Immigrants, Refugees, and Precarious Japan

Japanese painting depicting a group of Portugu...

Japanese painting depicting a group of Portuguese foreigners (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Yuki Sakurai

Nowadays the world is globalizing more and more as time passes, so it is easier than before for people to go abroad or move to somewhere in the world. However, there are some issues in order to live comfortably and at the same level as local people. I am going to refer to those problems. After that, I would like to relate their problems with Anne Allison’s opinion in her book, Precarious Japan.

We call people who leave their home country and enter another country for the purpose of living or working there, immigrants. However, as I mentioned above, there are a lot of problems related to immigration, such as lacking equal rights and status. In Japan as well that is true. Foreigners who work and live in Japan have difficult issues except for some. For example, “3K” work (dangerous, dirty, and hard jobs), low salaries, discrimination, and sometimes illegal arrivals who come to Japan for the purpose of working.

Moreover, I think that most Japanese people do not really consider foreign workers’ problems. Especially, the 3K problem is extremely serious and it may infringe on human rights. However, according to a survey y the Japanese government about what people think about foreigners engaging in dangerous jobs that Japanese dislike to do, 30.7 percent of Japanese think that although it is not good, there is no other choice to do so, and 33.9 percent of Japanese think it is really favorable if foreign workers want to do so. Only 31.2 percent of Japanese think the idea is wrong. Also, foreigners who work in Japan sometimes cannot get statuses and rights at the same level as Japanese people. Despite of that foreigners all are living and working same as Japanese, there is somewhat divides.

Recently in Japan, people are more likely to feel apprehensive about the precariousness of current Japanese society, as Anne Allison says in her book. Due to something difficult including the big earthquake in the east of Japan, now there are a number of Japanese refugees as well in Japan. The whole of this society is unstable, so that means it is more precarious for foreigners. What is worse, it seems that Japanese government is now planning to accept more and more foreigner workers as a big workforce towards the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. We have to pay more attention to the serious issues about treatment of foreign workers, and seriously improve them so as to treat them equally. Also, in this global world, people have to reconsider refugees who come from all over the world.


Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Japanese Government Report

Yahoo News!外国人労働者受け入れ拡大か?その背景と問題とは?


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The struggles of minimum wage

by Keita Sakato

There are a lot of irregular workers in Japan today. They might have fallen into this situation because of Japan’s precarious economics. Then, can they make sufficient money with irregular jobs?

The minimum wage is different in each prefecture. For example, it is 869 yen per hour in Tokyo. This is the highest in Japan. On the other side, in 8 prefectures such as Kochi and Tokushima, it is only 664 yen per hour. This is the lowest in Japan, and the average wage per hour is 764 yen. There are such big differences among urban prefectures like Tokyo and rural prefectures like Kochi. However, the differences in wages are not a problem because the prices of all things are higher in urban prefectures than in other prefectures. The problem which we need to pay attention to is that the minimum wage is too low to make enough money.

It is too difficult to live contentedly if people work at the lowest minimum wage, 664 yen. For example, if a man who was fired by a company and has no family started an irregular job which is the lowest wage one, can he get back to a stable life? He works 8 hours a day and 4 days a week. Even though he wishes to work 7 days a week, he cannot do because there are only a few jobs for irregular workers. He can earn 5,312 yen a day, 21,248 yen a week and 84,992 yen a month. He lives alone in a small apartment and cannot depend on his family because he has nothing. He needs to pay the rent of his apartment, 40,000 yen, and the expenses for lighting and fuel, 9,000 yen a month. Also, he needs to pay his taxes, 8,000 yen a month. The left money is only about 28,000 yen. Of course he must eat to live, so he must pay food expenses from his left money. He has no money to live as a normal man. He will not be able to eat delicious foods and play with anyone. He may abandon his apartment because of the high rent for him. After that, he will spend every night in the net café or fast food shop or by the river.

The above example is not a special case. Some unfortunate Japanese people fall into bad situations like this one. The government has to rescue them from this situation. One of the ways to rescue them is to raise the minimum wage for irregular workers because the present wage is too low. This is the thing that the government should do making haste.

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The struggles of living on minimum wage in Japan

by Natsuki Ota

A number of people who cannot have a particular job because of a poor skill of relationship and who are junior or senior high school graduates is rising in recently precarious Japan. This means that many employees work as irregular workers, and live with a low wage, which is minimum wage or close to it. I will show that what life people spend in Japan if they earn minimum wage. First, it connects to losing one’s identity. Second, it is difficult to pay for rent for a home. Finally, they cannot support their family.

If they become a temporary worker due to problem of human relationships, they feel no ibasho and lose identity. As Amamiya said in Anne Allison’s Precarious Japan, if a Japanese person has no affiliation (shozoku), they feel psychic turmoil: “this is what companies once provided and still do for a few seishain (regular workers): a steady salary, protection if there is a crisis, and, every bit as important, an identity.”

