lifestyle

Japan now has over 40,000 foreign convenience store clerks as it continues to internationalize

12 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Japanese convenience stores thrive by constantly introducing new products, so that there’s something new on the shelves just about every time customers come in. However, recently many shoppers have been noticing another change: a rapidly increasing number of foreign workers.

Not long ago, young foreign residents looking for part-time jobs pretty much had their options limited to tutoring Japanese learners of their native language or working in restaurants serving the cuisine of their home country. Over the last few years, though, there’s been a surge in the number of foreigners working as convenience store clerks, prompting Japanese author Kensuke Serizawa to look into the situation and write a book, titled "Konbini no Gaikokujin," or Convenience Store Foreigners.

According to Serizawa’s research, there are now more than 40,000 foreign convenience store workers employed by the three biggest chains (7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson). Expanding the examination to the 55,000-plus convenience stores nationwide, Serizawa says that roughly one in twenty is non-Japanese.

The majority of these foreign clerks come from other Asian countries, with Serizawa citing China, Korea, Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan as the largest sources. The Japanese government doesn’t give out work visas for convenience store jobs, though, and most of these foreign clerks are also studying in Japan, either at universities, specialized schools, or language institutions.

Student visa holders in Japan are allowed to work up to 28 hours a week, and a common scenario is to attend classes in the morning or afternoon while working night shifts. Late-night convenience store work usually earns the employee a few hundred yen extra compared to Tokyo’s minimum hourly wage of 958 yen, and a Sri Lankan employee at a Family Mart near Serizawa’s home now pulls in 1,300 yen. The author claims that within the 23 central wards of Tokyo, 60-70 percent of convenience store branches employee foreign clerks during their late-night hours.

But while the number of foreign convenience store workers is on the rise, Serizawa is quick to assert that this isn’t a case of foreign labor pushing Japanese job seekers out of the market. Multiple convenience store owners he spoke with said they get few if any Japanese applicants when they post want ads, as convenience store work is seen as a harder job than, for example, working at a karaoke parlor, which pays a comparable wage. And indeed, those late night shifts can make for a difficult lifestyle. An Uzbekistani clerk at Serizawa’s neighborhood branch of Natural Lawson (Lawson’s fancier sister chain, which previously offered breathtakingly beautiful translucent desserts) regularly works through the night, then hops on a morning rush hour train to go to class without sleeping.

With the major convenience stores always looking to expand (Lawson wants to add 4,000 branches in the next three years) and the Japanese government hoping to attract more foreign students (the goal is to increase their number from 270,000 to 300,000 by 2020), it’s likely that foreign convenience store clerks will become increasingly common, and hopefully they’ll all be as valuable of employees as this Nepalese hero.

Related: Konbini no Gaikokujin on Amazon

Source: Gendai via Otakomu

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Foreign worker in Japan fends off armed robber with single word, gets no respect from local media

-- Japanese customer finds run-in with “Indian” convenience store clerk a refreshing experience

-- Foreign shop clerk and Japanese customer fail to communicate because of Japanese language quirk

© SoraNews24

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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Hopefully they are getting the correct pay rates and conditions--something that often does not happen in some overseas countries.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Good for these foreign clerks making an honest living in Japan.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Japan internationalising doesn't strike as the correct term. They are convenience stores employing part timers who happen to be foreigners. (Though at least they allow us to work there) .

0 ( +2 / -2 )

How is this internationalizing? It's employing some foreigners at a convenience store for poor wages and a ridiculous schedule. Do they want a medal?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

How is this internationalizing?

40,000 employees brought in from overseas, interacting in a position where they meet Japanese people every day, day in, day out, mostly regardless of class and location.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

"The Japanese government doesn’t give out work visas for convenience store jobs, though, and most of these foreign clerks are also studying in Japan, either at universities, specialized schools, or language institutions."

This is the most important line. When those visas expire it is back home from whence you came. Don't pass go, don't collect 200 yen, go directly back home. No, this is not internationalization, it is expoliting students in need of money. Look at the wages offered in the store スタッフ and アルベイト posters 800 to 1000 yen per hour depending on when the shift is, over night pays more.

This is low wage, no benefits, and forced over time to stock and clean after the shift unpaid. When it is slow talk to some of these "inernational" workers. It can be eye opening about how Japan Inc thinks of not only their own fellow countrymen but humaity in general - slaves to serve them.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

This is the most important line. When those visas expire it is back home from whence you came. Don't pass go, don't collect 200 yen, go directly back home.

Have you ever talked to any of these convenience store people? I talk to the Chinese girls at my local combini all the time, and they aren't coming here to live/work permanently, they come because the experience they get from working in Japan, in Japanese, makes them much more employable when they go back home.

this is not internationalization, it is expoliting students in need of money.

Only insofar as the employment of anyone is exploiting them. Everyone needs money, so we all work. You really should try talking to some of them.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

When those visas expire it is back home from whence you came. Don't pass go, don't collect 200 yen, go directly back home. No, this is not internationalization, it is expoliting students in need of money.

If they graduate from a Japanese university they can easily stay in Japan if they want to. Up until my retirement last year I was in direct contact with foreign students at one of Japan's top universities and they were having no trouble finding jobs in Japan. If anything their language skills gave them an advantage over Japanese graduates.

Numerous articles in the Nihon Keizai Shinbun have described Japanese companies as very receptive to hiring foreign graduates of Japanese universities.

If anything Japan is much more open than the US or the UK both of which have been very restrictive in recent years.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/16/national/record-number-foreign-students-find-work-graduating-japanese-universities-2015/

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jul/02/get-a-job-or-get-out-the-tough-reality-for-international-students

Part-time jobs of the type students can get are not known for high wages anywhere. There is nothing distinctive about the Japanese case.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Kyushubill, “This is the most important line. When those visas expire it is back home from whence you came.”

Its no surprise, nor outlandlish or unreasonable, that foreign students have student visas and then do not have student visas when they are no longer students. At that point many find a job and get work visas. I’ve also known many who married a Japanese national and got a spouse visa and then got a job or started their own business.

Many of the Japanese university students I’ve known had part time jobs at convenience stores and similar. And some of the foreign students had non- convenience store jobs. There wasn’t much difference between them and the wages were the same. And not much different from the situation for students in my home country either.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

So you moved to Japan to work in a convenience store? If you speak Japanese and your native language, are these people without any other skills or experience and the best they can do is Lawson or 7 Eleven?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

So you moved to Japan to work in a convenience store? If you speak Japanese and your native language, are these people without any other skills or experience and the best they can do is Lawson or 7 Eleven?

No. As the article clearly states, most come here principally to study. And they work part-time at convenient stores to make some money.

It also gives them another opportunity to practice their Japanese in a real-world setting.

The article also says that in the past, part-time jobs for foreign students were quite limited.

Well, this expands their options. Isn't that a good thing? I'd say so, so don't knock it.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

My Irish friend worked for a short time in a convenient store and was discouraged by the hard work and low wage. He took a picture of his wage slip to remind him never to stoop that low again...

It must be quite hard for fast food chains and convenient stores to find new employees in a society with an aging population.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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