International Student Migrant Workers
Immigration Exceeds One Million (#1 of 7 part series)
An increasing number of Japanese language school students from South and Southeast Asia are working part-time in the suburbs of Fukuoka at factory-like locations which operate all day long. Various types of part-time work are done at these bases, including sorting out items for door to door deliveries, as well as preparing convenience store bento lunch boxes.
These students who are mainly from Vietnam and Nepal work around their studies. They are picked up in the city during the evening and driven in minibuses to the outskirts of Fukuoka, working through the night in jobs that do not require a high level of Japanese ability.
In some factories, up to 80% of staff are known to be from abroad. Reports reveal that there are international students working above the legally-allowed 28 hours per week limit. Some Japanese language schools have had to turn down requests from bento factories looking for extra help out of fear that they might attract the attention of the immigration office.
The government has announced a plan to welcome 300,000 international students to the country. Currently, Kyushu has 64 Japanese language schools across its seven prefectures (out of the 547 schools that were registered nationwide as of September last year), which is twice as many as 10 years ago.
Last January, the Fukuoka Prefectural Police reprimanded a Japanese language school in Nogata City after it was discovered that they had been in breach of immigration laws by promoting illegal working hours. The institution was closed in March and around 100 of their students had to move. A major shortage in the workforce had meant that 30 to 40 international students were employed during busy working seasons in the five years leading up to this episode. Following the incident, the gap that was left could not be plugged.
The majority of international students have several part-time jobs. About 50 companies, mainly concentrated in Chikuho area’s manufacturing industry, have taken students on as employees. A convenience store manager in Nogata City who employs five foreign students said, “International students work hard even late at night, at hours when even our own Japanese recruits do not work.”
Working over 28 hours a week is technically against the law; however, it is also true that these students are a valuable commodity that make up a significant portion of the labour force in rural areas.
New Era of Immigration in Kyushu
The number of workers from abroad, including international students and technical interns in Japan, exceeded one million for the first time last year. This group of people form an indispensable component of the workforce, irrespective of the government’s position on immigration. Read more installments from this series here.