Thai flood victims getting 6-month visas into Japan to maintain Japan Inc.’s supply lines, then booted back home


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE, on child abductions in Japan, by ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb

UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hello Blog. Interesting email from by Reader MD:

October 30, 2011

Hello Debito-san, I just found a highly interesting article on the MOFA now issuing 6-month work permits for Thai people to come and work in Japan in order to compensate for the supply-chain problems caused by the extensive floodings in Thailand. As you probably know a lot of Japanese companies now face said supply-chain problems because their Thailand-based production has come to an abrupt halt. The catch, all companies employing Thais for the above mentioned period (6m) have apparently to promise (?) that they send they will send the workers home once their visa runs out.

I only found references to the story in German so far but there should be something in English and possibly in Japanese too. Until now, here’s the story, more or less as reported, on my own English language blog with reference to the original source (German chamber of commerce in Japan):


Referential article in English:

The Japan Times, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011
Thai flood-idled to work here
Several thousand Thai workers at Japanese firms operating in Thailand will be allowed to work in Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Friday, as companies shift their production in light of the impact of the massive floods in the Southeast Asian country.

Fujimura told a news conference that Japan’s special measures will remedy the supply chain disruptions caused by the floods, which have led to widespread crippling of industries.

The move comes as the floods have forced a number of major manufacturers, including Toyota Motor Corp., to suspend their local operations in Thailand.

Fujimura said the government is looking to accept thousands of Thai workers from about 30 firms for a fixed time frame of roughly six months.

Among the conditions the government will impose on the firms is to make sure the Thai workers return to their home country…

Full article at


COMMENT:  File this yet again under Japan Inc. having its cake and eating it too.  We wouldn’t want to have Japanese corporations losing out because of natural disaster overseas impeding our supply lines, now, would we?  (And as a petty but definitely related tangent, where is the Japanese media when you need them to criticize the Japanese “fly-jin” fleeing the country instead of staying behind to help Thailand recover?  They certainly did their bashing when NJ, and apparently only NJ, allegedly flew the coop post-Fukushima.)  So we’ll temporarily export the workers to Japan, have them keep up with the conveyer belts for the apparent honor of being extant in our safe, clean, modern society (while no doubt working cheaper than native Japanese, as usual), then boot them back as soon as we can so they cause no disruptions to our safe, clean, modern society (like we did our Brazilian cousins back in 2009 when they outlived their usefulness; we get to keep their investments anyway and need show no gratitude).

Good ole foreign workers.  Under Japan’s visa regime, they’re just widgets in the Grand Scheme.  Arudou Debito

21 comments on “Thai flood victims getting 6-month visas into Japan to maintain Japan Inc.’s supply lines, then booted back home

  • This is what the industry and the jp gov are doing:
    – Allow foreign workers from idled plants in Thailand (and I suppose they are on unpaid leave there) to come to Japan and work the extra shifts needed to boost production. Then, when the idled plants are running again, they go back.
    Benefit: Thai labor get paid, production increases, which is good for economy.
    Problem: disruption of family, stress, because Thai labor has to adjust to Japan; Thai labor wanting to stay in Japan permanently is not possible.

    What would be the alternatives?
    1. permanently close the Thai plants, while boosting domestic production. Problem: domestic labor cost; time required for training new jp labor force; wasted investment in Thailand; increase of unemployment in Thailand.

    2. import permanent Thai labor. When the Thai plant is up running, train new Thai labor force there and keep Thai labors in Japan. Layoff jp labor force because of overproduction. Problem: increased unemployment in Japan; integration of thousands of Thai family members at once.

    3. keep domestic production low as it is. Problem: reduced profit, reduced production will hurt all businesses.

    4. idling the Thai plants, while boosting domestic production. Problem: domestic labor cost; time required for training new jp labor force; Thai labors are on unpaid leave (I assume); After Thia plants are up again, lay off of newly trained jp labor force, which is a waste in investment.

