Foreign Policy Blogs

Japan to Welcome Thai Workers… For a Time

Japan to Welcome Thai Workers... For a Time

Floods in Thailand have affected Japanese firms, causing Japan to temporarily accept Thai workers. (

Tokyo is planning to allow thousands of Thai workers employed by Japanese firms to come to Japan to work for six months as an “emergency and temporary measure.” This move is meant to offset the damage months of flooding have wreaked on Japanese companies in Thailand.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said, “Japan will accept Thai workers employed by Japanese firms who have stopped operation due to the flood to work in Japan on certain conditions such as that the companies will ensure they return home.”

Due to the strength of the yen, many Japanese manufactures have moved jobs to mainland Asia to take advantage of cheap labor. The flooding in Thailand, which has affected manufacturers such as Honda and Toyota, has further damaged Japanese companies which had to halt production in Japan after the March 11 quake-tsunami-nuclear crisis.

I think this is an important story because it underscores a fundamental flaw with Japan’s immigration policy, the long-term effects of which could be exacerbated by Japan’s demographic crisis.

Japan’s immigration policy is decidedly xenophobic. And judging by Fujimura’s above quote, the hearts and minds of Japanese lawmakers aren’t likely to change anytime soon. Japan only issues around 50,000 work visas each year, much less than the 700,000 immigrants some estimates say are needed annually to replenish Japan’s shrinking work force.

Many of the world’s industrial economies, the U.S. included, will face labor shortages sooner or later, but according to STRATFOR’s George Friedman, only countries with a tradition of immigration, such as in the Anglo-sphere, will be able to welcome and integrate these immigrant workers into their societies. (The U.S. has traditionally been good at this, but I think we could do a better job integrating recent Latin immigrants than we currently do.)

Japan has traditionally been terrible at integrating foreigners into their society. The Japanese seem more comfortable envisioning a future in which robots pick up the slack from labor shortages rather than opening the door to more immigrants. This xenophobic immigration policy will be self-defeating to Japan in the long-run.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

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E-mail him: [email protected]