AP: Economic downturn already resulting in NJ layoffs in Japan, but NJ not counted in unemployment figures


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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


also http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/apwire/543e7d82f9448bab9a53eb70fbf09132.htm
Courtesy Shrikant Atre and Mark W.

AP Photo
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.

7 comments on “AP: Economic downturn already resulting in NJ layoffs in Japan, but NJ not counted in unemployment figures

  • Japan, just like much of the world right now, is having a financial crisis. The yen strengthen at one point to 90 yen to the US dollar over the weekend. While just this morning the Nikkei stock exchange fell under 7500 yen, which is the lowest since 2003 after the bubble burst. And this is surely not the end.

    While NJ are sure to be hit by layoffs, J will surely be hit as well. How long does a NJ on a working visa have to find a new job? Is it until their visa expires, which could potentially be upwards of three years later? Surely the government will want their tax dollars sooner than that. I think that I once heard that you are not allowed to leave the country and return under a working visa without being currently employed. If that is correct, then some of us may need to be a little more careful in the near future.

    It is ironic that Japan is encouraging more foreign workers to fill the aging workforce with very few younger Japanese, while at the same time laying them off due to the economy.

  • Mmm, I’m just reading the Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” with my group of housewifes – remember the handbills part? “Pea pickers wanted in California. Good wages All Season. 800 Pickers wanted” – well, that’s from the abridged version from Penguin Readers… Sounds familiar? It’s interesting that my housewifes have noticed that it is “All Season” and not “All Year” and all the implications of that. What happens during the rest of the Year when the Season is over – is not difficult to guess, is it?

  • Government of Japan publishes unemployment figures of foreign workiers in Japan every five years.
    Go to 人口統計資料集2008年版, VIII労働力、表8-18 性,国籍,労働力状態(8区分)別15歳以上外国人人口:2000,2005年.

    Foreign workers in Japan are covered by unemployment insuranse.

    They are also included in monthly unemployment figures and labor force figures.

    — Thanks HO. Then the article got it wrong, you’re saying? Good, but why every five years, I wonder. And could you please send us a link to the monthly figures you mention?

    Unemployment insurance (as long as you’re not on a Trainee Visa) wasn’t the issue here, BTW. But thanks for replying.

  • http://www.stat.go.jp/data/roudou/index.htm


    It indicates here that the Labor Force survey are conducted on a monthly basis.



    3 調査の範囲及び調査対象

    It indicates here that the figures includes all residents excluding foreign diplomats and their families members and foreign military personnels.

    — So it does. Thanks for this. So the article is wrong after all?

  • “So the article is wrong after all?”

    Not entirely, I guess.

    From the article

    “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.”

    Let’s face it. Many of these immigrants are here or planning to come here to “make money”. It’s simple as that. I don’t think these people came here to with the intent of “help make Japanese Industry labor costs competetive” so let’s not get carried away by using such words as “lopsided” or “ungrateful” shall we?

    As the quote indicates, at least some of them have a place to go when “$hit hits the fan” so to speak, unlike the Japanese temp workers in similar situation where they have no choice but to bear it.


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