TT-636 -- New Unskilled Worker Immigration? ebiz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
(http://www.terrie.com)

General Edition Sunday, October 30, 2011, Issue No. 636

+++ INDEX

- What's New -- New Unskilled Worker Immigration?
- News -- Despite tsunami, nuclear power still much cheaper
- Candidate Roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback -- Michael Woodford praise
- News Credits

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+++ WHAT'S NEW

Interesting news out on Friday that the Japanese government
is telling major manufacturers hit by the floods in
Thailand that they can bring their Thai workforces to Japan
for up to 6 months. According to the Nikkei, the chief
cabinet secretary, Osamu Fujimura, is saying that they will
give permission to around 30 companies to bring in
"thousands" of people. There are no deeper details at this
stage as to which companies will be allowed to bring people
in, nor which visa mechanism the government will use. A
training visa perhaps? Or maybe some kind of special
purpose visa that automatically expires after 6 months?

This program is a surprisingly dynamic and pragmatic
response from the government, and it's also filled with
challenging points of risk. For example, what about the
risk of Thai workers suddenly doing a "runner" and trying
to get work from some other company here in Japan? The
constitution guarantees the right of employment to all,
and once someone is legally working here, we assume it
will cover these temporary workers as well.

We can just see workers unions picking up on some of these
Thai workers and pointing out that they are being
underpaid, overworked, disadvantaged, or whatever -- which
we imagine they will be... Companies are hardly likely to
be bringing these Thai workers in at Japanese rates.
Probably they will given free housing and air fares, then
paid the same salary as they have been getting back in
Thailand. Given the cost of food here, there won't be much
left over.

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[...Article continues]

Then what about health support issues? Thousands of people
from a developing country are bound to mean thousands of
sickness cases that have to be medically seen to by someone
who can communicate with them, and that's not counting
potential issues with health insurance. OK, maybe the
companies will be made to cover the health costs, but it only
takes one bad appendicitis case where the Thai worker dies,
to make this program and the country to look really bad.

When bureaucrats think out of the box and take a risk like
this, they are probably not just doing it to help 30 companies
over a difficult 6 months. No, rather, we suspect that this is a
trial run for a larger program to be implemented at some
point. That is, Japan may be gearing up for a new form of
low-cost labor -- bringing in groups of people for short
periods and ensuring that they have to go home afterwards.
This is essentially what the "training" visas have been up
until now, but those visas required long-term commitment on
both sides and due to suicides, trainee detentions and
abuse, have been thoroughly discredited.

So how do we tell if this is a deeper move? The clue will
be in just how detailed the visa arrangements are. If highly
structured, then our take is that this is a dead give away
that there is longer-term thinking at work.

If so, then who in Japan needs a group of unskilled workers
with short-term visas? Clearly the big manufacturers do. As
the floods in Thailand have amply revealed. Japan may have
diversified its manufacturing base, but it is still very
vulnerable to localized events like the floods. The same
thing would apply to manufacturers in China. A sweeping
anti-Japanese political movement would quickly disable key
manufacturing plants around that country.

But the group that we think most needs these visas is the
agricultural sector. Farms don't need intensive care all year
round. The main time of need is harvesting, followed by
sowing or spring-time preparation. Up in Hokkaido last
week, we were told of a major blueberry farm which is
allowing tons of its valuable crop to rot on the ground
due to a lack of labor to pick and pack. Because of the
aging population in the farming sector, this scenario is
being repeated around the nation's many apple, peach, pear,
corn, onion, cabbage, and other fruit and vegetable
farms.

There are a number of other countries which have the same
agricultural labor shortage problems and which have
confronted these with viable solutions -- Germany,
Australia, and NZ to name a few. But the country that seems
most advanced in recognizing the need for seasonal migrant
workers and structuring for that need is Canada, which has
its Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). About
16,000 seasonal migrant workers travel from Mexico, the
Caribbean, and some other countries to work in apple and
other fruit harvesting; canning/food processing; bee and
flower production; and ginseng, sod, tobacco, and
greenhouse and field vegetable harvesting every year.

Importantly, SAWP protects those temporary workers in terms
of pay, health, and other support. The average hourly wage
in 2006 was CA$8.58. Workers are able to stay in Canada for
up to 8 months, earning "good worker credits" from the
farms, and with these credit ratings they can then go to the
top of the applicant list for the following year. Here is a
good story on the Canadian program: http://bit.ly/uQuqhJ.

This could work in Japan.

The current program for bringing Thai workers to Japan is a
good idea, but the devil will be in the details. If the
planned temporary migration is part of a bigger experiment,
then we just hope that the Japanese look further afield
for an immigration model and introduce a transparent and
properly structured program that works better to protect
the rights and conditions of foreign temporary workers than
the previous training visa program did.

