Nikkei reports on the effect of “nihon saru gaikokujin”, aka Fly-jin, with some pretty shaky journalistic practices


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Hi Blog.  Here’s yet another article from a more reputable source, the Nihon Keizai Shinbun, talking about the phenomenon of NJ allegedly leaving Japan behind and having an adverse effect on Japan’s economy.

For the record, I don’t doubt that NJ have left Japan due to the Tohoku Disasters.  I just have my doubts that a) it’s any more significant than the Japanese who also left, yet get less nasty media coverage (I have yet to see an article comparing both J and NJ “flight” in terms of numbers), b) it’s worth blaming NJ for leaving, since Japanese overseas would probably do much the same if advised to do so by their government in the face of a disaster, and c) the media is actually doing their job investigating sources to nail down the exact statistics.  Let’s see how the Nikkei does below:

Some bogus journalistic practices unbecoming of something as trusted as the Nikkei, to wit:

  1. Providing a generic photo of people drinking at a Tokyo izakaya and claiming that they’re talking about repatriating NJ (that’s quite simply yarase).
  2. Providing a chart of annual numbers (where the total numbers of NJ dropped in 2009 in part due to the GOJ bribing unemployed Brazilian workers to leave), which is unrelated to the Tohoku Disasters.
  3. Relying on piecemeal sources (cobbling numbers together from Xinhua, some part-timer food chains, an eikaiwa, a prefectural employment agency for “Trainee” slave labor, and other pinpoint sources) that do not necessarily add up to a trend or a total.
  4. Finishing their sentences with the great linguistic hedgers, extrapolators, and speculators (in place of harder sources), including  “…to mirareru“, “… sou da“, “there are cases of…” etc.  All are great indicators that the article is running on fumes in terms of data.
  5. Portraying Japanese companies as victimized by deserting NJ workers, rather than observing that NJ thus far, to say the least, have helped Japan avoid its labor shortage (how about a more positive, grateful tone towards NJ labor?, is what I’m asking for).
  6. And as always, not comparing their numbers with numbers of Japanese exiting.  Although the article avoids the more hectoring tone of other sources I’ve listed on, it still makes it seems like the putative Great Flyjin Exodus is leaving Japan high and dry.  No mention of course in the article of how many of these NJ might also be leaving Japan because they have no stake in it, i.e. are stuck in a dead-end or part-time job with no hope of promotion, advancement, or leadership within their corporate sector.

Once again, it’s pretty flawed social science.  The Nikkei could, and should, do better, and if even the Nikkei of all media venues can’t, that says something bad about Japanese journalism when dealing with ethnic issues.  Read the article for yourself.  Arudou Debito


日本去る外国人労働者 原発事故を懸念
人手不足が問題に 外食やITなど幅広い業種
日本経済新聞 2011/4/9 22:39, courtesy of YK;at=DGXZZO0195164008122009000000 (free registry)















16 comments on “Nikkei reports on the effect of “nihon saru gaikokujin”, aka Fly-jin, with some pretty shaky journalistic practices

  • If all these foreigners were deserting Japan, wouldn’t there be hundreds of extra jobs being advertised with companies desperately seeking to replace workers? I’ve been monitoring positions for several months before and after and I see no difference at all so far…

    If anyone knows of any good companies desperately looking for NJ executives please let me know!

  • jjobseeker says:

    Don’t you love it how this “journalists” can villainize NJ for being in Japan in one instance, then villainize NJ for leaving in another?? Just shows that the people with their head up their bum can no longer tell the stench is coming from them.

  • Edmund in Tokyo says:

    Not really sure this moaning is justified – the article looks fine to me. (BTW, your link’s broken.)

    The Nikkei do a lot of stuff based on piecemeal sources – if they didn’t, they’d have to wait for the data, which could take ages.

    The graph shows the overall trend to give you context on the role foreigners are playing in the economy. I’d understand the complaint if it showed a dip for _this_ year, and the reader was led to believe that it was happening because of the earthquake when really it was something else, but the series stops in 2009.

    The “to mirareru” is qualifying a very reasonable assumption based on data, but not quite a certainty. (A bunch more people left than normal. This is probably related to the earthquake.) The “sou da” is a very reasonable speculation based on the laws of supply and demand: If workers leave or don’t want to come, there would probably be some upward pressure on wages.

    As for the overall story, it’s right, isn’t it? A bunch of foreigners left at short notice, which probably caused some temporary problems for their employers. Most came back, a few didn’t.

    — I say they should wait for the data, even if it does take ages. We’re talking about issues of peoples and ethnicity here, and the more potentially flawed the data, the more possibility that people will be unfairly impugned. We’re not talking about movements of commodities or inanimate objects here. We’re talking about people who are making a life here, and are adversely affected as a group by being treated as a group like this.

  • Edmund in Tokyo says:

    Steve: “My first-hand anecdote is that I know more native Japanese than foreigners who left after the earthquake.”

    A much better criticism of the Nikkei article would be that they didn’t seem to do any investigation into the extent to which Japanese people left their jobs. That’s something that, as a reader of the article, I’d really like to know.

    That said, if the answer turned out to be the same as my unscientific impression – that quite a few people moved out of the Tokyo area, but not many of them left their jobs to do it – Debito would presumably be on their case for making an unfavourable comparison.

    — You seem to like to presume. So does the Nikkei. Recommend you both stop.

  • @Chris-
    Exactly. You would think there would be a vaccum just waiting to be filled by us who stuck around. I havent seen anything either, with the exception of the dreaded Eikawia schools, and even that demand hasnt changed much. I think what is happening is many of those expat jobs are being closed, are on hold due to contracts with the people who left or that operation is just being shut down due to the heavy losses that have occured or forecasted. They may also be using recruiters out of India to fill in those positions. Might be worth a check at Hello Work to see if anything has changed, before the Tsunami things were bone dry, Im not expecting much.

