Laid-off Thais work in Japan
Tokyo is to allow thousands of Thai workers employed by flood-hit Japanese firms to come to Japan and work, a government spokesman said Friday.
Dozens of Japanese companies in Thailand have halted production as rising flood waters have crippled factories or squeezed supply chains following months of heavy rain.
The effect on production, which has affected giants such as Toyota and Honda, is worrying Japanese policy makers, already fretting over an economy stumbling to recover from March's earthquake and tsunami and a punishingly high yen.
"Japan will accept Thai workers employed by Japanese firms who have stopped operation due to the flood to work in Japan on certain conditions such as that the companies will ensure they return home," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said.
The Thai workers will be permitted to stay in Japan for six months as "an emergency and temporary measure" that likely involves about 30 companies and several thousand Thai workers, Fujimura told a news conference.
The decision came after requests from Japanese firms who are looking to make up lost production in Thailand by boosting output at home, Fujimura said.
"The damage from the flood, through its impact on supply chains, is creating a serious impact on not only the Japanese economy but also the economic activity of all ASEAN members," Fujimura said, referring to the 10-member Southeast Asian trading bloc.
The three-month flood crisis -- partly caused by unusually heavy monsoon rains -- has left at least 377 people dead and damaged millions of homes and livelihoods, mostly in northern and central Thailand.
Areas in northern Bangkok have seen waist-deep flooding, leading to the shutdown of the city's second airport, Don Muang.
Thousands of residents have left the capital after the government asked employers to give their staff a special five-day holiday.
Thailand is a hub for Japanese manufacturers using relatively cheap labor to assemble products aimed at markets such as China and India.
Japan's trade and industry ministry said Tuesday it would expand loan guarantees and trade insurance programs to help Japanese firms deal with the impact of production problems.