Japan’s plan for new residency status amidst labour shortage

So as usual, I was reading news while having my breakfast ($1.30 only btw, rice with 2 other dishes, damn, I’m blessed) and I saw this. Basically, Japan is thinking of introducing an enhancement to a current scheme for technical workers to allow them to extend their work in Japan for another 5 years.

As a Singaporean, I saw no issue in the news and feel that it is inevitable, in a way, because the govt has to do something to solve labour shortage issue and Singapore face the same issue. So when I read the comments, I got a shock, because most of them sniped at the news.

The main points that these unhappy commenters mentioned include how technical workers are actually ‘slaves labourers’ who are only wanted for the short 5 years to work their ass off and suffer low pay and poor benefits, with no entitlement to pension and insurance, especially because they have to return to their home country upon 5 years and during these 5 years, they are not allowed to bring their family members over to Japan.

I am going to go ahead and assume that most of those who commented are the angmohs from first world countries or skilled expats working in Japan.

Personally, I understand where they are coming from when they say that these workers are under compensated because for the same job, a local Japanese probably gets paid higher. And they are probably comparing it to their own level of jobs, where other skilled workers get to enjoy better compensation and also bring spouse etc over. Plus, they find the 5 years work-and-go-home arrangement cold and heartless, in a way.

But if I look at it objectively… How is the govt wrong in being so?

Perhaps I think this way because I am a Singaporean. But it is very clear that to ensure a country thrives, it is usually tied to economy and to put it very simply, a country is like a company. A business. So as a business, what do I want to ensure? That I have profit and assets, and my employees and clients are happy. So, if I am a company and I need people to fill certain roles, can’t I hire people on contract basis with terms and conditions attached? And because these jobs are not high level jobs, can’t I pay less? And because if I offer these contract workers full time employment, I am depriving my employees of space and also creating a sense of fear in my employees that they are threatened, can’t I just stick to a contract arrangement?

More importantly, if knowing these terms and conditions, there are still people who want to do it and they still stand to benefit from this arrangement albeit it is not the best, then isn’t it a gain-gain?

If I am currently a manager in my office now in a small local set up and Google offers me a position to be just an assistant to an executive in America but with 3 or 5 times my current salary, will I take it even if I know I am still considered underpaid compared to other American google staff? I probably might, right?

What I mean is, it is about relative gains by one’s own standard. How can we slap a ‘norm’ of another group uniformly across all different groups?

In addition, somebody commented, “And what happens when they no longer become needed?” To which, I feel that it is ridiculous to expect that to be answered because it is as good as a contract employee going to HR and demanding HR for an answer when it was agreed to be on a contractual basis in the first place. And there’s nothing wrong with hiring people on contract, is there?

Hence, I find that though they are not wrong in their comments, it is only so based on their perspective. Perhaps to a foreign technical worker, this news is great news because it would grant him or her another 5 years to earn the higher income to accumulate more savings before they go home to perhaps buy property or land to make a living in their homeland.

In Singapore, we have migrant workers. Domestic workers, or more crudely known as maid, and foreign workers, more crudely known as banglas or construction worker. Do we feel for them? I think a lot of us sympathise with them. But from my interaction with them, though fewer than I’d like, they are actually happy to have a job in SG because they are earning many more times what they would be earning back home. Of course they hate the weather, the work is tiring and they feel lonely, but the dormitory they stay in (which I have visited before myself) are actually in better condition than their homes back in their home country.

A lot of Singaporeans hate foreign talents. Be it threatening our rice bowl or simply choking up our public transport. Hence, I feel that it is perfectly understandable why workers on those visa can’t bring their families over. Call me selfish, but as a citizen, I feel that the govt should indeed protect our needs and welfare first.

I guess in conclusion, all I want to say is… it is alright to want to hope for better work and living conditions for these workers and feel for them. But why bash a logical decision made by the govt, especially when work condition and remuneration isn’t even decided by the govt?

You tell me.

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