...The information janitors/

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+++ NEWS

- Despite tsunami, nuclear power still much cheaper
- Baird Brewing back in the news
- Vacation Veranda wins Silver
- Thai floods may knock out Honda for 6 months
- Trawler lands bag of cash off Iwate-ken

-> Despite tsunami, nuclear power still much cheaper

The Japan Atomic Energy Commission has released figures
estimating that the cost of Japan's nuclear power has risen
about 20% due to the Fukushima accident, and now costs
consumers around JPY1.1kW/hr. This compares to the cost of
coal-fueled power which is around JPY5.7kW/hr, and hydro
which is around JPY11.9kW/hr. The JAEC went on to estimate
that the likelihood of another Fukushima-style accident is
once every 500 operating years. ***Ed: Of course, with more
than 50 reactors, this means even the JAEC thinks there
will be an accident every 10 years. We're certainly not
impressed by those odds...** (Source: TT commentary from
yomiuri.co.jp, Oct 26, 2011)

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T111025005767.htm

-> Baird Brewing back in the news

Last year in TT-568
(http://www.japaninc.com/tt568_worlds-best-beer), we
covered the fact that a small Shizuoka brew house called
Baird Brewing, walked off with 3 gold medals in the World
Beer Championships in Chicago. It has taken a year to get
the Japanese mainstream press to pay attention, but finally
it appears that Baird Brewing has "arrived", with the
Nikkei covering a recent visit by them and three other
brewers to the Japan Society in New York. Although there
was no announcement of more gold medals, Baird apparently
did share some facts about the small but growing craft
brewing market in Japan, saying that there are 180 craft
breweries which between them have just 1% of the overall
Japanese beer market. ***Ed: They have some ways to go
then, but at least they're getting recognized for their
efforts.** (Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Oct
28, 2011)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20111028D28HH577.htm

-> Vacation Veranda wins Silver

Another locally-based foreign entrepreneur who is winning
medals is Teddy Jennings, who owns what is possibly the
most unique business in Japan. Vacation Verandas "dresses
up" dirty porches and verandas so that apartment dwellers
can feel like they are living somewhere a bit nicer.
Teddy's talent was confirmed this last week when one of his
designs won Silver at the Hibiya Garden Show. Apparently he
was the only foreign designer competing and he beat out
many large garden and architectural firms in spite of this
being the first year to compete. ***Ed: Vacation Veranda
really is unique. See more on the photo gallery at Teddy's
website.** (Source: TT commentary from vacationveranda.com,
Oct 28, 2011)

http://bit.ly/rFaPdK

-> Thai floods may knock out Honda for 6 months

The Nikkei is reporting that flood damage to the Honda
Motor plants in Thailand may take up to 6 months to
repair, thus reducing output by 100,000 units, or 3% of
global production. Honda is apparently the only Japanese
auto maker whose facility was directly damaged, although
all makers are reporting problems and delays. The flooding
is 2-3 meters deep in the area of the Honda factory park
and will take another 2-3 weeks to recede so that damage
can be assessed. (Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com,
Oct 30, 2011)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20111029D29JFF03.htm

-> Trawler lands bag of cash off Iwate-ken

A fishing boat trawling off the cost near Ofunato City in
Iwate-ken has apparently hauled in more than it expected,
when it landed a bag containing more than JPY11m in ten
thousand yen bank notes. This is latest such cash catch
reported by fishermen. Apparently home savings swept out
to sea are showing up on a regular basis. The money has
been turned in to the police, and if no one claims it
within 6 months, it will become property of the finders.
***Ed: With more than 20,000 people dead or missing,
there's a strong chance there will be no claimant.**
(Source: TT commentary from ninemsn.com.au, Oct 30, 2011)

http://bit.ly/uAnzpp

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.

***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ CANDIDATE ROUND UP/VACANCIES

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In addition, since this role requires supporting end users
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Remuneration is JPY5m – JPY8m depending on your experience
and skill level.

** POSITIONS VACANT

- Asset Refresh Project Engr, global bank, JPY4M – JPY4.5M
- Service Delivery Manager, Japanese IT co, JPY9M – JPY12M
- Senior Netcare Engineer, BiOS, JPY4.5M – JPY5.5M
- Data Center Engineer, global ibank, JPY4M – JPY4.5M
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-----------------------------------------------------------

***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS

---------------- Start a Company in Japan -----------------

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If you have been considering setting up your own company,
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giving an English-language seminar and Q and A on starting
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This is an ideal opportunity to find out what is involved,
and to ask specific questions that are not normally
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and are Japan-focused.

For more details:
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------------------ ICA Event - November 17 ----------------

Speaker: Marc Wesseling
Title: Japanese Social Media: Top Trends

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
(RSVP Required)

Date: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 3,500 yen (members), 5,500 yen (non-members) Open to
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-----------------------------------------------------------

***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ CORRECTIONS/FEEDBACK

In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to editors@terrie.com.

*** In TT-635 we told the story of whistleblower Michael
Woodford, who was fired from Olympus as its CEO after
challenging the board to step down and take responsibility
for 4 dubious M&A deals that cost the company hundreds of
millions of dollars in excess fees.

=> Reader says: Michael Woodford has balls of steel, not
only for taking on a high level of personal responsibility
in taking on the CEO post (assuming he would have to
understand the culture) but also for approaching the board
directly about it despite placing his own position at risk.
Good on him for making copies of the evidence.

I hope he has good personal security arrangements in
place... there are going to be some very angry individuals
out there.

***********************************************************
END

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+++ ABOUT US

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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd@japaninc.com)

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