Foreign workers, both educated and unskilled, are expected to help revive Japan’s aging economy.
Watcharainthorn Khamkherd, a 23-year-old Thai man, came to the hot spring town of Beppu on the southern island of Kyushu, Japan to start a business. Fluent in English, Khamkherd and his Vietnamese classmate set up a video production company in April, Nikkei Asian Review reported.
The company, called Steqqi, produces promotional videos for Japanese businesses wishing to expand in the Asian region. “We have many student relationships at the Asia-Pacific University. We can make videos in multiple languages with different perspectives,” Khamkherd said.
Hoping to reverse the decline of the local economy, the town of Beppu openly welcomes young people from many Asian countries to settle down. They rent out rooms to foreign students in apartments. Restaurants, hotels and supermarkets are willing to hire foreign youth to work part-time. After graduation, these young people can “join” local businesses in many different positions from staff, team leaders to managers.
Since taking office in 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken steps to attract foreign manpower to revive the aging economy. In 5 years, the number of foreign workers working in Japan has increased by 86% to 1.3 million, mostly through the apprenticeship training program.
In 2017, Prime Minister Abe’s administration introduced a “green card” program, which grants permanent residence cards to skilled workers for a period of one year. The purpose of this program is to attract information technology engineers, investors and entrepreneurs from all over the world to Japan.
In December 2018, Japan passed a bill to admit foreign workers in manual occupations for the first time, and also opened up opportunities for these unskilled workers to permanently reside. Accordingly, foreign workers will be granted visas to work for 5 years in 14 specified occupations provided they meet the requirements of Japanese language proficiency and occupational skills. Those with higher working qualifications will have the opportunity to be issued a permanent resident card. However, the law prohibits employees from bringing their families with them during the 5-year employment visa period.
Japanese parliamentarians debated during a meeting on December 8, 2018 to consider a draft law loosening regulations on migrant workers. Photo: Kyodo.
Young, hard-working and ambitious workers from all over Asia flock to Japan, becoming hope for an economy with a serious shortage of manpower, especially in agriculture and construction. The foreign workforce not only helped revive industries but also motivated many Japanese businesses to look beyond the domestic market.
“Young and enthusiastic employees brave enough to work abroad pump new energy into companies,” said Susumu Nagahashi, director of a conglomerate that specializes in recruiting highly skilled foreign workers. for businesses in Tokyo and surrounding areas, said.
However, the Japanese government did not completely agree with Prime Minister Abe’s plan. Opposition parties fear Abe will adjust immigration policy, a sensitive topic in the East Asian country. Despite conflicting opinions, Mr Abe’s government has launched a series of initiatives to replenish the severely shorted domestic workforce.
Prime Minister Abe believes that the foreign workers will help Japan’s economy grow steadily again. Japan’s economy in the third quarter of 2018 decreased by 2.5% over the same period last year. In the context of the economic loss of momentum for growth and low inflation, Prime Minister Abe sets a target that by 2020 Japan’s gross domestic product will reach 600 trillion yen (5.4 trillion USD). Currently, the GPD of the third largest economy in the world is about 550 trillion yen.
“We need to break the traditional way of thinking,” Prime Minister Abe said. “I will create a Japan that attracts talent from all over the world”.
One of the biggest obstacles to Japan’s economy is the lack of manpower. “The pace of hiring has slowed down in recent months,” said Frederic Neumann, head of the Asian economic research group at HSBC Hong Kong, in a statement. According to the economist, increasing the number of foreign workers, “albeit temporary, is crucial to keeping growth momentum and addressing a number of structural challenges in the economy, including high public debt. and prolonged deflation “.
Despite initiatives to encourage women and the elderly to enter the labor market, September 2018 figures show a job-to-job ratio of 1.64 in Japan, meaning there are only 100. workers applied for 164 positions, a record low for 44 years.
Half of the students studying at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in the town of Beppu are foreign students. Photo: NAR.
Song Tao, a Chinese, is responsible for developing a business plan in overseas markets for the Marubishi trading company. The 30-year-old, born in Shandong province, China, studied management at the Asia Pacific University before joining Marubishi Company in 2013. He currently supports the management company. operating in China, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam as well as preparing to explore Indonesia and Thailand markets.
The biggest difficulty facing foreign workers is the language barrier. In some cases, the skills requirements of Japanese companies cannot be met. Out of a total of 23,946 foreign students graduating from 4-year full-time undergraduate and master’s programs in Japan from March 2016 to 2017, only 36% found jobs. The Abe government’s goal is to raise this to 50%.
In addition, having a job in Japan is not necessarily synonymous with the opportunity of “living in peace”. Many intellectual workers are allowed to bring their spouses and children to Japan, but not with their parents. That is the main reason why many people, after working for a while in Japan, decide to return to their homeland to care for their relatives.