    I find it very interesting that all I heard before the tsunami was “gaijin dame” or other deragotory comments. Now all of the sudden we are welcome?

  • To extrapolate on your point #6, Debito: how about the media give us figures on departing NJ who are in full-time, permanent employment (as opposed to those one-year contracts renewable at the whim of the companies). As you rightly point out, it’s much easier to leave an employer who would be quick to get rid of you if the urge took him.

  • I see two reasons for why the Japanese who left don’t get this kind of media coverage. One is that it is probably more likely to be children or spouses who left, perhaps to stay with relatives, while the working husband stayed. These people are not in the workforce, so it’s not a story for the Nikkei. The second reason is, the NJ who left are more likely leaving behind jobs that Japanese can’t do (such as eikaiwa) or rightfully aren’t willing to do (“trainee” jobs). Unlike a job left by your average Japanese, filling a position left by a NJ presents a unique challenge. It is therefore more newsworthy.

    I think it’s quite simple. If NJ leaving their jobs had a financial impact, or posed a challenge for businesses (even if overcome), then the media is justified in reporting it. Perhaps it’s not flattering, but if it happened, it happened, and saying it happened it doesn’t amount to NJ bashing. The Nikkei is not saying that Japanese wouldn’t do the same thing in the same position. It’s quite simply not its place to make that kind of judgment.

  • Maybe it`s those working at 7-11 or as cooks, dishwashers etc. because as an English teacher it certainly doesn`t seem as if a lot of teachers left. I know one who took off right away but he returned a few weeks later. I also don`t understand why the Japanese should care. You`d think they`d be happy to see the foreign population shrink. I also don`t understand this “flyjin” criticism. No one knew what was going on least of all TEPCO and as was mention above I too know a handful of Japanese that left the Tokyo area immediately after the earthquake. So what`s the big deal about foreigners leaving?

  • Last week my ophthamologist expressed surprise that I was still in Japan. He asked me if I weren’t afraid of the radiation. I laughed and asked if he were serious since there is so little radiation in Southern Kyushu. I guess the media stories of foreigner flight are being taken seriously in some quarters.

    — Or perhaps people overseas have no sense of scale, and don’t know how far Southern Kyushu is from the disaster area. I get that a lot too, where people don’t seem to realize that Sapporo too is quite distant. It’s all a matter of wind patterns, and we’ll be getting winds from the south this summer as usual. Bit worrisome.

  • Note to Debito — My ophthamologist also lives in Miyazaki and knows very well how far it is to Fukushima.

    — Sorry. Point retracted.

  • I thought Japan didn’t want us here anyway? Damned if we stay, damned if we leave. If we stay we face discrimination in jobs and housing, police harassment, etc., and if we leave they call us “fly-jin”.

  • i spended 15 years of my life here working hard in jobs ANY japanese wouldnt have the nerve or the heart to stay for even 2 hours.13 of those years i dreamed of being signed as a direct worker from any factory but had to swallow the “asistance” and the robbery of the contractors.
    and had always in my head that dream that “if i was contracted direct by a factory i would not suffer so much, I would be treated as an equal”
    well for the last 2 years ive being working direct for a factory here in Mie-ken AND I BEING SUFFERING MORE DISCRIMINATION,MISTREATMENT AND DISCASE ON THE LAST 2 YEARS THEN I HAD IN ALL MY WHOLE LIFE.
    i was naive i always tought that behind those serious and serene faces of the president and the managers i would find people who saw my work and my effort with open eyes and most of all open hearts,coudnt be more wrong.
    im a idiot and im tired.

    sorry for going off topic
    just had to put this out somewhere.

  • @ Alex, “damned if you stay or leave”
    Obviously the people who want gaijin to leave are mostly not the peole who feel betrayed by those flyjin who “let down team Japan” and left.

    On the other hand, I can speak from experience about an overlap in the two seemingly opposed attitudes. Its called exploitation of foreign labour, and its an abusive mindset. My ex boss always complains about the habits of gaijin and all the cliches, and yet he wanted us to stay and work even as our embassies were telling us to leave in the crisis.

    “Even if you re sick I order you to work”, was his famous quote at the time.

    Best to remove oneself from the whole situation, thus I say “Flyjin and Proud”

    Perhaps the good that will come out of this situation is that conditions will have to improve to entice NJ labor back. We can at least hope.

  • @Debito “No mention of course in the article of how many of these NJ might also be leaving Japan because they have no stake in it, i.e. are stuck in a dead-end or part-time job with no hope of promotion, advancement, or leadership within their corporate sector. ”

    Yes, this is exactly why I left. I can do better elsewhere. All Tokyo hoad going for it for me was the (increasingy overpriced) comfort/convenience. Once that is removed, why continue to slave away in poor work conditions, along with a health threat on top of that?

  • james grey says:

    Debito (or anyone else, for that matter), I agree that the Nikkei Shimbun is well within it’s rights to point out that NJ leaving all the 3K jobs is having a negative impact on the economy. However, despite trying very hard for about 2 weeks, I still haven’t found one Japanese article or news story (or even a single comment from a Japanese executive) about how Japan might consider changing the social ‘deal’ (as it were) in order to entice these workers back and make them stay (since they are now so apparently essential to the economy). I think that self-criticism and critical analysis are not encouraged in Japanese society (in general terms), but I am flabbergasted that this debate has not even began to surface amongst the business community.
    Has anybody seen anything on this topic? Not criticism of NJ, or self-pity for being abandoned by NJ, but something that even remotely suggests that some Japanese executives recognize that it may require a reconsideration of conditions of employment to NJ?


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