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Japanese firms resist hiring foreign workers under new immigration law: poll

40 Comments
By Tetsushi Kajimoto

Only one in four Japanese companies plan to actively employ foreign workers under a new government immigration scheme, a Reuters poll found, complicating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to ease the country's tightest job market in decades.

And the bulk of the firms that may hire these immigrants do not plan to support them in securing housing, learning Japanese language skills or getting information on living in Japan, the Reuters Corporate Survey showed.

The survey results underscore the challenge for Japan to cope with its dwindling and aging population that has put pressure on the government to relax tight foreign labour controls. Immigration has long been taboo here as many Japanese prize ethnic homogeneity.

The lack of language ability, cultural gap, costs of training, mismatches in skills and the fact that many foreign workers cannot stay permanently in Japan under the new system were among factors behind corporate wariness about hiring foreign workers, the Reuters poll showed.

The law, which took effect in April, creates two new categories of visas for blue-collar workers in 14 sectors such as construction and nursing care, which face a labour crunch. It is meant to attract up to 345,000 blue-collar workers to Japan over five years.

But the survey suggests the government may struggle to get the workers it needs to ease the country's labour shortage where there are now 1.63 jobs available for every job seeker, the most since the beginning of 1974.

"Taking education costs, quality risks and yields into account, costs will go up" by hiring foreign workers, wrote a manager at a rubber-making company, who said the firm has no plans to hire foreign workers.

"We have failed in the past by employing foreign workers who could not blend in with a different culture," a manager of a metal-products maker wrote.

Some 41% of firms are not considering hiring foreigners at all, 34% are not planning to hire many and 26% intend to hire such foreign workers, the survey conducted from May 8-17 showed.

Of those considering hiring foreign workers, a majority said they have no plans to support them in areas such as housing, Japanese language study and information on living in the country, it showed.

The survey, conducted monthly for Reuters by Nikkei Research, polled 477 large- and mid-size firms, with managers responding on condition of anonymity. Around 220 answered the questions on foreign workers.

Under the new law, a category of "specified skilled workers" can stay for up to five years but cannot bring family members. The other category is for more skilled foreigners who can bring relatives and be eligible to stay longer.

While foreign workers are generally viewed as cheap labour in Japan, 77% of firms see no change in wage levels at Japan Inc as a whole, when hiring specified skilled workers. Some 16% expect wages to decline and just 6 percent see wages rising.

Foreign workers "will help ease the labour crunch, bringing down overall wages," a steelmaker manager wrote in the survey.

Abe, whose conservative base fears a rise in crime and a threat to the country's social fabric, has insisted that the new law does not constitute an "immigration policy."

Japan has about 1.28 million foreign workers - more than double the figure a decade ago but still just 2% of the workforce. Some 260,000 of them are trainees from countries such as Vietnam and China who can stay three to five years.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

40 Comments
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Only one in four Japanese companies plan to actively employ foreign workers...

Of course! Who thought it would be otherwise?

There is an inherent fear of anything foreign in Japan. The only way to start eroding it is to have more immigration - but that includes immigration of high skilled workers not just low paid low skilled people who are going to be taken advantage of.

This is obviously a catch-22 situation and as such I don’t see any reason why it will change at all...not even a month of the Olympics will change these deep rooted feelings.

(*disclaimer - not everyone in Japan)

11 ( +12 / -1 )

"Taking education costs, quality risks and yields into account, costs will go up" by hiring foreign workers, wrote a manager at a rubber-making company, who said the firm has no plans to hire foreign workers.

Well,let's ask you this question when all your workers have retired and you are going to have to close because you cant find anyone, due to your stubborn ignorance and unwillingness to adapt!

I know what it's like to be the "token" gaijin in a Japanese company and it is not fun!

10 ( +13 / -3 )

 the bulk of the firms that may hire these immigrants do not plan to support them in securing housing, learning Japanese language skills or getting information on living in Japan, the Reuters Corporate Survey showed.

For the last few decades they already having less supportive attitude toward female who want to have a baby and raise their kids while still on their workforce. Not to mention is not easier for male employee to take paternal leave. Now most of them still want to have Japanese only workforce without giving contribution for society to prepare new workforce?

8 ( +9 / -1 )

No worries, We need to keep the labor market as tight as possible to squeeze higher wages out of employers. It would be immoral anyway to allow these developed world companies to exploit low-wage workers from the developing world.

firms used to pay for workers' education, but are very reluctant these days. We can thank the shift to shareholder capitalism under a more neo-liberal framework. And for that, we can thanks the govt's own "reforms" that promoted the shift.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Really!? What a shock!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

JGov: Please come up with real meaningful reforms within your own country to solve the labour shortage. Like supporting your people properly to have kids while maintaining careers and jobs, like other G20 countries do.

