Japan Pays Foreign Workers to Go Home

Filed under: Tacos — S. @ 8:03 pm

The New York Times has an article about Japan’s attempt to get blue-collar Latin American workers to leave Japan permanently. Highlights can be found below.

Japan’s repatriation offer is limited to the country’s Latin American guest workers, whose Japanese parents and grandparents emigrated to Brazil and neighboring countries a century ago to work on coffee plantations.

In 1990, Japan — facing growing industrial labor shortage — started issuing thousands of special work visas to descendants of these emigrants. An estimated 366,000 Brazilians and Peruvians now live in Japan.

The guest workers quickly became the largest group of foreign blue-collar workers in an otherwise immigration-adverse country, filling the so-called three-K jobs (kitsui, kitanai, kiken — or hard, dirty and dangerous.)

But the nation’s manufacturing sector has slumped as demand for Japanese goods evaporates worldwide, prompting job cuts and pushing the jobless rate to a three-year high of 4.4 percent. Japan’s exports plunged 46 percent in March from a year earlier, and industrial production is at its lowest level in 25 years.

So Japan has been keen to help foreign workers go home, thus easing pressure on domestic labor markets and getting thousands off unemployment rolls.

Under the emergency program, introduced this month, the country’s Brazilian and other Latin American guest workers are offered $3,000 toward air fare, plus $2,000 for each dependent — attractive lump sums for many immigrants here. Workers who leave have been told they can pocket any change.

But those who travel home on Japan’s dime will not be allowed to reapply for a special “Nikkei” work visa. Stripped of that status, most Japanese-Brazilian workers who left would find it all but impossible to return to work here under Japan’s strict immigration laws.

“We should stop letting unskilled laborers into Japan. We should make sure that even the three-K jobs are paid well, and that they are filled by Japanese,” he [Mr. Kawasaki] said. “I do not think that Japan should ever become a multi-ethnic society.”

He said the United States had been “a failure on the immigration front,” and cited extreme income inequalities between rich Americans and poor immigrants.

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