With a path-breaking reform in migration, Japan – known for its antipathy to foreign workers – opened a new visa for foreign workers. It went a step ahead of other countries, edging out their policies. While other nations have opened their gates for foreign workers only in highly skilled jobs, Japan opened for multiple categories, including marginally skilled, semi-skilled and highly skilled workers.
On December 7, 2018, the Japanese parliament made a bold reform by passing an immigration law to attract 345,000 foreign workers over a period of five years. This suggests that the gaijin paranoia is fading away and a new sun arises for Japan to be globally integrated in human relation axis.
With effect from April 1, 2019, there are two sets of visa to be issued to the foreign workers – Technical Intern Class 1 and Class 2.
Technical-1 refers to marginal skilled workers in designated fields. They will be given a five-year visa, but without the benefits of family reunification. Technical-2 is directed to semi-skilled workers with work experiences in designated fields, with a 10-year initial visa for working, along with benefits of family reunification and effectively making them entitle for permanent residents.
Juxtaposed by deceleration in birth rate and sustainable high growth in aging population, Japan is facing the serious problem of labour shortages. It is already reeling under “hollow investment”, precipitated by the yen shock in late eighties the and bubble burst in the early nineties. Added to this, the labour shortages gear up the woes of the investors in Japan. As a result, the investment promotion scheme “ Invest Japan” – one of the key 3 Arrow economy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – is shadowed.
Japan is in dire need of foreign workers in IT industry. According to a METI estimate ( Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) , Japan will be short of 290 thousand IT workers by 2020 and this will double to 590 thousand by 2030. Given the impending crisis for Indian IT workers seeking jobs in USA after Trump’s “America First” backlash and India having an high reputation in IT sector, Japan’s easing of migration law will be a timely succor for Indian IT workforce.
An influx of semi-skilled and migrant workers will be another area of opportunity for India workers to seek jobs in Japan. This will open a new opportunity for non-IT and low-, semi- and skilled-Indian workers to seize in foreign workers pool in Japan. For example, ample opportunities will arise for Indian semi-skilled and marginal workers in construction sectors with the attraction that they will be cheaper and have experiences in overseas construction works , reaped from construction boom in oil rich countries.
It is said that foreign workers will be of great help to aging population in Japan. Aging population is creating more jobs in Japan. But, few Japanese are amenable to such jobs as careers. According to The Economist, there are more than 60 percent jobs vacant than people are looking for work. Industries , such as agriculture, construction and nursing, are increasingly dependent on foreign workers.
Indian nurses have global reputation. They have already replaced work needs in Philippines in UK and Ireland. According to a survey, three quarters of the employers surveyed in these countries, advocate India as primary source country for registered nurses.
“Invest Japan” is proclaimed as an important pillar for Japan’s revitalization strategy for economy under Prime Minster Sihnizo Abe’s 3 Arrow economy. Japan lost its power of manufacturing hub after the yen appreciation in the economic war with USA in late eighties and China’s rising low cost production hub since late nineties
Japan is a typical destination for investment. It has several advantages for investment. Homogeneity is an important factor which plays a big role. Manufacturing is the main boost for Japan, which made it second biggest economy in the world, before China outplaced it to third rank. Despite this, finding human resources is a big challenge for the foreign investors. This is because Japanese workers are eclipsed by traditional cultural taboos.
Besides linguistic hinge, cultural barriers, which refer to peculiar corporate human resources management system, bars Japanese workers mobility to foreign companies. According to a survey for Invest Japan in 2015, over 68 percent respondents attributed to difficulty in finding Japanese workers in Japan.
The reasons cited for their unwillingness to work in foreign companies were their reluctance to aberrate from the traditional values of working, such as life long employment system, loyalty to workplace and reluctance to adopt seniority by performance rather than seniority by age. This means performance and productivity, educational qualifications and special working qualifications have little weight in determining the position and salary of the job seekers. Dismissal is a rare event in Japanese corporations.
Given this conservative human resource management system instilled among the Japanese workers and their reluctance to the new system, it has become uphill task for foreign investors to find Japanese workforce for their plants. This leaves foreign investors with only one alternative and that is, immigrate foreign workers, either from their home countries or from other countries where they have their plants.
Hitherto, restrictive immigration debarred foreign investors to employ expatriates , excepting in high skilled jobs. With the liberalization in immigration, the obstacles for finding workforce in all categories for their plants in Japan are likely to be eased . This will escalate the foreign investors interest to invest in Japan.
At present, only 2 percent of Japanese residents are foreigners. According to an opinion poll, 60 percent of the respondents in the age group of 28-29 years were in favour of foreigners. With ease of immigration law, the share is likely to move upward. This suggests that ease of migration law will bid for a new era in Japan. It will have multiple ramifications on Japanese society and working culture. To this end, time will speak the worth of reforms.
Views are personal