Chart of the week: Japan’s foreign-worker boom

Chart of foreign-born labour force in Japan

Japan has always been “sniffy about formal immigration”, says Neil Newman in a
Gavekal Research note. But it is having to change its attitude. The labour market is as tight as a drum, with unemployment at a record low of 2.5%. The population is ageing so fast that the workforce will fall from 67 million to 59 million by 2030.

Despite “automating everything from housework to nursing care”, the economy needs more people. Japan has actually been importing foreign workers for years now, but pretended they were students or on exchange schemes. The latest 500,0000 workers to come in, however, will be on fixed-term, non-extendable work permits. And this time many of them won’t even have to speak Japanese.


Viewpoint

“‘Here comes the sun,’ the Beatles sang, although it might not have been such a big hit if the next line was ‘and next up are the profit warnings’… Every weather ‘event’, as the rail industry euphemistically dubs any climate that is not a windless, cloudless, heatless day, gives retailers a reason to moan… Chocolatier Thorntons [has proved] to be the maestro of the weather-related whinge… The gist was, when it was hot, profits fell because no one fancied a sticky brown snack, and when it was cold, the ice-cream freezer at the front of most Thorntons stores was about as popular as Donald Trump in Mexico… Contrast Thorntons’ moans with Hotel Chocolat’s 12% [jump in revenues] in the year to July, despite it too being a chocolatier… faltering, messy shops with don’t-give-a-damn staff will struggle for those reasons, but blame the heat.”

Lucy Tobin, Evening Standard