The JGM BitBlog: Surprising paradox of the HR system for SIEs and Japanese firms?

Journal of Global Mobility

Chie Yorozu, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan

Why has the high turnover rate of self-initiated expatriates been a big issue in Japan? Japan currently welcomes foreign labour, with the number of foreign workers sharply rising under guidelines from the Japanese government. However, the government reports that the turnover rate of expatriates is higher than they would expect. So far though, there has been very little data describing this issue in academic studies. In particular, the angle of the deeply institutionalised Japanese HR system has not been discussed very much, despite the system’s reputation as a people management method that is unfavourable to foreign labour. How does the Japanese HR system relate to the expatriates’ reasons for not choosing to remain in Japan for the long term? 

Expatriate management has still been scarce from the perspective of expatriates themselves. This research has a new target group of Thai self-initiated expatriates, who are one of the minority expatriates in Japan and are recognised as relatively highly skilled, able and having a good educational background. Thai international students studying at Japanese universities made up the highest number of Japanese government-financed international students (20.3%), and Japanese firms expect that these high-quality graduates will stay over the long term.

Japanese firms and the public urgently need to know to what extent expatriates are content to work under their hosts’ organisational HR systems, as past studies have suggested that expatriates’ acceptance, the quality of their performance and the length of their stay are all influenced by these host systems. 

The findings of this study show that the turnover rate for Thai expatriates is as high as for other expatriates in Japan. Surprisingly the main reasons that Thai labourers do not remain in Japan for the long term are unhealthy work habits, which originate from the Japanese HR system. The system leads to a stressful work environment, and this is the greatest concern for Thai expatriates. An assumption gap between Japanese firms and self-initiated expatriates about security under the HR system is confirmed. While security means long-term employment according to Japanese firms, Thai expatriates see security as a healthy working environment, which they do not find in Japan.  

To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:

Yorozu, C. (2023), "Expatriate management in Japanese firms: paradox of the HR system for Thai self-initiated expatriates", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 388-410.