Transforming the Workplace
International Workers Manufacture Japan-made Products (#1 of 5 part series)
Staff shortages mean that companies are starting to rely more heavily on international workers to produce Japan-made goods. A Fukuoka-based manufacturing company specializing in automobile parts called Techno Smile began accepting overseas interns and trainees in 2008. Initially, the company, which provides parts for Toyota, began taking on international employees so that they could contribute to the global community and facilitate the transmission of technology. But now the company is starting to turn to workers from overseas as cost cutting measures make it harder to recruit Japanese employees. Out of the 42 staff members in their factory, 17 are currently trainees.
Another automobile manufacturer in Fukuoka called Fukusetsu is also turning to the pool of talent available overseas to meet demands. Two out of the company’s nine designers are from Vietnam. With a lack of experts in their field available inside Japan, the president of the company is expecting to hire more staff from Vietnam in the future.
The automobile industry is said to be the driving force of the Japanese manufacturing industry. Reports show that international workers offer support at each stage of the production process, and it is thanks to their help that “Japanese” cars can be exported all over the world.
The Japanese food industry is also employing more workers from overseas. A Vietnamese part-time staff member working at an izakaya near JR Hakata Station is responsible for preparing a number of the Japanese-style dishes that are served. The manager stated that this individual’s attitude is an example to all staff and that their establishment would like to see the worker take on a full-time position. This Vietnamese izakaya employee shows that overseas workers can really understand and symbolize the essence of Japanese cuisine.
The management company of the same izakaya is planning to get involved with a project organized by the Fukuoka Association of Independent Entrepreneurs, which provides loans for Japanese language school students who struggle to cover their tuition fees and school expenses. Last spring, the company did not have any Japanese graduates enter their company. As international students start to join, they are now thinking about the possibility of expanding their business overseas.
Meanwhile, reports from Miyazaki Prefecture exposed a corporation that tied international workers into contracts that combined work with the experience of studying abroad. This meant that the employees were not adequately paid and did not get much freedom to choose their jobs. The president was forthcoming in their views about the situation, stating that “companies will not be able to function well in the future without talented overseas workers.”
Japan’s declining birthrate and aging society has a big impact on the country’s working age population. As the third largest economy in the world, it seems inevitable that Japanese businesses will be comprised of more workers, specialist engineers, and highly skilled professionals from abroad in the future.
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.