I think the increasing number of foreign people working part time is beneficial in many ways for Japanese and non-Japanese alike. We are now concerned about a serious labor shortage at convenience stores, especially overnight, while foreigners can experience and practice Japanese firsthand.
I am, however, a little skeptical from the customers’ perspective. Japanese convenience stores provide citizens with a variety of services beyond just selling daily commodities, for example handling utility and online shopping bills, shipping services and event tickets. Just buying and selling does not involve any complicated procedures between part-timers and customers. But that is not always the case when it comes to things like shipping. An elderly customer might need help filling in the form, which means the foreign part-timer has to speak, listen, write and read Japanese at a satisfactory level.
I am not against foreign part-timers. Rather, I hail those who are eager to study the Japanese language and culture. I have three convenience stores nearby, and I sometimes witness a scene in which foreigners struggle to deal with trouble such as complaints. The more foreigners work in convenience stores, the more generous frame of mind we should have for them because they are trying to beat the odds. We should not cling to what was used to be. This is what we call “hospitality”
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.