About 40 percent of foreign workers feel discriminated against at Japanese firms, survey finds

by

Staff Writer

Around 40 percent of white-collar foreign workers in Japan feel discriminated against in their offices due to their nationality or gender, according to a survey by private human resources company Adecco Ltd.

The survey, conducted in October, polled 300 white-collar foreign workers aged 20 to 60 on working conditions. Those surveyed were registered as Rakuten Research Inc. monitors.

Pollees included those in sales and marketing, personnel management, as well as creators and technicians in Japanese and foreign companies based in Japan. English teachers were excluded from the survey.

The survey also found that 77 percent of respondents are satisfied with their current work conditions, while 88 percent said they would like to keep working in Japan.

Responding to a multiple-answer question on what they do not like about working in Japan, 43 percent cited gender inequality. Around 40 percent said they have trouble with indirect or nonverbal communication with colleagues.

Asked how they see their Japanese colleagues’ performance, 80 percent said their Japanese peers are precise in their work.

But 72 percent complained that there were too many pointless meetings. Among the respondents, a British man in his 40s said, “People don’t debate during meetings so nothing ever gets decided. It’s a never-ending meeting.”

Others criticized inefficiency of the working style in Japan. “In the U.S., many tasks are done independently, possibly with a final report in the end, and superiors are consulted only when there is a problem. In Japan, the work environment emphasizes getting … approval before acting and reporting,” an American respondent said.

The respondent also said it is not uncommon for young people to be managers in the United States, but that in Japan, there are “many levels in the hierarchy of promotion, often linked to age,” and people are expected to show respect to their seniors.

According to the survey, 47 percent of respondents also felt they are not given equal opportunities compared with their Japanese colleagues.

Tomoyuki Ishikawa, a public relations officer at Adecco, expressed hope the survey will “help Japanese companies understand what foreign workers think of as favorable working conditions and what they expect in Japanese companies” at a time when the government is beckoning highly skilled foreign professionals.

He also hopes the survey will be an eye-opener for the public to “reconsider current working conditions and deepen mutual understanding between Japanese and foreign workers.”

The government relaxed permanent residency requirements for highly skilled foreign workers last April, shortening the length of the required minimum stay in Japan from five years to one year.