Immediately after all Chinese group tours through this summer were canceled at the end of January and February following the coronavirus outbreak, a Chinese man in his 20s who had worked as a full-time employee at a hotel near Kansai International Airport lost his job.
“I was fired right after reservations from Chinese group tours were canceled,” he told an employee at Crobo Co., a staffing agency for foreign workers in the city of Osaka. He is now looking for a job but is avoiding the hotel industry for fears that the same could happen again.
Amid the spread of the new coronavirus, many foreign workers have been laid off and job offers for foreign students have been withdrawn — mainly from the hotel industry and restaurants hit hard from the plunge in the number of tourists, including those from overseas.
At Kushikatsu Daruma, a popular restaurant chain in Osaka that offers skewered meat dishes, about 30 percent of the workers are foreign nationals. At present, all outlets of the restaurant chain are closed and workers have been asked to stay at home. The operator plans to pay 60 percent of their salaries using government subsidies, but many other restaurants aren’t planning to pay for time off, triggering calls to a labor support group for help.
When a foreign worker who entered Japan on a working visa loses a job, they need to find another job within three months or provide evidence that they are seeking a job or their residence status may be revoked. Foreign students can only stay in Japan for job hunting for up to a year after graduation. In both cases, however, they will now be looking for jobs under unstable circumstances.
A 25-year-old Nepalese man in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, was going to start working at a hotel in Ishikawa Prefecture from this spring, only to be told that he no longer has a job. He is currently looking for part-time work while borrowing money from his friends to stay afloat.
“I wanted to work in Japan for a long time. … Even if I go back to my home country, there won’t be a job that uses Japanese. The effort I’ve put in will go down the drain,” he said.
Vocational schools for business and tourism are also hearing similar complaints from their students.
In one case, a Vietnamese student in his 20s, who had already been given a job offer to start working at a hotel, headquartered in Shiga Prefecture, from April, received a message late last month via a dispatch company that the offer was no longer valid.
After he sought help from the vocational school in Osaka Prefecture where he had previously studied, school officials advocated on his behalf with the hotel but to no avail.
“If the coronavirus shock continues on, it will affect students who are planning to hunt for jobs in the future,” said an official at the school.
According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, a record of about 1.66 million foreign workers were in Japan as of the end of October. Foreign students who stay on to work in Japan after graduation are also on the rise, with about 26,000 foreign students in 2018 switching to residence permits that would allow them to work, according to the Immigration Services Agency.
Amid the dire prospects for foreign workers, Crobo, the staffing agency, has made its mediation fee for registered companies free of charge until May 15 to support job hunting by foreign workers.
“I hope the government will allow them to look for jobs by extending the visas,” said Tomohiro Kitauji, 29, president of Corobo. “We should try to retain the precious human resources of foreign workers in Japan.”
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