How Japan risks losing its shine for foreign workers

The Nikkei Asia has reported growing concerns in Japan that indispensable foreign workers will turn away from its domestic industry in the near future. Traditionally reluctant to accept immigrants, Japan has a technical intern training program for foreign workers for the official purpose of assisting developing nations. But this on-the-job training system is often subject to questions about human rights and has often been criticized for a variety of abuses – including unpaid wages, violence and sexual harassment.

The reliance of the Japanese economy on foreign workers has greatly increased. However, it is uncertain whether Japan can continue to retain foreign workers in the medium to long term.

The article noted that according to a 2020 report by the International Monetary Fund, when a nation’s gross domestic product tops $2,000 per capita, the number of migrants to emerging countries decreases; and when its GDP reaches $7,000 per capita, migration to advanced economies begins to decline.

Vietnam, which has replaced China as the largest source of trainees in Japan, saw its GDP reach $2,785 per capita in 2020. That figure is expected to reach $7,000 early in the 2030s if it maintains economic growth at 7%, the average over the past decade. Countries such as Myanmar and Nepal are expected to take over Vietnam’s current position in light of such factors as their wage gaps and populations. 

Meanwhile and according to a 2020 report by the International Organization for Migration, China is shifting to being a net recipient of migrants. This means Japan will begin to vie with China for foreign workers after 2025 if not earlier.

The Nikkei Asia article concluded by pointing out that experts say if Japan wants to continue to attract foreign trainees, it must work with source countries to settle the problem of high commissions as well as create domestic conditions enabling foreign nationals to work with a sense of security.

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