The government, despite the prevailing foreigner phobia in Japan, increasingly seems to look to foreigners (JETs for English, increasing tourist numbers to pull in hard cash, 5 year vIsas for the dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs) to solve its own problems.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Far too many businesses are going to end up learning the hard way!

Down here in lowly Okinawa a new shopping mall (yeah I know ANOTHER one) is scheduled to open next month. It's a joint venture between a local company San Ei (51%) and Parco (49%), and they are have extremely difficulties in hiring all the staff they need for the monstrosity, even though they are offering 1,100 yen to 1,500 yen per hour, for (wait for it) part time jobs.

It is getting so bad that some places down here have 2.0 to 2.3 jobs available for every applicant and they STILL can not find workers!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Please foreign workers, do not come to Japan. Let Japan learn the hard way when the majority of their population turns old and gray, and nobody wants to come here to be treated like a second class citizen. Better start building more Peppers and Asimos.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

"We have failed in the past by employing foreign workers who could not blend in with a different culture," a manager of a metal-products maker wrote.

Translation: The foreign workers refused to work a ridiculous amount of unnecessary and unpaid overtime.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

See what happens when they can't find any locals to hire.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Yubaru

I know what it's like to be the "token" gaijin in a Japanese company and it is not fun!

I was for 25 years and I regret it so much. A foreigner is always a foreigner no matter whether you can read, write and speak japanese impeccably.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Worker productivity is the key, but the Japanese only seem to concentrate on productivity in their factories. Been to a Japanese bank? I visited a large bank yesterday that had an open office configuration behind the counter; while waiting I counted all the employees and it was over 40 and this was a branch bank, not the HQ. Its the same at most Japanese companies; office productivity is non-existent -- managers equate power to the number of employees they control, so they always want more staff.

Anyone who has a basic understanding of population demographics will know this current situation will improve in 20 to 30 years when the population stabilizes with births and deaths cancelling each other out. Bringing in foreign workers (mostly from S.E. Asia) to solve a short-term labor shortage problem will bring nothing but trouble to Japan in the long run. Different culture, work ethic, views on women, resentment of their Japanese employers for any slight, real or perceived will serve to increase Japanese xenophobia that already exists.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The results of this survey isn’t shocking. Japan has never been a country that makes immediate changes. Also, they would most likely prefer to increase the workload of the current staff than have to risk bringing in foreign staff. Japanese people tend to be fearful of breaking from the norm.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Everyone’s wages are just stagnate even for full time workers. 3000 yen a month yearly increase doesn’t really help. Only way to get a decent raise is to change jobs.

So many jobs are open because of all the gaps in time as people quit one place and get hired at another.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Big surprise! Not. What do you think? That they are going to change overnight? Come back in the year 2100 and I bet it won't be much different. but they will hide that well in 2020 so the world can love, respect and adore Japan the way they know they should.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

To tell the truth, we just don't care about the labor shortages. When a machine overheat,then is time to let it cool down and slowly restart it. Currently Japan is just too overworked to keep up with the economy. Whether is the cities, the waste recycling, overfishing,natural resources etc. Everything is getting consume more and more each year. A few decades ago we started with less a 100million people. Even if we lose now half the population we still have millions of youth to continue Japan ways. Now the world is switching to automation workforce. What we need is quality and not quantity anymore.

No need to destroy the nation by trying so hard to keep up with other nations in being the best in the economy. Bringing more people in that doesn't understand how our culture works is just gonna bring more chaos. Is just gonna consume the country in a even higher rate. Is true that our economy will slow down the more years pass by, but so what? Life still goes on. Less workforce also means less competition in the country, more automation, less consumption and less traffic. We can barely keep up with the tourists alone and the cities are so overcrowded. Most of us just don't see much good things in increasing our population with outsiders anymore.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Japanese firms resist hiring foreign workers under new immigration law

Makes sense. Should the firms pay for accommodation and stuff or invest in automation that will replace all those jobs for good ?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

One of my friends who is a bento maker here on Shikoku Island said to me the other day: "If there were no foreign workers, there'd be no bentos."

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Immigration has long been taboo here as many Japanese prize ethnic homogeneity.

Let me translate into English, it means Japanese are xenophobic.

"If there were no foreign workers, there'd be no bentos."

More like if there were no foreign workers, there'd be no 300 yen bentos.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I’ve said it many times before, Japan is its own worst enemy. They are too naive and stubborn to bend in the slightest to save themselves. Their excuses of productivity and costs of training are he same for any intern. Instead, they’ll work the staff they have to death Nobody can help Japan if they refuse to help themselves.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Very disappointing, I would have thought companies would have at least made more of an effort. After all, these are people coming to not only further themselves in life but also contribute to the Japanese economy.

Japan, it’s 2019..!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

This contradicts everything stated by PM Abe and the government.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"More like if there were no foreign workers, there'd be no 300 yen bentos."

