Nikkei Business magazine special (May 2, 2011) on the future and necessity of NJ labor to Japan


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Hi Blog.  Getting back to business, here is an excellent series of articles on how important NJ labor has been and will be to Japan’s future.  Eighteen pages on the whos, whats, and why-you-should-cares in the Nikkei Business magazine dated May 2, 2011 (thanks to MS).

After the cover (Title: Kieta Gaikokujin Roudou Ryoku:  Nihonjin dake de shokuba o mamoreru ka, or “Disappeared NJ Labor Force:  Can Japanese maintain the workplaces by themselves?”) and table of contents, we open with a splash page showing Chinese waiting for their bags at the airport carousel after returning to China.

Pages 20 through 23 give us an assessment of NJ labor in several business sectors:  Restaurants, Textiles, Finance, Convenience Stores, Agriculture, IT, Education, Tourism, and Airflight, headlining that the NJ labor force has “evaporated”.

Pages 24 and 25 give us the raw data, noting that the majority of NJ (55%) work in small companies of less than 100 employees, and that the near majority of NJ laborers (44%) are Chinese.  The point is that “a closed Japanese labor market is impossible”.

Pages 26 and 27 give us a close up about a farm that lost none of its workers, and even asked (for a change, given the Japanese media) what NJ thought.  It was all part of the magazine’s suggestions about what should be done to improve things and give NJ a stake:  Accountability, Bonds, Careers, and recognizing Diversity.  Even offered suggestions about how to simplify Japanese.

Pages 27 and 28 are the “money shot”, where the article says most of the things that we have said all along here on and in my Japan Times articles:  You can’t keep on using people as simple throwaway labor and expect them to stay, and you can’t keep doing things like bribe people to go back (as was done with the Nikkei in 2009) or make hurdles too high to get over (as is being done with NJ nurses) and expect a sustainable labor force.

Good stuff.  And about bloody time.  Scans of pages in gallery form below.  Arudou Debito

7 comments on “Nikkei Business magazine special (May 2, 2011) on the future and necessity of NJ labor to Japan

  • It seems to me as if stubborn nationalistic pride is going to throw Japan into economic irrelevance. China has already surpassed Japan as an economic superpower (but let’s not even talk about human rights for workers there). All I’ve seen on NHK World lately is the “Japan syndrome”, how the aging population is resorting to traveling to Thailand for affordable nursing home care, amongst other things.

    If NJ labor is so important, then it begs the question as to why they aren’t doing everything possible to make NJ feel welcome and wanted.

  • Rock Racing says:

    >China has already surpassed Japan as an economic superpower

    Small nit-pick, total GDP doesn’t mean much if you’re the largest country in the world in terms of population.

    In terms of purchasing power parity-based GDP per person, according to the IMF (Strauss-Kahn problems notwithstanding…) in 2010 the US was 7th in the world, Japan was 24th…and China was 94th. And China’s wealth is *heavily* concentrated in the large coastal cities; the inland regions are beyond dirt poor.

    Source: I worked as an economist in Hong Kong for 3 years studying Japan, China and Hong Kong economies prior to and after the Hong Kong handover.

    — Point taken, thanks. Please relate these nit-picks back to the topic at hand.

  • There will be plenty of poor Japanese willing to work for low wages soon enough, so that aspect of foreign labor won’t be needed. The trouble with trying to recruit skilled types is that they may have better opportunities elsewhere. Indeed, why would an Indian programmer choose Japan?

  • I just got that from Debito’s link. It doesn’t matter though, if the Chinese “appear” to be above the Japanese, won’t that be like losing face? Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter, if the outside world lists by GDP and not per person, then people still see China first.

    It sounds so similar to many of the debates in the southern states of the US. One side says that illegal Mexican immigrants are overtaking “our” jobs, sending money back to Mexico, where the other side says that the money they send back is not affecting American interests, they’re doing the jobs Americans won’t do, blah blah blah.

    Is anyone familiar with the concept of the “Narcissism Epidemic”? It’s become a topic of research among American psychologists, and they do point out that it’s becoming prevalent in other countries as well. I wonder if it’s the same for Japan as well. The Narcissism epidemic covers all sorts of beliefs and behaviors, but I mention it because it’s the very idea of “Mexicans doing jobs Americans won’t do” and “gaikokujin doing jobs that Japanese won’t do.” The point being that the people of the native country see themselves as “above” a certain kind of job.

  • All this “job” talk all the time is becoming less and less relevant as the age of human labor is very near it’s end. We all need to look forward to how automation technologies will continue to displace workers until it becomes obvious that a world spanning change in social structure will be necessary. Read something from Ray Kurzweil, Jacque Fresco, John McMurtry, etc, they all talk about the concept of technological unemployment which I think is the most relevant topic when talking about labor, unemployment, etc. People seem to ignore the topic but take a look at agriculture and manufacturing today, in the case of agriculture, the industry employs a hundredth of the people it used to while producing far more than any time before. Manufacturing has moved the same way in the case of modernized factories, take the U.S. or the U.K. everyone has been displaced from manufacturing to the service industry, people make this a political issue but if we look at the statistics we will see that the manufacturing industry in both of these countries are experiencing good growth in every area except in how many people are employed in the industry. Arudou San, care to inform me if you are familiar with technological unemployment? I would love to start a dialogue with you(perhaps through email) if you aren’t busy/are interested in discussing how this trend is impacting and in what ways it might continue to impact Japan in the future.

    — Please feel free to author a blog post on this (under your moniker), and send it to me at Thanks.

  • Sure, I’ll consider authoring something about this. I’m a little busy right now but I’ll get something to you within a week or two.


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