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October 2014, Volume 21, Number 4

Japan, Korea

There were 1,235 Indonesians working in Japanese hospitals and nursing homes in summer 2014, and the quota for new admissions will be raised to 348 for 2015. Japanese host institutions pay foreign health care workers about $1,000 a month while they work and study to pass exams that are given in Japanese. If they pass the exams, the foreign nurses can stay in Japan indefinitely at regular Japanese wages.

More Japanese firms are hiring foreign graduates of Japanese universities. The New York Times reported August 25, 2014 on the dress and interview protocols for graduates when they interview for jobs. Most Japanese firms hire new graduates and train them internally, and the Japanese Ministry of Education and Science reported that almost 95 percent of the graduating students in 2014 found a full-time job by June 2014. Hiring fresh graduates and training them in-house means that young workers must wait for promotions and that mid-career hires are rare in Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in June 2014 announced the creation of six economic zones where business regulations are to be relaxed in an effort to jump start the economy. In Osaka Prefecture, one proposal would allow Japanese households to employ foreign domestic workers so that Japanese women who now stay home could work for wages.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan has urged the government to allow families whose household income exceeds Y7 million a year to employ foreign domestic workers. Migrant rights groups expressed concern that domestic workers would arrive indebted to brokers at home, and that it would be hard to protect their rights while they are employed in private homes in Japan.

Japan's Supreme Court in July 2014 ruled that permanent foreign residents do not qualify for public assistance because they are not Japanese citizens. Many local governments have been providing welfare assistance to foreigners with permanent or long-term residency status, but the Supreme Court ruled that local governments do not have to provide assistance to non-Japanese citizens.

Korea. The Employment Permit System celebrated its 10th anniversary in summer 2014. The EPS replaced the previous trainee system in August 2004, and became the main way for Korean employers to hire low-skilled migrant workers from 15 Asian countries after 2007.

The number of EPS workers was 450,134 in April 2014 up from 3,167 in 2004. As of June 2014, some 38,435 EPS workers were unauthorized, usually because they failed to leave Korea when their work permits expired. Unauthorized EPS workers were 20 percent of the total 185,838 unauthorized workers in Korea.