More like if there were no foreign workers, Japan would have peace and quiet and Japan would not have to put up with sanctimonious foreigners.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

Only one in four Japanese companies plan to actively employ foreign workers under a new government immigration scheme...

"Only"? One in four is a huge number. I am pleasantly surprised.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Japan is its own worst enemy. They are too naive and stubborn to bend in the slightest to save themselves"

But, For the 28th straight year, Japan's net assets overseas are larger than any other nation.

In other words, Japan has boat loads of money and when you have boat loads of money you don't need foreign workers.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

"We have failed in the past by employing foreign workers who could not blend in with a different culture," a manager of a metal-products maker wrote.”

Plain old racism dresses up as “cultural” differences.

In most cases whoever comes under this scheme will be treated as second class citizens at best. Unfortunately, Japan is not yet ready to treat foreigners as equals. Unless and until that “culture” (of intolerance) is fixed, this kind of program is destined to fail.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The first priority of Japanese companies is to hire Japanese, not foreigners. It’s a relief to know that only one out of every four Japanese companies is willing to employ guest workers.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

It makes sense. Why hire, train and try to integrate a foreign worker who eventually has to leave?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I don't expect the company I work for to organize my living, language training, etc.

Why?

Because I do not want to live in a nanny state.

And just because some people wash up on your shores

Does make a local responsible

for ensuring their success.

Very Few People Have Helped Me.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

This first generation will struggle as all immigrants do around the world. It’ll be interesting as the children of these immigrants / mixed race children begin to fit in. Japan will internationalize one way or another. No question. Japan as we know it today is living its last days, no question. Japan will begin to look like other normal international countries.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

i love japan but given its current state of complete backwardness, i can't help but laugh and munch popcorn as the entire nation implodes

japan of the 60's - progressive, rapid modernization and adoption and improving of technology

japan of the 80's - the bubble. massive culture export everywhere

japan of now - no permanent foreigners, no children, no money, no allies

i do wonder how long it will take for the implosion to complete and the new generation to restart the country properly? i suppose i'll be a senior citizen before it starts to happen.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I’m not quite convinced Japan is as backwards and needy as some of you think. And if you think about it, most nations are their own worst enemy, as that’s a very human trait.

I am my own worst enemy as well. But assuming that others are stupid because you don’t agree, or thinking your way is superior and not being able to fathom any other way is equally nonsensical.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Only one in four Japanese companies plan to actively employ foreign workers 

25 % ? That would be a huge progress and an even bigger change of habits. That's starting form what now ? 5% ? A country cannot change overnight. They don't mean "foreigners" (that could already be residents in Japan, fluent in the language and culture, all such people are already employed) but migrants fresh out of the plane that can only do certain types of jobs in a first time.

See what happens when they can't find any locals to hire.

They do like my company : now they hire Vietnamese people... They've relocated one of the plants in Vietnam. That's the choice of Japan now, opening to permanent immigration or letting all their industry go abroad.

The lack of language ability, cultural gap, costs of training, mismatches in skills and the fact that many foreign workers cannot stay permanently 

As long as migrants cannot stay longterm, the training in language and skills is a waste of investment for both the company and the worker.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If they don’t need foreign workers then they are not obligated to higher any under the new visa system! The Government has allowed the new visa system but can’t force individual businesses to employ workers from abroad using the system!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This program is a slavery scam to get cheap labor.

Limited visa time

No family grouping

No commitment for permanent residence

No protection about xenophobia

But these guys must adapt! What a joke!

I work in a Japanese company currently outside of Japan. The Japanese just stay among themselves unable to socialise with the rest of the company, keep talking Japanese (basically not able to manage English) but still very much arrogant that Japan is the best. But the others must adapt.........

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If only the govt would allow a valid PR holder(because there are those who have PR but are product of fake marriages or are originally holder of fake marriage and is presently legally married or Jdescendants wanna be) to bring in a relative and that relative be allowed to legally work. That could solve the accommodation and language barrier. Why for all countries many are choosing Japan? Aside from its beauty, peace and proximity to one's native country, it is the work opportunities that entice us to be here. Despite of all the bashings, Japan is still one if not the best choice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hilarious.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hold on: wasn't the government saying that businesses were crying out for these workers? Surely weaselly little Abe wouldn't tell lies, would he?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Resisting to hire foreign workers???.export to Asian countries from Japan should be stopped.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan. Please instead of hiring low skill foreign workers who obviously will not be able to adapt here and will be taken advantage of start supporting your ACTUAL Japanese citizens so they can live more happily and can have more kids to get the population figures rising again. In my home country,Greece, we have exactly the same population problem and we turned to immigrants to solve it. The results? A society where the actual Greek citizens become an endangered species in their home country and immigrants from various countries eat up the state's money,because not all of them work. Now I want you all to honestly tell me this: is this the Japan you want?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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