Shortage of Manpower for Convenience Store Workers|Can Foreign Technical Interns Solve the Problem?

6/27/2021 Updated

More and more foreign nationals are being asked to serve customers at convenience stores, but is it possible to have foreign technical interns work at convenience stores?

There have been many reports about the shortage of human resources at convenience stores in various regions, and it is widely known that the cause is the declining birthrate and aging population of the Japanese people, as well as the low wages that some people have learned to pay by checking the hourly wages of convenience store workers if they want to know the minimum wage in their area. There is also a problem of aging convenience store owners who opened their stores due to the franchise boom, and the shortage of labor is a serious problem. This article examines the current situation of the labor shortage at convenience stores and the measures that can be taken to deal with the shortage.

Manpower shortage at convenience stores

Convenience store workers are facing a labor shortage that has led to the introduction of features such as unmanned cash registers, but what is the actual situation?

According to the June 2020 report of the “Study Group on New Convenience Stores” conducted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) until 2020, the causes of labor shortages include “insufficient staffing during certain hours,” “labor costs,” and “complexity of work. In addition, in the “Results of a Survey of Initiatives by Convenience Store Operators” (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry), in a survey on the status of employees, including part-time workers, the response was “There are enough employees to cope with any problems (such as staff resignations).
6% of the respondents answered “We have enough employees to cope with any problems (such as staff resignation),” 34% answered “We have enough employees, but if something happens, it would interfere with our operation,” and 61% answered “We have insufficient employees.

When asked why they feel there is a shortage of employees, one of the reasons cited is that “people don’t show up even when we recruit. In the survey, the reason cited was that “no one is coming to work even though we are recruiting,” and that the lack of people who can work the required hours and low wages are reasons for the lack of applicants.

Due to such a shortage of labor, some stores are hiring foreigners, but what kind of resident status allows you to work at a convenience store?

Foreign technical interns cannot be hired.

First of all, those who are allowed to work at convenience stores are permanent residents, foreign students, and those who have a status of residence for cultural activities. In principle, foreign students are allowed to work up to 28 hours per week if they apply for and receive a “Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted.

The fields in which foreign technical interns can work are limited, and work at convenience stores is not included. At one time, there were reports that work at convenience stores would be included in the status of residence for specified skills, but this is still not the case. The purpose of the technical internship program is to acquire skills in Japan, so working at a convenience store would be illegal. However, since the purpose of the “special skill” status of residence is clearly stated as “to fill the shortage of human resources,” there is a possibility that convenience store work will be included in the special skill category in the future.

Measures for labor shortage

When you want to hire foreign human resources as a measure to deal with labor shortage, there have been confirmed cases where foreign students are hired as part-time workers due to their status of residence.

However, since they are only allowed to work for 28 hours a week, many are calling for the extension of “activities outside the scope of qualification” and the addition of work at convenience stores to the scope of the technical training system.

The technical internship system is a part of the diplomatic relationship between Japan and the sending country, and its purpose is to allow people from the sending country to learn specialized skills in Japan and use them for the development of the sending country after returning home. However, it would be difficult to consider adding work at convenience stores to the list.

Coronal influences

Currently, the number of foreigners visiting Japan is decreasing due to the new corona. Foreigners with technical internship or special skill status are also not allowed to come to Japan, and the number of foreign workers in all fields covered by the system has been stagnant. The number of foreigners coming to Japan before the corona disaster was about 5.81 million, but after the corona disaster, the number of foreigners coming to Japan is about 140,000. The number of foreigners permitted to come to Japan is limited to those who are “necessary for business purposes.” Some people consider it a problem that foreign students and technical interns, whose original purpose of coming to Japan is to acquire education and specialized skills and not to work, are now allowed to come to Japan. It will be interesting to see how the easing of the entry restrictions will turn out in the future.

Finally.

In the above section, we checked whether foreigners, mainly technical interns, can be hired to work at convenience stores.

Due to the nature of the system, it is not possible to hire foreign technical interns to work at convenience stores, but it is possible to hire foreign students. Also, since they will be serving Japanese customers, they will have more opportunities to use Japanese, which is popular among foreigners who come to Japan to learn Japanese.

The number of foreigners coming to Japan is also significantly decreasing due to Corona, which makes the current situation very difficult. The situation may become so severe that even convenience stores in Japan will have to go unmanned, so investigating unmanned convenience stores may be part of the solution.

Reference: Tokyo Shimbun 70% of foreigners coming to Japan due to easing of immigration “technical interns and foreign students” despite business traffic… https://www. tokyo-np.co.jp/article/87739

Results of the Survey on Initiatives by Convenience Store Operators https://www.meti.go.jp/press/2019/04/20190405004/20190405004-1.pdf

The 5th Study Group on New Convenience Stores, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry https://www.meti.go.jp/shingikai/mono_info_service/new_cvs/005.html

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