It has been a year since Pakistan and Japan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Pakistani blue-collar workers to find gainful employment in Japan. The vision behind the MoU was predicated on sending hundreds of thousands of labourers from Pakistan to earn their livelihood in the far-eastern country. However, not even a single member of the workforce has so far taken advantage of this facility over the course of the past twelve months.

The blame for this must be shared between the government and members of the blue-collar workforce alike. The state has the responsibility to follow through on MoUs; to provide information to citizens, provide language trainings if necessary and facilitate the process of the relocation of labour. The labour force must also play its part, to attempt to bring their requisite skills to the level required in the new job market and to try and relocate to new pastures abroad.

Currently we are squandering a golden opportunity. Pakistan is not the only country through which Japan will seek to find both temporary and permanent solutions to their problem of an ageing homegrown workforce. The far-eastern country is planning on importing 500000 workers from all over the world by 2025 – and Pakistan can contribute as much as 350000 to this number under the agreement – and further expand this programme onto 2030 as well. The benefits this will have through remittances and other avenues cannot be ignored.

There are still four years left till this phase of the Japanese recruitment process ends. Pakistan must look to take full advantage of our MoU and send as many labourers as possible.