IThey are Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian, Burmese or Nepalese. They now dream of a better life in Japan. Gradually, the country of the Rising Sun opens its doors to its neighbors, as long as they know how to care for the sick, build buildings or work in factories. The Japanese archipelago doesn’t really have a choice. The latest figures published on Tuesday January 30 by the Ministry of Labor attest to this. With unemployment at 2.4% in December 2023, there are 120 job offers for 100 applicants. Now, many small businesses are being pushed into bankruptcy due to lack of resources.
As a result, immigration is constantly increasing. Started in hospitals, it extends to all sectors. For the first time in its history, in 2023 the country exceeded the threshold of 2 million immigrant workers on its soil, i.e. 12% more than in 2022. According to statistics revealed on Friday January 26, a quarter of these foreign employees come from Vietnam, almost 20% from China and 11% from the Philippines. But the prize for progress goes to the Indonesians, whose number is up 56% over one year.
To channel this flow, the country has created visa classes. It distinguishes between “specific skills” for professions in shortage and even “high skills” for the most sought-after researchers and engineers. These are the only ones who can move in with their family.
According to the International Monetary Fund, people stop emigrating from a country when its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita reaches $7,000 (6,500 euros), because the difference in salary is no longer worth it. Vietnam, with its GDP per capita of just over $4,000, still has room to spare, as does Indonesia, with its $4,700.
This still very controlled reality of Japanese immigration hides a great mystery, that of the stagnation of wages, despite the shortage. These fell by a further 3% in real value in 2023. This is a major concern for the government, and a tragedy for the Bank of Japan, which is desperately trying to raise inflation. They hope for a revival during the annual negotiations, which start in companies.
Without a rebound in the rise in prices and wages, the central bank will not be able to escape the trap in which it is trapped. Now holding more than 50% of the gigantic national debt, it no longer knows how to get out of its negative rate policy intended to boost anemic growth. And it is not Vietnamese or Filipino workers who will be able to solve this problem.