Japan Pays Foreign Workers to Leave


Give the Japanese credit.  They stick together.  Their corporations are fiercely loyal to their workers, guaranteeing lifetime employment.  And, as demonstrated in this linked article, their government is just as loyal and proactive in trying to maintain extremely low unemployment.  With only 4.4% unemployment (a figure sure to rise, though, as huge drops in exports begin to bite), the Japanese government has implemented a program that pays foreign workers to leave the country, in return for a promise to never seek work in Japan again.  Here are key excerpts from the article:

Rita Yamaoka, a mother of three who immigrated from Brazil, recently lost her factory job here. Now, Japan has made her an offer she might not be able to refuse.

The government will pay thousands of dollars to fly Mrs. Yamaoka; her husband, who is a Brazilian citizen of Japanese descent; and their family back to Brazil. But in exchange, Mrs. Yamaoka and her husband must agree never to seek to work in Japan again.

“I feel immense stress. I’ve been crying very often,” Mrs. Yamaoka, 38, said after a meeting where local officials detailed the offer in this industrial town in central Japan.

“I tell my husband that we should take the money and go back,” she said, her eyes teary. “We can’t afford to stay here much longer.”

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 this recession-racked country. So far, at least 100 workers and their families have agreed to leave, Japanese officials said.

The program is limited to the country’s Latin American guest workers, whose Japanese parents and grandparents emigrated to Brazil and neighboring countries a century ago to work on coffee plantations.

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.

Mr. Kawasaki led the ruling party task force that devised the repatriation plan, part of a wider emergency strategy to combat rising unemployment.

Compare this action to the U.S. where, in spite of 8.6% unemployment (which is certain to rise above 10% this year), the government still imports foreign workers at a furious pace, yielding to corporate lobbies eager to hold down labor costs by flooding the labor market and exacerbating unemployment.

6 Responses to Japan Pays Foreign Workers to Leave

  1. mtnmike says:

    Hello Pete,

    I figured that you would pick up on this article. “Very interesting my dear Watson.”

    It gets more interesting however when one studies the history of Japan. Only a few years ago, in at least one village, the government was literally paying Japanese women to have more children. Hmmmm.

    It seems that perhaps the absolute impossibility for exponential growth has set in with at least some of the Japanese leadership; a true 180 degree turnaround.

    I say some people, as you know others in Japan are throwing a wall-eyed fit and calling the move to pay people to leave “inhumane.” I suppose allowing them to starve in the streets would be more appropriate.

    Japan being an island nation allows us to get a bird’s eye view of the finite capacity of our earth. A view that is a microcosm of the U.S. just down the trail a few years. Or, tomorrow, should our foreign money and oil supply be cut off.

    Yet, we continue to import workers and export jobs by the millions in both categories. Go figure.

    Is it possible that Japan is about to deal with the reality of overpopulation and the impossible model of exponential growth? And maybe even the stark reality that gross trade imbalance cannot long endure?

  2. ClydeB says:

    Japan may become the model for ‘fixing’ our excessive immigrant population problem. With the seemingly inexhaustible supply of money that Washington has found, why not endow every southbound family, who crosses the border, with enough money to pay for repatriation to Mexico or Guatamala, etc., on condition that they stay, as the song says “South of the border, down Mexico way.”
    Now is the time, what with the shortage of jobs and growing sentiment to take action to close the border. Even if all illegals were to leave, the jobs situation will remain a disaster, but our recurring costs will be lowered.

  3. mtnmike says:

    Clyde B.

    I agree with you regarding Japan becoming somewhat of a model that will lead to a massive paradigm shift.

    This move by Japan is of far greater importance than the current ink being devoted to the subject would suggest.

    It could in fact become the stuff that history is made of. The first country in the world to abandon exponential growth as an economic model. There is a very big WOW factor at play here.

  4. ClydeB says:

    There are still ‘respected?’ economists sounding warnings that Japan is approaching a disaster with it’s declining birthrate. There will not be sufficient workers to support the ‘too old to work’ members remaining. It may require a few difficult years of adjustment, but the long term benefits would certainly be worth the effort.

  5. mtnmike says:


    Absolutely! When you find yourself in a hole…stop digging.

    Change is never welcome by those who are benefiting most from status-quo. If you are robbing Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on the support of Paul.

    I remain hopeful that this could represent a broad paradigm shift.

    • Pete Murphy says:

      Regarding the declining birth rate in Japan, I’ve seen the same things, Clyde (economists wringing their hands). However, since no population can grow forever, the aging population problem must be dealt with sooner or later. Delay the inevitable, and the population of the elderly will be that much larger, making the problem even more difficult to solve. It amazes that the “solution” that economists come up with is to grow the population further, making matters that much worse.

      This whole issue of Japan trying to repatriate foreign workers may be just one more small piece of evidence that the nations of the world understand that they can no longer rely on trade imbalances to sustain themselves. If exports are to decline, then so too must their labor forces. On the other hand, it may be nothing more than a temporary reaction to current events. We’ll see.

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