AP: Economic downturn already resulting in NJ layoffs in Japan, but NJ not counted in unemployment figures
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 27th, 2008
Hi Blog. From financial market crash to job market layoffs: That was quick. First to get canned it seems are the foreign workers who helped make Japanese industry labor costs competitive…
The real surprise here, as it says below, the GOJ doesn’t even bother to track numbers of unemployed foreigners! Again, I guess foreigners don’t count, even as part of the labor force, unless they need policing (as in making sure their visas are legal and they aren’t stealing bicycles). How lopsided and ungrateful.
And political — the unemployment rate is a very political thing in Japan, as it likes to boast worldwide how (artificially) low unemployment is. I guess it’s clear now that bringing in NJ labor has an extra benefit — not only are they preternaturally cheap, you don’t count them if they lose their jobs! Debito in Sapporo
Foreigners laid off in Japanese downturn
By JOSEPH COLEMAN Associated Press Writer
Daily Yomiuri Oct 22, 9:28 PM EDT
Courtesy Shrikant Atre and Mark W.
AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi
HAMAMATSU, Japan (AP) — Brazilian Stenio Sameshima came to Japan last year with plans to make a bundle of money at the country’s humming auto factories. Instead, he’s spending a lot of time in line at employment agencies.
The 28-year-old is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of foreigners who are among the first laborers in Japan to lose their jobs as the global financial crisis eats into demand for cars, trucks and motorcycles, government officials say.
The layoffs are also the first evidence that the mushrooming economic crisis in the United States and elsewhere is shaking the Japanese labor market, presaging further trouble if the downturn persists or deepens.
This week Sameshima, trained as a science teacher in Brazil, sat for hours waiting to apply for a new job at a government-run job center in the central city of Hamamatsu – and he said he’d take anything with a paycheck.
“Because of the crisis, you have to accept whatever there is,” Sameshima, a descendant of Japanese who emigrated to Brazil decades ago, said as he perused an announcement of a job making boxed lunches sold in convenience stores.
The government does not track the number of jobless foreigners, but local officials, workers and employment agencies tell of hundreds of workers like Sameshima let go by companies linked to topflight producers – Toyota, Honda, Yamaha.
The Labor and Health Ministry said the numbers of foreigners showing up at government-run job centers in affected regions have doubled to some 1,500 a month as of August, while Japanese jobseekers have remained constant. And those centers handle only a small fraction of the foreign work force, officials say.
“The ethnic Japanese from abroad have been particularly hit hard,” said Tatsuhiro Ishikawa, a ministry official in charge of foreign labor. “They’re often the first ones to be fired just because they’re foreigners.”
At the core of the trend are hard times for the Japanese car industry.
No. 1 producer Toyota Motor Corp. has seen its stock slide amid reports the automaker won’t meet its global sales target. Nissan, Japan’s third-largest automaker, announced Tuesday it was cutting domestic production.
“The number of cars being produced is decreasing, so there’s nothing for the foreigners to make,” said Masahiro Morishita, who works FujiArte, an employment agency that hires foreigners in Hamamatsu.
The layoffs are hitting a particularly vulnerable population.
Japan has begun attracting large numbers of foreign workers only in the past 15 years to meet a labor shortage as the country ages. The increase has been rapid, more than doubling from 370,000 foreigners working legally in Japan in 1996 to 755,000 in 2006.
Yet, working conditions are precarious. Foreigners are often hired through temporary employment agencies, so they can be easily fired. They live in company housing, so they lose their apartments when they lose their jobs. There hasn’t been a marked increase in homelessness, but anecdotes of foreigners having to move in with friends or relatives abound.
The outsiders also face language difficulties.
“In order to get new jobs, they need to speak Japanese,” said Alice Miho Miike at the Hamamatsu Foundation for International Communication and Exchanges. “But even Brazilians who speak, read and write Japanese are losing their jobs now.”
Hamamatsu, 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of Tokyo, is home to more than 33,500 foreigners. More than half of them – about 19,000 – are Brazilians, many with special permission to work here because of their Japanese ancestry.
The waiting area at the government-run Hello Work job center in Hamamatsu was abuzz Tuesday with tales of joblessness and uncertainty.
Sameshima, for example, was dismissed at the end of September after working only six months at an auto-parts manufacturer outside the central city of Nagoya.
“I came to Japan to get a steady, secure job,” said Sameshima, who came from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais in early 2007. “But there was a drop in production at the factory, because Toyota is the principal purchaser.”
Then he came to Hamamatsu to work at another plant – only to again lose his job after only two weeks.
The chief of the foreign worker section at Hello Work Hamamatsu, Akihiko Sugiyama, came up with two job possibilities for Sameshima – at between 20 percent to 40 percent below the 1,500-yen ($15) hourly wage he was making before.
Some foreign laborers have abandoned Japan amid the troubles, especially those from Brazil, where the currency is plummeting and workers with savings in Japanese yen see an opportunity to cash in.
Sameshima, for instance, plans to go home at the end of next year in hopes of taking a special exam that would allow him to teach science in public high schools.
Others are holding out for better times.
Daniele Tokuti, 24, came from Brazil three years ago with her husband, an ethnic Japanese. She was fired last week along with 40 other foreigners at a Yamaha factory.
But Tokuti, now six months pregnant, said she still had hopes to achieving her dream of building a significant nest egg in Japan.
“Now in Brazil, things aren’t bad,” she said. “But in Japan, I think if we can get past this crisis, and things will be even better here.”
Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.