    I am just a science teacher here in Japan, but for me, what the jp gov and industry are doing creates the most positive outcome and the least negative effects for all parties involved.

  • Regarding such foreign labour issues, what is the stance of Japanese trade labour unions?

    — Very mixed. Some are welcoming, but many are hostile enough to bar NJ from being members.

  • @Olaf
    ‘Thai labors are on unpaid leave (I assume)’
    Big assumption on which to base a whole critique, don’t you think?
    As a ‘science teacher’ of all things, you should understand that assumption is not a substitute for FACTS.

  • Have any Thais taken up this offer? It will be interesting to see if any at all want to come, even temporarily. I did some research on the location of major Japanese car corporations` factories and though many are not anywhere near Fukushima, Nissan for instance, has at least one up there.

    Maybe this ties in with the comment by a politician(?) recently that the disaster-struck areas could be “repopulated with foreigners?”

    Lets wait and see.

  • @Jim Di Griz Says

    You’re right, assumption is not a substitute for facts, but you should also consider all possible scenarios.

    If they are on an unpaid leave, they would be getting a salary again.

    If they are on a paid leave they would be getting extra cash for working in Japan otherwise what’s the reason for them to come to Japan in the first place?

    Besides, I would assume that six months in Japan would look good on their resumes, and, all things being equal, it would make them more “hirable” than their always-in-thailand couterpart.
    And while this is my assumption, I would consider it a pretty safe bet.

    — Pretty big assumptions.

  • @Peppeddu,

    I appreciate your your assumptions based on expectations of how workers would be treated in any other first world country, but given Japan’s track record on treating foreign workers as disposable, without the employment protection that a Japanese worker isn’t even guaranteed anymore, I would have to reply to you that I want facts on this case.
    It’s not enough to ‘assume’ that they are getting a fair deal. The assumption that foreign workers are getting a cushy deal in Japan is one of the reasons why the public here are so unaware of the discriminatory practices against NJ by Japanese companies, and the legal system.
    To be succinct, as I was taught in basic; ‘Assumption is the mother of all f*ck-ups!’

  • Loverilakkuma says:


    Really? Do you really think they will get pretty good extra cashes for 6-month stay in Japan–working as a contract labor under current work visa that categorizes your as a trainee or equivalent? You’d better take off your rose-colored glasses and dig down into the fabrics of harsh reality.

    Where do you think many of them go once they come to Japan? The headquarters in Tokyo or Osaka?? Not quite. They will likely be sent to the factories that belong to the subsidiaries of Corporate Japan in remote areas to take care of machineries and menial labor which very few Japanese want.They won’t get health insurance coverage from the employers. And they will likely have a hard time getting along with their employers who force you to put into the workplace for almost 20 hours a day, no breaks, few holidays, unfairly low payment. This is not exclusive to non-Japanese workers. Japanese working at the factory as a contract employee or hired on a day-based employment– which is now illegal under the standard labor law– are subject to modern day slave labor.

  • RE: pretty big assumptions.

    Debito, Jim Gi Griz,

    I think this is a pretty big evidence that companies are allowed to (and thus do) put laborers on unpaid leave when they suspend operations due to force majeure

    in everyday life, I deal with scientific laws, that are somewhat more logical than bench laws. So I might be mistaken here. But why don’t you prove my assumption wrong? Force majeure warrants unpaid leave, this is still my assumption.

    — But these are foreigners. Foreigners aren’t always treated as “roudousha” laborers (viz. “Trainee” Visa recipients). Regular rules don’t always apply to foreigners, as you know, and as has been cataloging for more than a decade now. Sorry, people who make the assumptions have the responsibility to prove them correct and accurate to the best of their ability. Ball is in your court.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Olaf #9

    >I deal with scientific laws, that are somewhat more logical than bench laws.

    You mean, in a way to work for those elite legal professionals, judicial consultants, and political/business elites–rather than those who are likely to be left out due to lack of “expertise” in so-called “scientific discourse?” Sorry, sir. What you call “scientific assumptions” has been criticized by so many critical legal/cultural and feminist scholars. Many of them have been already defeated more than two decades ago.

