Sankei snipes at Chinese workers, comparing Pension System temp inputters with toxic gyouza



Hi Blog. Get a load of this. The Sankei trowels on the insinuations–by comparing the Chinese gyouza poisonings with Chinese temporary workers inputting data into the troubled Japanese pension system. As if letting in Chinese workers to do a Japanese’s work is like letting in toxic gyouza.

Whatta headline. True colors disguised as wry humor by the good ol’ Sankei Shinbun. Somebody reel in the editor… Arudou Debito


Sankei Shinbun January 30, 2008
Courtesy of C, translated by Arudou Debito and online assistants

On January 29, it became clear at a DPJ General Meeting for Health Welfare and Labor issues that Chinese temporary workers (haken sha-in), have caused problems with digital conversion of handwritten data into online computer databases.

The old system using handwritten passbooks has resulted in about 14,660,000 future pensioners, who have paid into the system but are not yet recorded as eligible for benefits, going unrecorded digitally.

According to the Social Insurance Agency, between December 10 and 20 of last year, about 60 foreign temp workers were inputting data. However, their inability to input correct kanji readings, or separate surname and first names of entrants, had caused errors in the system. The Social Insurance Agency says that by switching all these workers with Japanese people, they’ve corrected all errors, and are now considering lowering the amount of money paid out to the companies brokering their temp workers.

13 comments on “Sankei snipes at Chinese workers, comparing Pension System temp inputters with toxic gyouza

  • Debito,

    I suggest that you re-read the article. You are not interpreting the Japanese correctly. The Chinese employees were not processing their own names. They were manually inputting names of (mostly Japanese) people in the nenkin system into computers. However, there were mistakes in parsing the name into surname and first name. Thus, part of someone’s surname may be become the start of their first name. This needed to be corrected and the trainees were switched with Japanese workers who could more easily parse Japanese names.

    BTW, hakenshain are not necessarily part time works. Often they are 正社員 who are just sent (派遣) to other companies to work.

  • 外国人派遣労働者約60人
    “about 60 Chinese Trainees”
    >”about 60 foreign temp workers

    “considering lowering the amount of money paid out by companies brokering temp workers.”
    >”considering lowering the amount of money paid out to the company that brokered temp workers.”

  • Huh! How about a little lateral thinking in the SIA? Did it never occur to them, despite the fact that foreigners have been the system for decades, that problems like this would arise?

    As a foreigner with several middle names I’ve been surprised when dealing with some Japanese agencies that they couldn’t actually register my name – on their modern system, because it was ‘too long’…

  • During the “troubles” in N. Ireland there was a song which galvanized the Catholic community against horrific repression by the British Forces, who were, ironically, sent to the province to protect them! It was called “The Men Behind The Wire.” (I still get goosebumps!)
    Tweaked a tad, that same song could be sung for NJ in Japan (especially those with “right of abode”….of whatever stripe, visitor, student, missionary, ‘humanities specialist’, spouse or child of Japanese national, permanent resident…etc. etc. etc.). It would seem that the powers that be are happy to take taxes, pension contributions, social security type deductions, medical insurance premiums and the like, and yet deliver very little when the legitimate payee has a legitimate claim/need for assistance. They will, as Michael Moores’s SiCKO clearly demonstrates, find a small-print reason to deny help, especially when it’s most needed.(Oops, wrong country!) Same principle! Fukuoka is the model for denial, with even the NYT on Oct 12th 2007 reporting how the City Hall guy who denied a CITIZEN sustainability funds to starve to death in his home got a bonus for saving money! Worse yet, his (the deceased’s)neighbors agreed that he deserved to die!

    So I ask you (not personally, but as a readership), what kind of society has Japan morphed into?

    Let me recount an incident that still shocks me to this day. I had a business meeting in a city in Shizuoka-ken in January of 2003. I awaited my colleague at the exit of the station at about 1230h. It was a bright breezy January day, temp 8C and cooler in the wind, say -2C, -3C or so.

    In front of me crawled a late middle-aged Japanese guy, barefoot, dishevelled and obviously cold and hungry. He was begging with the empty styrofoam instant ramen bowl. People acually spat at him in front of my eyes, and hurled epithets at him, contemptuously. I went to the Kiosk at the station and bought him a couple of onigiri and a couple of cans of warm tea. When I gave it to him he practically clung to my ankle thanking me, over and over. My associate arrived and we had to go. A besuited man who flashed a badge at me, denoting his employ at City Hall’s Social Service Dept, asked me quizzically, “Why did you do that? Feed that man?”
    My reply was simple. “We live in the world’s 2nd strongest economy, and it is a shame for me to see him like that. There’s no reason for anyone to be in such need here. None! Japan is a rich country, and it should take care of its citizens.”
    Well….it turns out that my name (which I’d exchanged to the mayor and governor) rang a bell as a no-BS kinda straight shooter, got someone’s attention.
    Two days later I saw my “beggar” heading to the train, clean shaven, (and I found out later), housed, employed and now a contributing member of society.
    I can’t claim that I shamed the powers that be into action. But somewhere, someone got a message. And to this day I still see the “beggar” in a suit and tie heading to work on a regular basis.

    So folks, even in small ways, we actually D O make a difference.

