Foreign laborers doubled in only five years

The number of foreign laborers working in Okinawa has nearly doubled compared in 2008.

A strong tourism market and manufacturing sector are driving demands for an increased work force, and Naoaki Kunishiro, division chief at the Labor Department, says there simply aren’t enough Okinawans seeking jobs, or wanting to take often low paying jobs that foreigners will.  “Utilizing foreign people is one of the solutions. However, the employment environment of Okinawa is the worst in Japan. We need think about how to use human resources of Okinawan people, and we are trying to build an appealing workplace.”

As of last October, 2,790 foreigners are being employed on Okinawa, up from 1,439 in 2008.    The Labor Department couldn’t identify the number of firms hiring the foreigners, but notes that in 2013 there were 777 firms using foreigners as workers, while there were 596 offices drawing on citizens of other countries to work here in 2009.

Chinese citizens are the highest number of foreigners working here with 599, and accounts for 20% of the total. The Philippines with 465 and United States with 391 rank second and third. By industry, language teachers account for about 20% of the total with 547, followed by service sectors like the lodging industry and restaurants business with 378, and other service businesses 321. Some 302 are registered as working in wholesale and retail businesses, and 190 in the manufacturing industry.  A total of 752 foreign residents have special skills, and foreign students working as a part-timers fill 634 positions. Kunishiro says there are 126 foreign workers in training programs.