With regard to the article from Sentaku magazine that ran in The Japan Times on Feb. 27, “Wanted: world’s best minds“: It seems that only foreigners who work for Japanese branches of foreign companies can make a good life in Japan. Those working directly for Japanese organizations and businesses face various discriminatory practices, such as lower wages, due to gender and ethnic background.
I think the main problem resides in Japan’s inability to project the notion of a “Japanese Dream.” Many foreigners just don’t feel like they will ever have a fair chance of making a decent living in Japan. My home country, France, has the same problem. Once considered a beacon of hope for Arab and African immigrants in search of a better life, it failed to keep that flame alive, instead sinking into Sarkozian rhetoric, which parallels the extreme right’s xenophobic agenda.
Still, it is too easy to blame xenophobia alone. The fact is that Japan and France not only have trouble attracting foreign talent; they also have a hard time retaining their own.
Judging by the growing numbers of “freeters” — those underpaid and despised younger workers who basically run every aspect of Japan’s economic machine and whose only dream is to save enough money to leave Japan and try their luck in the United States or Canada — it can be said that Japan’s problem is mostly due to its failure to nurture and invest in people. Only the privileged get to experience the fruit of the country’s mighty economic power. For the common people, Japanese and foreigners alike, Japan offers very little hope.