student visas in recent years to reduce cost and time spent on language and skills training.
Last year, Japanese authorities already reviewed and suspended multiple companies for taking Vietnamese workers to Japan under the guise of international students.
Diep also warned that citizens wanting to work overseas need to use legal labor export firms and not use tourist visas, as happened in the recent infamous case in Taiwan.
"If going on a worker's visa the fees can be expensive, such as about VND80 million [$3,400] for Taiwan. The travel route meanwhile only costs flight tickets and visa fees so many still choose to travel then escape to work, but they will face many risks," he said.
A Vietnamese migrant worker can make $1,000 to $1,200 a month in Japan and RoK, four times the average monthly salary in Vietnam, which was VND6.5 million ($290) last year.
A total of over 142,800 Vietnamese laborers went to work overseas in 2018, a six percent increase compared to the previous year.
With this number, which includes about 50,300 female workers, 2018 became the fifth consecutive year in which the number of Vietnamese working overseas exceeded 100,000 people.