Japan's labor market hurdles keep foreigners in temporary work for years

Midcareer job seekers face language barrier and tradition favoring new grads

Nikkei -- Jun 09
It is not unusual for foreign workers in Japan to struggle in their search for permanent employment, even if they have toiled in temporary full-time positions for many years, according to a Nikkei analysis of a 2021 government survey of Japan's wage structure.

There are approximately 1.72 million foreign workers in Japan. According to the 2021 survey, in which 49,000 workplaces responded, 47% of foreign workers in full-time positions were classified as "non-regular staff," such as temporary or contract employees. The percentage of non-regular staff with five to nine years of service, which does not include foreign nationals with short periods of stay in Japan, such as technical interns, was 36%.

But when Japanese staffers are included, only 16% of employees remained in temporary positions after working five to nine years in their jobs. These numbers illustrate that foreign workers are less likely to obtain a permanent position than their Japanese peers.

The survey also shows that permanent jobs generally pay much better. Foreign employees who have worked as "regular staff" for longer than 10 years averaged monthly salaries of 539,000 yen ($4,146), including bonuses and allowances. This is 2.2 times the level of those who have been with the company for one to two years. Non-regular staff were only 1.5 times higher.

Around 90% of foreign workers are paid below the average of 307,000 yen.

Human resources experts say much of the problem involves the unique Japanese tradition of hiring new graduates en masse for permanent positions and the culture of lifelong employment at one particular company. Foreign workers hired as fresh graduates will be offered the same salary as a local. ...continue reading

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