As Japan prepares to open its doors wider to foreign blue-collar workers from April, the Justice Ministry on Friday started soliciting public comment on drafts of ordinances and regulations that will set conditions for employing migrant workers.

One of the proposed ordinances would set qualifying conditions for Japan-based companies seeking to hire foreign nationals. For example, an employer would be obliged to pay wages equal to or higher than those paid to Japanese workers performing the same job.

The employer would also be required to grant leave if a worker wishes to temporarily return home.

Under the draft ordinance, employers would be obliged to shoulder the costs of having workers return home if they are financially unable to bear the costs to do so when their contract expires.

Earlier this month, the Diet enacted a revised immigration law that will create two new visa categories for foreign migrant workers. It is projected to bring in about 345,000 workers over five years.

According to the planned ordinances, a company would not be allowed to employ foreign workers if it is found that they have been made to pay deposits to rogue labor brokers before coming to Japan.

Under the state-backed programs being used to employ foreign workers under the technical intern trainee program, many brokers have reportedly abused trainees through debt bondage systems.

“I’m expecting to hear varied opinions,” Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita told a regular news conference Friday, adding that he hopes the proposed ordinances will be enacted by April.

Under the new rules, employers would also be required to report to immigration authorities how much compensation has been paid and how many workers have absconded from their workplaces.

Over the first five years, Japan will allow migrant workers to enter 14 industrial sectors, including nursing care, janitorial work, the hospitality industry, agriculture and food services. “Given that such organizations will be required to provide turnover data and detailed information on compensation, these amendments will enable (the government) to better grasp (the working conditions of foreign workers),” Yamashita said.

Comments can be submitted until Jan. 26 through the ministry’s website.

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