By Mayen Jaymalin
The Philippine Star
At least 15,000 Filipino entertainers have lost job opportunities in Japan and figures are expected to increase in the coming months as the Philippines continues to bear the brunt of Tokyo’s new hiring policy.
Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) showed a dramatic 38.46 percent drop in the deployment of overseas performing artists (OPAs) for the past seven months of the year due to Japan’s stricter visa requirements in employing foreign performers.
Based on POEA records, only 23,359 Filipino entertainers were hired from January to July or almost 15,000 fewer than the recorded 37,958 OPAs deployed in the Asian country during the same period last year. In July alone, hiring of OPAs declined by 73 percent to 1,664, a big drop from the 6,292 Filipino entertainers deployed during the same period in 2004.
Officials of the local recruitment industry said they are no longer expecting the total deployment in Japan to reach 30,000 this year.
"Most OPAs, who were deployed this year, applied for their visas before the implementation of the new hiring policy so we expect the hiring of OPAs to drop by half this year," said a recruitment official, who requested not to be named. He noted that only 291 OPAs were granted visas by the Japanese embassy since the implementation of the new hiring policy last March. "We used to have an annual deployment of over 63,000 OPAs to Japan," he added.
Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas admitted there has been a steady deployment drop, but noted local recruitment agencies are now preparing to undertake appropriate actions to enable OPAs to comply with the new hiring requirements.
Sto. Tomas also pointed out that the new policy is not singling out Filipinos, saying other foreign entertainers must abide by Tokyo’s new requirements as well. "It’s not that the new policy is biased against us (Filipinos) because it is for all entertainers (wanting to work in Japan)," Sto. Tomas said.
Earlier, local recruiters had warned of a possible drop in the deployment of OPAs as well as dollar remittances from Filipinos in Japan as soon as the Japanese government began restricting the entry of foreign workers.
The Philippine Association of Agencies Deploying Artists said OPAs annually remit some $1 billion to the country but the figure could decline dramatically due to the new hiring rules. The Japanese government is enforcing the new immigration law in an effort to curb the worsening human trafficking and prostitution problem in the country. #