NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 27, 2009

Japan has a new program: it will pay to relocate foreign workers.  Japan's offer, extended to hundreds of thousands of blue-collar Latin American immigrants, is part of a new drive to encourage them to leave the recession-racked country.  So far, at least 100 workers and their families have agreed to leave, but critics denounce the program as shortsighted, inhumane and a threat to what little progress Japan has made in opening its economy to foreign workers, says the New York Times.

  • In 1990, Japan -- facing a 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.
  • But the nation's manufacturing sector has slumped as demand for Japanese goods evaporated, pushing unemployment to a three-year high of 4.4 percent.

Manufacturing output could rise as manufacturers start to ease production cuts.  But the numbers could have more to do with inventories falling so low that they need to be replenished than with any increase in demand. 

While Japan waits for that to happen, it has been keen to help foreign workers leave, which could ease pressure on domestic labor markets and the unemployment rolls, says the Times:

  • But those who travel home on Japan's dime will not be allowed to reapply for a work visa.
  • Stripped of that status, most would find it all but impossible to return; yet, they could come back on three-month tourist visas.
  • Or, if they became doctors or bankers or held certain other positions, and had a company sponsor, they could apply for professional visas.

However, Japan is under pressure to allow returns.  The aging country faces an impending labor shortage.  The population has been falling since 2005, and its working-age population could fall by a third by 2050, says the Times.

Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, "Japan Pays Foreign Workers to Go Home," Yahoo/New York Times, April 23, 2009.


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