It is easy for irregular workers who do not have shozoku and ibasho to feel ikizurasa (hardship of life) and lose their identity. Also, Amamiya described “it is (dis)belonging – no recognition or acceptance by others (shonin) – that troubles the young Japanese today.” (Anne Allison, 2013, P.65)

People are not able to afford to live in permanent housing are, according to Anne Allison, the “drifting poor.” These “people who, [are] essentially homeless, take up temporary residence in internet cafes or manga kissa (comic book café)” (Anne Allison, 2013, P.44). Most of these people are flexible workers who earn minimum wage. As struggles of living in these places, not only that they unable to rest enough, but also their relationships are decreasing.

Minimum wage also cannot support a family. This means that it leads family to divorce and having no connection. This may link to solitary death. Furthermore, it has big impact on education because going to university costs them a large of money. However, education is very important in everything, particularly job-hunting. If children are unable to go to school or college due to poverty, a circle of poverty results. The Japanese situation will not improve as long as this lasts.

In conclusion, if people make minimum wage in Japan, some struggles of living arise. They come to feel ikizurasa and lose identity. And connection is lack because being a temporary residence and breaking family. The condition that children are not able to get a good education make a circle of poor. It is hard to live with minimum wage in Japan.


Anne Allison (2013). Precarious Japan. Duke University Press. (pp.43-76)


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If I am earning minimum wage

Anonymous student post


In recently, the pay differential between the high-income earner and the low-income earner has widened in Japan. For example, low-income earners are day laborers, temporary employees, part-time workers, and so on. If I am earning minimum wage, I think I will have a lot of struggles.

First, my working hours will be very long. The labor standards law say that people work an eight-hour day. But many jobs don’t keep to the law actually. When I did part-time job at a Japanese bar, I really felt it. I worked longer than 8 hours in a day, also my wages were not high. If I am a day laborer and temporary employee, my income is not really stable and I can’t expect when I might lose my job. Second, the working environment is not good. Do you know 3K roudou in Japanese? It is defined as Kitsui (hard), Kitanai (dirty), Kiken (dangerous). It is a very low wage, but very hard work.

However, I have to pay a lot of money to live. For example, there are house rent, fuel and lighting, food expenses, and so on. If I lose my job, I can’t pay that. It is very hard for me. Therefore, people who don’t have a home has increased these days. According to Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, the number of net café refugees has increased recently. “Net café refugees are people who are essentially homeless, take up temporary residence in internet cafés or manga kissa (comic book cafés)” (Anne Alison, 2013, p44). In net cafés, we can sleep, drink juice and soup, watch TV, take a shower, and so on. In addition to that, there are many private rooms where I can cover my face, and it is very low price to stay overnight. They acclimate themselves to that environment, also I think they become feeling comfortable.

If I am earning minimum wage, I wish for giving relief from government and society. If the government raises minimum wage only, I think I can’t have a comfortable life. Japanese government carries out policies on social security, but it is not enough. Part of the people who need social security can’t go on social security now. I think Japan has an increase in the gap between rich and poor. I think Japan should impose a tax on luxury items, because the number of people who go on social security is increasing. And we have to improve the working environment from now to the future.


Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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The struggles of the working poor

Anonymous student post

Do you know the term “working poor”?

“The working poor” refers to part-time workers whose incomes fall below a given poverty line.  However, the Japanese government does not set a poverty line. Therefore, many people define “the working poor” as people who, even if work full-time as if they were the permanent employees, they earn less wages and it is difficult for them to maintain the life of the lowest limit.  These days, the number of the working poor is increasing in Japan. The labor problems must be serious, and Japanese people have to solve that immediately. In this article, I will describe the struggles of living in Japan if I am earning the minimum wage.

Then, what kind of difficulties do I find if I am earning the minimum wage?  I suppose that I am a non-regular employee and live by myself in an apartment.

Probably, I do not have enough money to live comfortably if I earn the minimum wage. So I have to make both ends meet. First, I will cut down on living expenses. The prices of uncooked foods in Japan―for example, vegetables and fruits―are more expensive than those in other countries. Therefore I will not be able to buy so many these foods and to start to buy the ready-to-eat foods, confectioneries, instant foods and so on. These foods are not so good for our health. Second, I will live in a low-rent apartment. The apartment whose rent is the lowest does not have a bath and a toilet in the room. People live in the apartment have to use the bath and the toilet together, so people may care about how long they can use it, when they can do and so on.