    — Sorry, I don’t quite get your point.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    >– Sorry, I don’t quite get your point.

    Whoops, my bad. Um, this is mainly about the way people look at what constitutes fact and/or what makes the statement authentic or trivial as a tangent. Don’t worry about what legal or feminist scholars say. I just mention them to emphasize the point that scientific assumptions are not necessarily the solution to the problem–rather they are sometimes causing the problems (i.e., memberships, who’s eligible to join in the conversations and who’s not?). That’s what these academic professionals across the disciplines have found throughout the history of research on various problems involving law, history, race, economy, politics, war, etc., in the west.

    The problem is not so much with the ‘scientific’ law itself but with the way people to look at the law being examined. My basic point here is that scientific assumptions do NOT always serve as a magic wand in analyzing various social problems–especially when you deal with the issues regarding history, culture, race, gender, etc. The issue up here is a smoking gun. You can’t simply unpack/analyze the meanings of authoritative documents (i.e., Japan’s 1946 Constitutions, the MEXT’s Instruction Guidance, the Japanese Supreme Court documents) or the speeches (Tokyo. Governor’s Sankokujin speech, political gaffes) solely based on scientific approach (let’s say, heuristic, or repetitive use of hypothesis and tests, per se). There are other ways people should take into consideration to interpret what is hidden within the texts. I’m not denying scientific approach as a whole. I agree it’s still important for many research today. But, it’s worthy of noting that too much resort to scientific assumptions is very dangerous, because it can create the problems—especially something regarding the ethics (i.e., racial discrimination, cultural assassination, denial of past history, euthanasia, malpractice)—to the public. That’s how I find Olaf’s remark somewhat problematic.

  • Re: #9

    Well, at least I labeled my thoughts honestly as what they were: assumptions.(Others may just boldly make an assumption and label it as a fact.)

    I checked the internet and I did not find any information concerning the job situation of Thai workers in flood affected areas in Thailand. Strange isn’t it?

    Anyway, since the ball is now in my court, I can play with it a bit, can’t I?

    If I would be a company boss, and I would not be allowed to put my workers on unpaid leave, I would have to fire them. Because for the forseeable future (6 months?) my company would not yield any profit. If I would not fire them and continue to pay their full wages over all those months, my company would go bankrupt. I’d rather shoulder the severance pay.


    since the employees are still fully paid employees, I would suggest a relocation to one of my other of factories, of course on a volunteer basis.
    BUT then, the incentive to take a position abroad must be high. If my employee had the choice between staying at home, doing nothing and get fully paid, or doing work in a foreign country (cold, dark Japan), I’d have to pay big bucks extra. Plus airfare, plus additional living costs, etc etc.
    There is only so much burden I can take as a boss, so I couldn’t do this for too many of my employees. Since my financial burden will increase, I might have to lay off other workers instead.

    End of play. Did I shoot an own goal? Anyway, as I said, the unpaid leave is an assumption. But it is the most reasonable one.

    See situation in England (even for short term natural disasters, employers are allowed not to pay an employee who does not show up for work)

    This example even tells that in England staff got a boost of morale when they were offered 50% pay for the time they were not able to work.
    So, I cannot imagine that workers in Thailand get paid for week after week.

    similar situation in Australia

    Canada has an annual 3 day leave for natural disasters.

    I would welcome any hint to a document that either proves or disproves my original assumption that Thai workers are on unpaid leave.
    Then, I still conclude that bringing them to Japan is the best scenario for all.

    — My, how one’s viewpoint towards Japan’s labor market, catalogued as systematically unfair to foreigners for all these years, can change. And this despite not citing anything actually happening in Japan specific to the situation in question. Bad science.