    And Alex Kerr, you’re my hero!

  • Debito,

    You’re misinterpreting the Japanese in the article.
    The Chinese and their names were not being processed. They were doing the processing themselves.
    What processing? Transferring old pension books into a new digital system.
    That was their job. However, they apparently made mistakes in parsing Japanese surnames from given names.
    Other reports (*) also state that they made mistakes in reading old kanji forms as well as hiragana.

    Mistakes happen. However, I think the media has blown the issue out of proportion. I can understand how this type of mistake can be made by non-native speakers. It hardly needs to be mentioned that Japan makes its fair share of mistakes when it comes to foreign languages such as English, despite years of study.








    (2008年1月30日22時18分 読売新聞)

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    It’s odd – the assumption that Japanese would never misread a name (“Sorry, is that Ota or Oda?”) and that every single error was down to Chinese temps.
    Can we blame them for the problems in the privatised postal system too?

  • Debito,

    I don’t think that’s an accurate translation.

    “外国人派遣労働者約60人に転記作業を行わせたところ, 名字と名前の区切りを間違うなどのミスを連発”

    Mistakes (in the kanji for names and the location of first/last name division) were repeatedly made when approx. 60 foreign temporary workers were being made to do the transfer operations (transferring names from the old paper nenking booklets to the computer system).

    That’s a clunky literal translation but the sentence is saying that the foreign temp workers were the ones doing the transfer work, not that THEIR information (foreign names, etc.) was being transferred.


    All of the transfer mistakes have already been corrected and the [foreign temp] workers have all been replaced with Japanese workers [temp or regular, it doesn’t say]. The Social Insurance Agency is contemplating reducing the money to be paid to the temp agency for their temp services.

    It wasn’t an article about pesky Chinese names but rather an article about how non-native speaking temp workers were allowed to enter Japanese names into the nenkin database and made mistakes doing so.

    The title is ridiculously inflammatory, though.

    “Not just gyoza? The nenkin record transfer mistakes were also the fault of foreigners?”

    For those that don’t keep up with this issue, many people have lost their investments in the retirement pension system in Japan due to mistakes made by the SIA. There seem to be many causes of the losses. Names/other information being written down incorrectly at the city hall when people would update their books the old way being one of them. At any rate, many people (of decidedly voting age!) have lost a lot of their retirement money due to the governments mistakes and the government has basically thrown up its hands and said “we tried to find as much of it as we could but we’re done looking now.” So, you can imagine that further mistakes by the SIA will not be received well. Much easier to focus on the non-native speaking temp workers (who are conveniently Chinese) than to point out that it was the SIA that chose to hire non-native speaking temp workers to do such crucial work in the first place.

  • Where was the double checking of inputs for something as important as someone’s pension?

    I don’t say double checking because they were using non-native speakers of Japanese, but double-checking to ensure that no mistakes are made, regardless of who did the inputting.

    Sounds extremely shoddy to me.

  • >So let me get this straight – they hired cheap labor and received substandard work? Why are they surprised?

    Add “unsuitable for the work required” to that Ke5in and it’d be spot on.

    I wonder when ‘lateral thinking’ will make its way into the local bureaucracy?

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    They’re not surprised at all, Ke5in; they’re taking a very easy opportunity to put the blame for their problems on foreigners instead of focusing on their own stinginess or lack of screening.

    There’s no reason why a non-Japanese person couldn’t do a better job than a real “Nihonjin” if they know a lot about personal names and their readings. It’s a popular enough hobby among trivia buffs. Instead, the government presumably gets what it secretly wants — only the pure Yamato race entering kanji names into records.

    And quite a few names really are ambiguous. The famous scholar of the Ainu, Chiri Mashiho, is one such — Chiri is not a common surname and “Shiho” is a very common given name, so anyone not familiar with him might break 知里真志保 in the wrong spot, even a native Japanese. And there are many such names, particularly when each kanji is a single syllable. Okinawa also has quite a few. Stop blaming the Chinese, Sankei, and blame the recordkeepers for not putting the right people on the job regardless of nationality.

  • Classic scapegoating-part of all managers’ arsenals.

    By the way, it seems that citizens were never informed of their pension contributions over the years. Is this the case? In the US, the Feds send out a record of one’s lifetime tax payments every year or so, and an estimate of what a likely pension amount will be if the system holds together long enough. I take it this was not done.

  • Mark – then the only assumption we can make is that, like you mention, they did it intentionally to create a group of scapegoats and an opportunity for those of Yamato (isn’t that a kind of potato?) blood to embezzle the funds for themselves … which is what it sounds like happened previously. “Sorry, can’t find the funds (cos we’ve spent them on yachts and trips overseas for our brats) so erm we’ll just give up on that then.” But then I’m a cynic 😉

    It’s my understanding that when choosing a name for a child, you can choose whatever you like then choose kanji to suit. Which is why ALL the ‘official’ forms I’ve seen (insurance, shaken, Lawson point card etc) all have a space for furigana, where people can write their names in katakana – to avoid this kind of misunderstanding.

    Are we to assume then that there was no such device employed on these forms? In that case, see my first paragraph 🙁 Glad I don’t have to rely on thieves to look after me in my old age …!


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