Japan, long known for its resistance to mass immigration, is gradually starting to deploy more foreigners to solve its labor shortage. Foreigners, the term often used to refer to non-Japanese nationals living/working in Japan, are taking up jobs in rural areas where industries such as agriculture and textiles are struggling. Large companies are filling their factories with foreigners to assemble auto parts and flat-panel TVs. In cities, foreign workers serve meals at restaurants and stock shelves at grocery stores. Not much different from the use of Mexican labor in the U.S.
The 2005 census revealed that Japan had 770,000 foreign workers, 1.3% of its working population, up from 604,000 and 0.9% a decade earlier. That is still a far cry from the U.S., which has 22 million foreign-born workers, or 15% of the labor force. Nonetheless, it's a big change for Japan.
Resistance to allowing in foreign workers runs strong in this island nation, where virtually everyone speaks Japanese and shares a similar ethnic and cultural background. During 1639 to 1854, known as the sakoku-jidai in Japanese, Japan banned nearly all foreigners from entering the country.
Even today, many Japanese believe that the country's relatively homogenous population and common values contribute to a low crime rate and economic strength. But as the country faces shrinking population and is engulfed into global economic competition, Japanese are beginning to shake off some of their traditional views. In a 2005 government public-opinion survey, 56% of respondents said Japan should accept unskilled foreign workers either unconditionally or if certain conditions are met. 26% said they were opposed to the idea under any circumstance.
Thinking about working in Japan? Preparing to move overseas almost becomes a full-time job in the final weeks of your departure. Many people quit their jobs weeks before so they can devote their time to preparation. But what about your health insurance? Short-term health insurance plans are a great solution. ↓
Below are links to Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants providing services in English. Also below are useful links related to working in Japan and links to women balancing career and personal happiness. WJA realizes and promotes women's increasing value in the labor market.