  • Jim Di Griz says:


    I appreciate all the energy you are putting into your posts, but citing sources re: what other countries have done/ would do in similar situations is no substitute for presenting us with facts to prove your allegations re: the situation in Japan.
    I for one, did not take putting ‘the ball in your court’ to mean ‘giving you license to make further unsupported assumptions based on what you would like to do in the unlikely event of becoming the CEO of a Japanese multi-national company’.
    Please find some proof to back up your original assumptions, or make a retraction, won’t you? These are the same standards that I believe all posters on are held to.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @ Olaf #12

    >I would welcome any hint to a document that either proves or disproves my original assumption that Thai workers are on unpaid leave.
    Then, I still conclude that bringing them to Japan is the best scenario for all.

    Wow, predicting the optimism for those whose guarantee of labor protection is totally ‘anybody’s guess’ in the land of a ‘Rising (Falling?–hope it’s not) Sun’– based on ‘ahistorical,’ ‘acultural’ observation is– way beyond my comprehension. It’s just like an outmoded culture experiment we see in the literature like “Chrysanthemum and the Sword” by Ruth Benedict. Even some modern scientists are getting more conscientious of human ethics today, but, unfortunately, the way you apply your scientific assumption to the study of labor condition in Japan discourages us from such optimism. Sadly, that’s what makes science — or scientific approaches in general, so ‘bad’.

  • Jim Di Griz (which btw, is the name of a fictional character, I believe), Debito,

    I made my point. No need to elaborate further.
    You will treat me for a beer after it became clear that Thai workers in flood affected factories are on unpaid leave?

    Btw, Jim, its not the situation in Japan, its the situation in Thailand.
    And also, I don’t see why I should retract. I made the premises for my line of thoughts very clear in my original post. I did not present wrong facts, or lies.
    ‘accusations’, of course need a retraction when they are found to be wrong. But ‘assumptions’?
    Debito, what do you think?


    — I think this is getting silly. Drawing this “discussion” to a close.

  • Jim Di Griz says:


    ‘Jim Di Griz (which btw, is the name of a fictional character, I believe)’
    What difference does it make to you? Sensible precaution, I should have thought.

    ‘You will treat me for a beer after it became clear that Thai workers in flood affected factories are on unpaid leave?’
    Why? Subject of the thread is not ‘what are the pay and conditions in Thailand’, but rather what are the pay and conditions in Japan.

    — Point of order. I have advised Commenters in the past not to use their real names due to internet stalkers, so yes, this is a sensible precaution and should not be a source of criticism.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @ Olaf

    The problem is not whether your original assumption: “Thai workers are on unpaid leave.” is correct or not. I guess you are correct, if we solely focus on this alone.

    However, you also make an assumption on an improvement of foreign labor merely based on popular notion/image of a target nation– i.e., Japan is the 3rd largest economic giant, Japanese companies guarantee equal employment and labor protection to all workers– while ignoring the critical evidence that accounts for a harsh reality of labor discrimination against non-Japanese out there.

    That’s when your assumptions become questionable.

    Ask yourself several times: Does your original assumption bring the solution to Thai workers (i.e., improvement of their job condition, guarantee of better quality & better treatment at Japan Inc.) in the end, if they go to Japan to work for 6 months? Would Thai workers have a better life out there—without any issue with Japanese employer and or legal/police authorities—should they come to Japan with work-visa?

    You will get a reward if you can convince us in this part.

    — Another point of order: I have said that we’d be closing this thread down, but I’ve let two comments through since then, sorry. So I’ll let Olaf have the last word and then that’s it, because I don’t see this particular discussion developing much further than the stated hypotheticals, and the apparent ontology of reality based upon assumptions.

  • Debito,
    thanks for giving me the last word.

    My post #2 was specifically about the labor situation in Thailand for Thai and in Japan for Japanese labors. I did not elaborate on the work situation of the Thai workers here in Japan (just a little blurb about social adjustment, stress).
    Easing the worldwide supply shortages, getting Thai workers some salary (as I still assume that they are getting none right now), with the least economical burden on the jp companies is best done by letting Thai workers work in Japan for a period of time. This is still the best scenario.

