National | KANSAI PERSPECTIVE

Most Kyoto firms have no plans to add foreign workers, survey finds

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

The government may be planning to bring in nearly 345,000 foreign workers by 2023, but in Kyoto, a recent survey shows most firms outside the hospitality sector have no plans to discuss adding overseas laborers to their workforce.

The city remains a major domestic and international destination despite criticism from visitors and residents that the tourism boom is out of control, with too many people clogging the streets, restaurants, temples, shrines and other attractions, resulting in an exhausting — and disappointing — experience.

In 2017, over 53 million people, including 3.5 million foreign nationals, visited Kyoto. Construction of hotels continues apace, with over 10,000 new rooms expected to be available by 2020, according to a report earlier this year by the Kyoto Shimbun. Yet while the number of foreign visitors is expected to increase, local businesses as a whole don’t seem interested in bringing in more foreign workers.

The Kyoto Municipal Government received replies from 482 small and medium-size firms in October in the first survey of its kind.

Results released earlier this month showed that 75.9 percent of the businesses that replied to a question on their hiring plans said they had not hired foreign workers and were not discussing the possibility of doing so. A total of 12.5 percent said they have foreign workers while another 11.6 percent said they were discussing the possibility of bringing in employees from overseas.

Fifty-three percent of the firms that don’t have any foreign workers and haven’t had discussions about hiring them said they could find enough Japanese staffers to do the necessary work. A third of all firms expressed concern about language and cultural barriers for their reluctance, and 34 percent also said it would be tough to train foreign workers to follow instructions.

On the other hand, 14 of 22 smaller firms in the tourism industry replied that they were hiring, or were talking about hiring, foreign workers for their special skills, including language skills, and experience.

“The central government’s revision of the immigration law to bring in more foreign workers is a positive step to address the severe labor shortage,” Yoshio Tateishi, chairman of the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told reporters in late November, just before the release of the survey. “But it’s necessary to promote a community environment that makes foreigners feel as if they are among family, and make sure they are working under the same conditions as Japanese workers.”

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