To ease the tight supply, the government has partially lifted the ban on employing foreign housekeepers, but hurdles remain -- namely, how receptive Japanese households will be to the idea of non-Japanese domestic help.
In late April, eight Filipino women attended a ceremony to mark the completion of their two-week training course at an Osaka facility of housekeeping service provider Duskin. "Thank you for providing this training. We will work hard," one of the trainees said in fluent Japanese.
The women all have experience doing housework for Japanese families in the Philippines, and they also hold certificates in Japanese fluency. Kazuo Okai, Duskin's executive director, said he is confident that these Filipino housekeepers will have no problems communicating with their Japanese customers.
According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan's housekeeping service market was worth some 100 billion yen (US$877 million) in fiscal 2012 and is expected to eventually reach 600 billion yen.
Duskin's sales from housekeeping services came to 10.5 billion yen for fiscal 2015, up more than 4% from the year before. Sales likely rose further in fiscal 2016.
The company has high hopes for expanding this business as its formerly profitable food operations, including the Mister Donut chain of doughnut shops slump.
Despite the strong demand, housekeeping services, like many other sectors in Japan, are suffering from a severe labour crunch. Without enough housekeepers to dispatch, companies are sometimes forced to turn down orders, especially during the busiest season, toward the end of the year.
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