The Political Construction of Foreign Workers in Japan
Japan organizes its labor markets for foreign workers
hierarchically according to "race" or "nationality."
Zainichi foreigners and nikkeijin are at the high end
of the racial hierarchy with better jobs, higher pay,
and better working conditions than other foreign workers.
At the bottom end are South Asians with casual jobs,
poor pay, and dangerous working environments. This racialized
hierarchy, which produces differentiated wages and other
privileges across different groups of foreign workers,
is a political construction of Japanese government officials,
who form policies that both establish the legal superiority
of certain races over others and constrain the operation
of each tier of foreign workers. Japanese employers
perpetuate this labor market arrangement by cooperating
with government bureaus and yakuza in maintaining labor
disciplines tailored to each racial group. These actions
create and sustain a racialized economy in Japan that
is characterized by inferior jobs, little security,
and few benefits for certain sectors of the labor market.
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