Any self-respecting Kanji reader will have noticed that Japanese convenience store workers have been less and less Japanese in the Tokyo area starting some time around 2004 or so (or even earlier?). Now, according to the Nikkei, the convenience store corporate headquarters are bringing in Chinese workers in “full time” positions:
Monday, November 19, 2007
Convenience Stores Boost Foreign Hires To Aid Expansion, Fight Labor Squeeze
TOKYO (Nikkei)–The falling birthrate and overseas expansion plans are spurring major convenience stores to increasingly hire foreigners for full- and part-time positions.
Lawson Inc. (2651) has already accepted nine Chinese and one Vietnamese for full-time positions starting in April next year. It is the first time for the company to hire foreign workers on a full-time basis.
The foreign hires will account for about 10% of all new employees accepted for full-time positions starting in April. The company plans to increase the number to 30, or about 30% of the total new workforce to be hired for jobs starting in April 2009.
This fall, Lawson created a work manual for Chinese part-timers as part of its efforts to increase its ratio of foreign employees amid the falling birthrate. With the number of foreign customers at its outlets also growing, Lawson felt it necessary to hire foreign staff on a regular basis to supervise non-Japanese part-timers. The presence of these employees in supervisory positions will also help the company in its future efforts to open overseas outlets.
So apparently the chains need to hire Chinese managers to help manage their increasingly foreign workforce.
I am tempted to say the Nikkei is really late in covering this (and as usual they don’t really dig very deep), but I haven’t reviewed the whole archives and at least I think I remember them making the point that there are lots of foreign convenience store workers in some New Years series of “make Japan more internationally competitive” editorials.
Some questions come to mind:
1. I would love to see how they train the Chinese workers because they do an amazing job. I’ve only very rarely had communication difficulties with Korean/Chinese convenience store workers.
2. Why no non-Japanese franchise owners? I wouldn’t expect there to be a copy of America’s population of Indian and Korean convenience store owners, but these convenience stores are pretty profitable and you’d think that they’d be tempting for an ambitious foreigner. Wouldn’t at least some of these student-workers feel like going into business for themselves?
3. Since I have come to Tokyo, I have seen a lot of South Asian people working at a lot of different chains, particularly McDonald’s. Is there any reason why the hiring patterns are different?