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Cablegate: Foreign Workers Change the Face of Central Japan

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RR RUEHCHI RUEHFK RUEHHM RUEHKSO RUEHPB
DE RUEHNAG #0028/01 2050407
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 230407Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL NAGOYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0237
INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 0019
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0244
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0003
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 0001
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO 0124
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE 0156
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA 0127
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA 0127
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 0001
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 0001
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 0001
RUEHZU/ASIAN PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA 0254

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NAGOYA 000028

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PREL CVIS JA BR CH PE
SUBJECT: FOREIGN WORKERS CHANGE THE FACE OF CENTRAL JAPAN

NAGOYA 00000028 001.2 OF 002


Summary
-----------
1. (SBU) Despite stereotypes of Japan as a homogeneous nation,
long-term foreign resident workers now play a crucial role in
the Central Japan economy. Owing to labor shortages and the
continuing strength of the regional manufacturing sector (even
in the face of rapidly rising fuel and raw material costs), the
foreign population of the region has grown dramatically in
recent years. In Central Japan the number of Brazilian
residents alone is rapidly closing in on 200,000. Foreign
workers are now accepted almost universally among regional
government and private sector leaders as an indispensable part
of Central Japan's economic success and continued health. In
response to social issues related to immigrant residents,
regional prefectural and local governments have released a joint
charter on foreign worker rights. Based on discussions with
many business and economic leaders, we expect pressure to grow
over time for a legal environment even more welcoming to foreign
workers. End summary.

Latin Americans in the Land of Toyota
--------------------------------------------- --
2. (U) The most notable group of foreign workers in Central
Japan is Brazilians and Peruvians of (at least purported)
Japanese descent. Under Japanese immigration law, foreigners
with at least one Japanese grandparent are allowed to live and
work in Japan for up to three years, with extension possible.
Latin Americans make up the lion's share of such workers. In
2006, the last year for which detailed statistics are available,
there were 185,915 Brazilian and 20,040 Peruvian residents of
the five prefectures covered by the Central Japan Economic
Federation (Aichi, Gifu, Mie, Nagano, and Shizuoka). Chinese
residents of the same five prefectures totaled 80,284,
remarkable for an area of Japan with virtually no long-term
Chinese communities (as in places like Yokohama or Kobe).
Regional Chinese population increased by over 160 percent in
only six years, up from 30,876 in 2002, and the PRC, which had
no diplomatic presence in Nagoya until the opening of its
consulate in 2005, now has a Nagoya Consulate General with 15
Chinese officers plus local staff. Anticipating a further
increase in Peruvian population, Peru opened a consulate general
in Nagoya in late 2007.

3. (U) Nagoya's Aichi prefecture, traditionally one of the more
socially conservative parts of Japan, has had to adapt to its
rapidly increasing foreign population. With 222,184 foreign
residents in 2007, Aichi now has the second largest foreign
population in Japan after Tokyo, and with foreign residents
accounting for just over 3 percent of its population, Aichi has
surpassed even Tokyo as the prefecture with the highest ratio of
foreigners among its residents.

Immigrant Labor Holds Down Factory Jobs
--------------------------------------------- --------
4. (U) In the past, foreigners were often described as doing
the "Three D" (dirty, dangerous, or difficult) jobs Japanese
workers shunned. The current situation is much different.
Foreign workers are employed side-by-side with Japanese
employees in ordinary manufacturing jobs throughout the Nagoya
area, simply because not enough domestic workers exist to fill
them in Central Japan and because of Japan's low labor mobility.
In Aichi prefecture in May, the ratio of jobs to job seekers
stood at 1.80 jobs available for every worker looking for
employment. This imbalance has continued for at least the past
five years and is the main factor behind the increase in
immigrant workers. Aichi is very much an economic outlier,
though. The prefecture with the second highest jobs ratio is
Tokyo at 1.36. The national ratio is 0.92. Hokkaido (0.42) and
Okinawa (0.41) remain at the bottom of the table, but there has
been little influx of Japanese workers from such areas moving to
Central Japan.

5. (U) Regional companies have widely varying policies toward
foreign workers. While Toyota employs virtually none, many of
its first and second tier suppliers have very significant
numbers of foreign staff, as do manufacturers in a variety of
sectors, most notably electronics. For example, a Gifu
prefecture Ibiden Co. factory producing computer chip sets we
visited has approximately forty percent Brazilian workers, and

NAGOYA 00000028 002.2 OF 002


it is not uncommon to see safety and other signs posted in
factories written in both Japanese and Portuguese.

Dealing With Immigrants
-------------------------------
6. (U) While some medium-sized industrial cities like Hamamatsu
(19,000 Brazilian residents) and Toyohashi (12,000 Brazilians)
have booming foreign populations, the effect of immigrant labor
may be felt even more strongly in smaller towns like Mino, Gifu
Prefecture, which has a, largely Chinese, foreign population as
high as ten percent. Due to Japan's low birth rate, in extreme
cases, children of immigrant workers reportedly make up as many
as half the students at elementary schools in a few smaller
Central Japan towns. However, due to language and other issues,
many foreign children remain outside the formal educational
system. According to press reports, in Nagano prefecture 16
percent of school-age Brazilians do not attend school.

7. (U) To cope with a similar problem, on July 22 the Aichi
International Association announced creation of a 700 million
yen ($6.6 million) private sector-supported fund to provide
Japanese language training for 6,000 non-Japanese speaking
children aged 6 to 14 in the prefecture. This is on top of the
prefecture's 40 million yen ($375,000) budget for the same
purpose. Meanwhile, Aichi prefecture has engaged a Mitsubishi
UFJ-affiliated research firm to study foreign child educational
issues, with an eye on families of both factory workers and
FDI-generating expatriates.

8. (U) About a year ago, the Chairman of the Brazilian Chamber
of Commerce in Japan complained to us in strong terms that
resident Brazilians were often treated as second-class citizens.
To cope with the influx of workers and associated social
issues, the governments of Aichi, Gifu, and Mie prefectures and
Nagoya city issued a joint charter for foreign workers in
January 2008. The charter contains six articles dealing with
fair labor conditions and the integration of foreign workers
into local communities. While this is an issue that continues
to tax local governments, the integration of non-Japanese
speaking immigrants appears to be moving forward fairly smoothly.

Comment
------------
9. (SBU) Although the booming Central Japan economy has begun
to cool down a bit in the face of increased fuel and metal costs
and declining American demand, foreign workers look to be here
to stay. Dozens of conversations we've had with local
government officials, business leaders, factory foremen and
others, clearly indicate a recognition that immigrant labor is
essential to the region's economic health. The number of
Brazilians willing to move to Japan may have reached a plateau
at about 320,000 currently in Japan nationwide, though. We have
heard a number of business leaders speculate about the need to
expand the loophole allowing Japanese-descended foreigners to
work here and open the labor market to Southeast Asians and
others willing and able to work in Japan. Because the bulk of
foreign factory workers are located outside the Tokyo region,
this may be a phenomenon that is not fully understood or
appreciated by the central government in the same way it is in
other parts of Japan. Nevertheless it is a phenomenon that has
already begun to change the face of the nation.
ROCHMAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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