    Apology to Jim Di Griz: I did not know that Debito advised posters to use fictional names. My fault.

    All media reports I have seen so far depict the Thai workers as very skilled, hard working people. They themselves seem to be happy (but they just have arrived!). Let’s see how the Thai workers themselves, the companies, the government, and the people in Japan evaluate this experiment when it is over.

  • After thought; if would be very disloyal of any Thai workers leaving their motherland during this time of crisis and reconstruction due to the floods.

    Any Thai flyjin who elect to go and work for economic gain in that northern archipelago that needs laborers-I forget the name now, as I am just a Thai villager, after all- should be lambasted in the media as disloyal to the king and the Thai nation.

    Oh, the irony.

  • Thai workers from flooded Japanese factories arriving in Japan
    (Mainichi Japan) December 9, 2011

    Over 2,000 Thai factory employees of Japanese companies are now in Japan supervising their Japanese colleagues thanks to a preferential measure instituted by Japanese authorities after factories in Thailand were rendered unusable due to recent flooding.

    On Dec. 5, approximately 30 Thai employees went in for their first day at the factory of video equipment manufacturer JVC Kenwood Corp. in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. After exchanging greetings with their Japanese counterparts, they went to work on the production line for security cameras marketed to corporations.

    The Thai JVC Kenwood employees who are now in Japan comprise quality auditors and production-line workers. The company had begun shifting production from its Yokosuka factory to Thailand about 15 years ago, and production of certain products had already been discontinued in Japan prior to the floods. Because of this, the company decided to ask their factory workers in Thailand to come to Japan to supervise the 1,600 Japanese temporary workers who were newly hired for backup production.

    The company plans on producing a total of 50,000 units of around 70 different products — the same as its Thai factory — at its Yokosuka factory next January. “By employing the skills of our (Thai) workers, we hope to deliver our products to our customers as soon as possible,” said managing director Nobuo Ochiai.

    JVC Kenwood is prepared to offer full-fledged support to its Thai employees who are unaccustomed to the cold weather by calling for donations of winter clothing. The company has also hired interpreters. A 40-year-old Thai manufacturing supervisor admitted to initially having reservations about coming to Japan: “I was worried about the difference in climate and communication. But I felt relieved to find that warm clothes and handbooks had been prepared for us. I want to work hard for the people around the world who are waiting for our products.”

    JS Group Corp., a major manufacturer of building materials and housing equipment, meanwhile, plans to bring up to 1,000 workers from their aluminum sash factory in Thailand to about a dozen of their factories in the Tokyo metropolitan area this month. To reach full production as quickly as possible, the Thai workers will be placed in production lines they are already familiar with. The company will also secure apartments and dormitories near its factories for their Thai employees, and appoint staff from the residence management companies to provide support for the workers in their day-to-day lives.

    Camera manufacturer Nikon Corp. begun accepting Thai employees on Dec. 5. A total of about 300 will arrive and be dispatched to factories in Miyagi Prefecture, Tochigi Prefecture and elsewhere by the end of this month to boost production of cameras and lenses. About 120 Thai workers have also arrived at a Showa Denko factory that manufactures automobile parts in Tochigi Prefecture. Electronic parts manufacturer Rohm Co. will be bringing over 180 employees from Thailand, while Omron Corp., whose Thai factory producing electronic parts for automobiles suffered damage, is considering accepting some 20 Thai employees.

    As a representative for one manufacturer said, one objective of bringing Thai factory workers to Japan is “to prevent skilled employees working at factories (in Thailand) that have been shut down from leaving to work for other companies.” The special government measure is specific to companies affected by the Thai floods, and permits employees to work in Japan for six months, after which the companies must ensure that they return to Thailand.

    According to the Japanese Ministry of Justice, 2,023 Thai nationals working for 33 companies had entered Japan on the special measure as of Dec. 7. About 70 companies have made preliminary consultations with the ministry regarding visa applications for some 4,500 people.

    (Mainichi Japan) December 9, 2011


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>