Archive for April, 2009

Japan’s Repatriation Plan

Posted on April 27, 2009. Filed under: Corporate |

As the global economy rapidly approaches its financial meltdown, many are beginning to question the presence and value (or lack thereof) of foreign workers and other outsourcing multinational companies.  On April 23, 2009 Hiroko Tabuchi, a New York Times columnist, reported on Japan’s ‘Repatration Plan,’ titled; Japan Pays Foreign Workers to Go Home, Forever.  This article reveals the untolerable expulsion of Latin American guest workers of Japanese descent.  In short, Mr. Jiro Kawasaki, former health minister and senior lawmaker, and the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party proclaimed; ‘you don’t have to go home, but you gotta get the hell outta here!’

The first question you may ask is, why is this plan focusing on Latin Americans and why are there so many that they merit their own ‘Expulsion Plan?’ According to Tabuchi, an estimated 366,000 Brazilians and Peruvians of Japanse decent now live in Japan, first emigrated during the early ’90’s on special visas to fill the growing demand on industrial labor.  They filled the 3-K jobs (‘kitsui, kitani, and kiken – hard, dirty, and dangerous).  However, as Japan faces its highest unemployment rate, lawmakers are searching for an economic ethnic cleansing, offering $3,000 toward air fare and $2,000 per dependent to leave the country and to never return – including their children.  Although this may appear to be an attractive offer, the more pertinent questions are; which other ‘ethnic groups’ are receiving the same treatment? What are their packages? If there aren’t any similar packages offered to various ethnic groups, why Latin Americans? 366,000 Latin Americans is a very small percentage of the total Japanese population, so what is the real motive?

According to Mr. Kawasaki, this is a great opportunity to remove ‘unskilled laborers’ from Japan.  “We should stop letting unskilled laborers into Japan.  We should make sure that even the three-K jobs are paid well, and that they are filled by Japanese…I do not think that Japan should ever become a multiethnic society.” He added; “the United States had been a ‘failure on the immigration front,’ and cited extreme income inequalities between rich Americans and poor immigrants.” Although his statement is founded in some truth, it should not serve as an impetus for Japan’s legal ethnic cleansing.  However, this does not come as a surprise, as Japan has a history of being very immigrant-adverse, which made the decision to welcome Latin Americans of  Japanese descent a thought-provoking act.

Japan is not the only country harboring these sentiments or political decisions.  Spain has adopted a similar program with minor, but significant differences.  With an unemployment rate of 15.5%, Spain has asked their immigrant workers to leave, but not for good.  They may reclaim their residency and visas after three years.  What do Japan, Spain, and the States have in common? Aside from their financial demise, the U.S. had also discussed the implementation of “Buy American,” however; was met with great global opposition.

My question is, during times of great challenge, do we as human beings revert back to our ethno-centric behaviors and preferences to preserve ‘our own’ for the sake of ‘the good’ or ‘the whole?’ Where does this need come from? Is this rooted in racism? Nationalism? Patriotism? This is certainly worth exploring in depth.

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