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December 1994 Volume 1 Number 11
Foreign Workers in Japan
The Japanese Labor Ministry released a report on the legal half of the estimated 600,000 foreign workers in the country. In the year ending June 1, 1994, the number of foreign workers hired directly by Japanese manufacturers fell, but the number of manufacturers hiring foreign workers increased 10-fold, from 1,300 to 13,000. The number of foreign workers hired in construction, transport, and services rose.<< back
Based on a survey of 14,200 companies with 130,000 foreign workers--of whom 28 percent were hired through labor contractors--the ministry reported that the number of foreign workers employed legally in manufacturing fell by seven percent between June, 1993 and June, 1994. The number of foreign workers hired by construction firms rose by 17 percent, by transport firms 10 percent, and by service firms four percent.
Large companies shed foreign workers, while small firms added foreign workers. In corporations with more than 1,000 employees, the number of foreign workers dropped 24, but the number of foreign workers rose by 18 percent at companies with five to 29 employees.
Of the 130,000 foreign workers reported by these employers, 60 percent were Central and South Americans, many of whom were of Japanese descent. Another 18 percent each were East Asians and North Americans.
Chinese living illegally in Japan have apparently become sophisticated forgers of the immigration stamps needed for legal ID cards. For 20,000 to 60,000 yen (US$ 200 to $600), false ID cards can be purchased. It is common for forgers to stamp on the alien's tourist visa "Zairyu Kikan Shinseichu" (extension under application), which is plausible given the backlog at Japan's Immigration Bureau. .
There is also a lively business of "renting" valid passports, on which pictures are changed. Illegal "boat people" from China's Fujian province who arrive without papers are believed to be the main buyers of false documents.
Police arrested 13 Peruvians in northern Japan in November for overstaying their tourist visas by one-half to almost three years. All were employed by Japanese firms that manufacture electrical equipment.
In a new book, Japan's 'Guestworkers:' Issues and Public Policies, published by the University of Tokyo Press, author Haruo Shimada says that Japan should accept the need for foreign workers and enact labor laws that better protect them. According to Shimada, " large numbers of foreign workers and their families are already in the country and have begun to settle on a permanent basis."
Shimada reports that in 1992, 110,000 foreigners entered Japan to work, and that an average 85,000 were in the Japanese workforce. In addition, there were 43,000 trainees, plus 27,000 language students who are allowed to work part time. About 149,000 Latin Americans of Japanese descent entered Japan. There are also about 300,000 foreigners who entered Japan as tourists, overstayed their visas, and went to work.
Wallace Gagne, "Foreign bodies in the works," The Daily Yomiuri, November 20, 1994. Japan Economic Newswire, November 7, 1994. "Document forgery flourishes among Chinese in Japan," Mainichi Daily News, November 6, 1994. Foreign labor at factories falls," Mainichi Daily News, November 19, 1994.