Temporary Labour Migration and Care Work: The Japanese Experience

05 January 2017

Around the world, advanced industrial societies are facing a demographic time bomb that has enormous implications for the workforce in general, but for workforce planning and industrial relations in the health sector and related industries in particular. Japan, which has traditionally resisted structured forms of labour migration, has responded by establishing labour migration schemes for nurses and other care workers from selected South and Southeast Asian countries. This article examines the responses of different industrial relations actors to the first of these schemes. It begins by describing the opening up of hospitals and residential care facilities to temporary labour migrants from the Philippines and Indonesia, before turning to a discussion of the roles played by trade unions and employers and an evaluation of the outcomes of the programme to date. The article demonstrates the potential pitfalls of trade-driven labour migration schemes and their implications for the sector and the migrant workers concerned.