Japan, Philippines strike historic deal to ease severe skills shortages

Japan and the Philippines have teamed up on a training scheme for Filipino construction workers that will ease severe skills shortages in both countries and "instil Japanese discipline" to help the latter country’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure program.

According to reports in the Philippines the historic deal marks the official opening of Japan’s labour market to Filipino workers.

It comes at a time when Japan is facing chronic delays on construction projects amid the worst skills shortage in 40 years, reports the Financial Times, even as it prepares for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.

In 2015, some 30% of all construction workers were aged 55 or over, while those below 29 accounted for only about 10%, according to official figures quoted in Japanese media.

Under the scheme, Japanese firms will hire 30% of each batch of new trainees, who will earn during an initial internship period of three to four months.

Those workers will then spend the next three years working and learning in Japan, after which they will return to the Philippines for integration into its industry.

The Philippines chose Japan as a training partner partly because of the discipline its firms could instil among Filipino workers, an official said.

"We saw in Japan during a benchmarking forum how teamwork plays an important role in getting a job done. Technology aside, the discipline of workers made the job easier and the timeline to get it done, shorter," said trade undersecretary for construction, Ruth Castelo, reports news site Manilla Standard.

Castelo said that, like Japan, the Philippines was in dire need of workers. The Philippines has approximately 3.8 million construction workers currently but it has been estimated that it will need an extra 2 million workers to meet the ambitious ‘Build, Build, Build’ program and other government projects.

The country’s state-led Construction Manpower Development Foundation will in charge of the training, and will coordinate with Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and private construction firms, for job matching.

Image: Japan faces a severe skills shortage as it prepares for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics (

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