At least that has been the experience in the United States, whose alleged shortage of workers in technical fields has resulted in pressure to lift the cap on the number of H-1B work visas. Although billed as an immigration issue, the real reason is to control labor costs. According to a study by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 27 percent of H-1B workers were paid less than the prevailing wage.
Violations of labor laws pertaining to foreign workers are rampant in both Japan and the U.S. But whistleblowers are reluctant to come forward out of fear that doing so will jeopardize their legal status and future employment opportunities. It’s a legitimate concern in these precarious times, since guest workers often come from countries where wages are lower.
Skepticism about the shortage of domestic skilled workers is also partially attributed to employers seeking perfection in those they hire, and then complaining when they can’t fill all openings. For example, the number of computer science graduates in the U.S. rose sharply in the late 1990s during the high-tech boom era, and yet the number of foreign workers did not decline, raising questions about the real reason for importing workers from abroad.
If Japan were to restrict the number of visas offered and instead focus on graduating more highly trained workers at home, the gap between supply and demand would soon narrow and eventually disappear. That’s unlikely to happen, however, as long as foreign trainees can be so easily exploited for profit. Their docility plays into the hands of unscrupulous employers.