Japan’s Brazilians demand job security as exports slow

Demanding better job and housing security, a demonstration by 300 Brazilians and their supporters [including members of the Nambu Foreign Workers Caucus] in Tokyo Sunday is just the latest sign of the impact that the global economic slowdown is having on Japan’s Brazilian-based workforce.

Waving their national flags across the busy streets of central Tokyo, the demonstrators called out, ‘Give us a chance of employment,’ ‘Stop abandoning us’ and ‘We don’t have secured housing.’

Many temporary Brazilian workers have lost jobs recently, primarily in the car and electronics industries, as Japanese exports have slumped due to the sluggish economy and the Japanese yen’s gains against other currencies. Others have been informed of planned layoffs in the spring.

Dosantos Marcos, one of the protesters, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa he was told to stay at home, since production is slow at the car parts plant where he worked for seven years. The 42-year-old Brazilian has not worked for two months.

Since September last year, when exporters began reducing production, planes to Brazil have been fully booked, according to Hidekichi Hashimoto, the third-generation Japanese-Brazilian President of the non-profit organization ABC Japan.

‘For Japanese companies, we are the easiest to cut because most of us don’t speak Japanese and they think that we have no intention of staying long,’ Hashimoto said.

But about 80,000 of the 320,000 Brazilians living in Japan have acquired the residency visa necessary to stay permanently, he said.

Takaharu Hayashi, director of Koryunet, a Brazilian-Japanese networking association in the Aichi prefecture, has received numerous calls from Brazilians working at auto factories. Toyota Motor Corp, also headquartered in Aichi prefecture, plans to cut 3,000 non- regular workers.

‘Japanese companies are saying they can’t help it when Japanese are also having difficulties keeping their jobs,’ Hayashi said. ‘There is a mentality that Japanese business owners are trying to push Brazilians to the lowest strata because they are less visible.’

As of December last year, more than 85,000 Japanese temporary workers were set to lose their jobs by the end of March.

During the New Year holiday, some 300 unemployed Japanese temporary workers gathered at a park in Tokyo to receive free lodging and food. Most were able to receive government welfare subsidies and find apartments in a week and began job search.

But Hayashi said Brazilians who have not established the necessary relations within Japanese society to help them find resources to tackle their hardships.

‘They don’t have the safety net that Japanese workers do,’ Hayashi said. ‘The gravity of a layoff is weighed much heavier on Brazilians because the government has no system to rescue them from the troubles and their options are much more limited than the Japanese.’