Thus, life on minimum wage is very hard. Furthermore, if people who live on minimum wage are discharged, they cannot earn the wage. And people cannot everyday find their daily employment. When day laborers cannot pay the rent and are evicted from their apartments, they will have to look for a place to sleep every night. In fact, people who, essentially homeless, take up temporary residence in internet cafes or manga kissa (Allison, 2013, p.46). Some people have been troubled with poverty even though they work very hard.

Then, what should the Japanese government do to solve the labor problem?

The Japanese government should make the companies to be complete the employment system that the companies should reemploy the non-regular employees who work very hard or raise their salary.  If so, the company can motivate all employees, I think.

The labor and the poverty problems are very serious. So, we should think about and grapple with these problems immediately. And we should not regard these problems as other people’s affairs.


Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Can we live in minimum wage in Japan?

by Misaki Kosaka

Nowadays the number of the poor is increasing in Japan. Especially, people who work as irregular workers (hiseiki koyo) have been noticeable since the deregulation of irregular jobs was enforced. However do irregular jobs make a true profit for Japan? There are workers who can’t even pay their rent because of low wages. So, they are forced to part with their home and start living at a net cafe or sleeping in the open. According to Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan, haken or hiyatoi workers earn 6000 to 8000 yen for one day on average. They earn only wages that they can live in a day. But this wage is merely average, then their wages differ from day to day. In the day the workers receive very low payment, they can’t hardly eat in the day.

Like this, irregular jobs have very unstable and uneasy factors. Workers can’t save money to rent an apartment due to these negative factors. Furthermore, they hesitate to go to hospital when they are injured or have a high fever because they can’t afford to pay for medical insurance. Even if irregular workers are in bad condition, they have to work hard for living. In addition, most of them don’t receive any industrial accident compensation insurance when accidents happen. As a result, their health worsens and it makes them hard to get a regular job.

I think that this vicious cycle will not be solved without a governmental intervention. In the past, almost all the homeless were elderly men, but the young homeless are increasing these days. Although the young homeless without relatives who lose their job, or work as a part-time worker for a long time, may stay overnight at their friends for few days, after that they will spend night at a fast food restaurant. Then, they will put up with a net café and be finally street person. If they have relatives, they will be NEET or hikikomori.

Anne Allison says that poverty is not just a matter of economics. I think so. People who earn only minimum wage don’t get not only an economic happiness but also non-economic. As this book says, one can’t get and have kids on low wages or with a wage level that doesn’t increase as one gets older. They can’t earn enough money to support their future family.

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If I am earning minimum wage…

by Arisa Kato

If I work for minimum wage after I graduate from Ritsumeikan University, what I can do and what can’t I do? This answer may be different whether I live in Kyoto or Ishikawa, my home town.

If I live and work in Kyoto, I earn 773 yen per hour and get 123,680 yen for a month (8 hours per day and 5 times a week). If I were earning 123,680 yen, I would find another job to work side by side. It is because living in Kyoto means living alone for me, so I have to pay the rent and energy costs and so on.

On the other hand, I can earn 704 yen per hour and get only 112,640 yen for a month if I work for minimum wage in Ishikawa. In this situation, I may live with my family and rely on my parents of course I have no excuse. So I wouldn’t have to pay the rent. Then, I might not work two or more jobs but I may study to get some qualifications. This is because having licenses is advantageous to get next job with favorable terms and help me to succeed in getting away from poverty.

What I can say in both situations, I wouldn’t have time for doing my hobbies. I have my hands full with just living and struggling to get out of the serious situation. It is literally a life with minimum necessary. It’s possible I am discriminated against socially, and I cannot have any self-confidence. Perhaps, I wouldn’t like to meet my friends and let them know I am in terrible state because I’ll feel so misery being “losers” (makegumi) [Allison 2013, p51]. For same reason, I don’t want to be in love with someone. I know if I continue this condition for long term, I would lose many friends and “healthy and culturally basic existence” [Allison 2013, p52], which is guaranteed under Article 25 of Japanese Constitution.

This time, I imagined that how my life would be if I were paid the minimum wage. I consider that what’s the hardest things to be working poor is connection with people get weaken. Of course, living with little money is bitter, however, losing friends and other relationships is more heartbreaking. So I wouldn’t like to be a cheap laborer, and we should try to eradicate socially lonely people.


Allison, Anne. (2013). Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Struggling to live in Japan on minimum wage

Anonymous student post

If I earn the minimum wage in the future, living in Japan would make me feel “ikizurasa”. As Anne Allison describes in Precarious Japan, one male contract worker is spending a hard life. He sleeps in Shinjuku station while wearing his suits. He works hard from early morning to night, but his income is very low and precarious, going from 300,000 to 105,000 yen.The temperature at night is very cold and severe for him.

Moreover, she describes how difficult it is for poor people to live in Japan. The “net café refugee” who are in other words “drifting poor” are mainly flexible or irregular workers. If they work hard from morning to night, they can earn only for one day living. Every day they just repeat this cycle. It means that they can not escape from this poverty cycle. To make matters worse, they tend to buy food which is bad for their health such as hamburger because they do not have money, so they are at risk of being sick. However, once they become sick, it means their life will end. They do not contract life insurance, so they can not go to hospital and they will be people who just wait for death.

Another aspect of earning the minimum wage is the lost identity and “ibasho”. Now I have an “ibasho” as university students by paying a large amount of money to the university, and now I have an identity from being surrounded by friends, studying subjects I am interested in, and so on. However, if I earn just the minimum wage in the future, my life will be completely changed. As I mentioned previously, there is a possibility of becoming a “net café refugee” or “homeless”. It could be said that I would not be surrounded by friends (If there are some friends, they are socially disadvantaged such as less education) or I would not buy clothes for making me fashionable, and so on. It means that it comes to be impossible for me to understand who I am and I can not stay sane. Where is my dignity? How can I live in Japan from now on?

In fact this is not my imagination but reality, and some people are forced to live in these situations. We do not usually think about people in poverty, so reading Allison’s book was a great opportunity to think about them. I became interested in helping them through volunteering, and I think this is very important thing.

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Living on minimum wage in Japan

by Tomomi Hosokawa

In Japan, minimum wage is about 760 yen on average (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 2013). This is low compared to other developed countries. This is one of the factors of poverty in Japan. If I must live with minimum wage in Japan, I would struggle with both physical and mental pain. For example, a woman in the book Precarious Japan is a temporary worker, and she gets less than 50,000 yen a month. She was in bad health, but she could not go to hospital. In addition, that woman could not receive welfare because she was young and seen as healthy enough to work. This is directly related to life. If I am a temporary worker like her, I will also suffer from the anxiety of losing a job. Companies usually dismiss low-wage workers like temporary workers. If I was fired, I could not rent a room and I would not have enough money to find a new job. I have no choice but to be turned adrift. In this case, it is difficult to rely on family or friends because I do not want them to know about my situation. Also, I do not want to trouble them.

Many people are suffering from this problem in Japan. How can this be solved? According to Anne Allison (2013, p.58), “Making the lives and circumstances of such people visible in and to the public is part of Yuasa’s wider agenda in his reverse poverty”. I agree with this opinion because this will be the connection to the society. If they can feel someone understand them, they will be relieved. Also, community will begin to face this problem if they notice that.

However, I believe it is the obligation of government to make the situation of such people be seen and solve the problem. This is because government is one of the factors of this. They set the minimum wage lowest in the developed countries. In addition, only the people who passed strict requirement can receive welfare. They have responsibility to share and come to grips with this problem to make the connection to the society for them.


Allison, Anne. (2013). Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (2013)


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Struggles of living in Japan on minimum wage

English: Homeless man, Tokyo. Français : Un sa...

English: Homeless man, Tokyo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Teppei Funatani

In my opinion, if people live poor lives, there are three steps that they have to overcome.

First, uneasiness for my future. Living in Japan costs a lot of money. Food, rent, medical expenses, and so on. Also we should pay about 15,000 yen every month for a pension when we reach 20 years old. How do I manage my everyday life if I can only earn minimum wage?

In the article “Homeless face uphill fight to get life back,” a man who was in his mid-40s worked for a data management company as a temporary worker and earned only 160,000 yen a month. He lived alone and had no hope for his future. As this article tells you, if you live hand-to-mouth, there is no room in your mind to think about your future. You can barely support yourself and this vicious circle probably never ends unless a miracle happens.

Next, apathy of my life. Let’s imagine that even though you work as hard as you can, you can only get the lowest salary yen a day and you cannot get a bonus. It is likely that you will lose interest your job and don’t want to work anymore. It is natural that you complain about your lower salary, although you work as long as white-collared workers do. However, you soon realize that your dissatisfaction does not bring you anything and you have no choice but to give up.

Finally, a sense of despair for everything. As above, you feel anxiety for your future at first, and next you give up having hope. And you come to the final stage of your poor life. As Anne Allison said in her book Precarious Japan, because of depression and insecurity over jobs, the number of people who commit suicide has remained around 30,000 ever since 1998 (2013). The number of unemployment was 2,460,000 people in March, 2014 (Statistics Bureau, May 5, 2014). Even in large companies, a lot of employees are fired. It is easy to imagine that you lose your job and be homeless. This idea gradually is damaging your heart and you think that your hopes for the future come to nothing. Then you decide to commit suicide.


Anne Allison. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Homeless face uphill fight to get back life. (May 20, 2014). Retrieved from

Labour Force Survey, Monthly Result-March 2014-. (May 2, 2014). Retrieved from

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