Trying to figure out how many people work at what, among Japan-side expats, through MOJ stats.

[Update 12/20/11: The number for instructors, in the chart, is 11,011. For some reason, I have that in a different font.]

Something for my one year anniversary of being back in America!

Yesterday’s topic generated a big comment thread, which is unusual for here, since my style is usually to put out my opinion, and people come and read it.

One of the commenters took issue with the idea that Eikaiwa or English as a Foreign Language was a substantial portion of employment for foreign people from the West in Japan. (Quick review: the large majority of foreigners in Japan come from neighboring countries in Asia. North America and Europe is a fraction of that. America has about 50,000 civilians in Japan. There are 50,000 military, mostly under SOFA–Status of Forces Agreement. They aren’t part of the other 50,000. There is an undetermined overlap between people who work in Defense Department related jobs, or their families, and that other 50,000.)

What I did was find that stats for entrants to Japan in 2009, by type of visa. Of the 910,000 from North America, the overwhelming 780,000 or so of them came to Japan on the 90-day temporary visa. They were tourists or there for very short trips. The other 130,000 or so had more of a connection to Japan.

If you look at the list, though, it suggests that a big number of these people are on the “Humanities and International Services” visa, which is associated with teaching English or doing some sort of gaishikei work.

I appreciate that people who get themselves into a nice expat job want to make like they are unique and special, but that there’s other special people along there with them. And that the folks who emphasize the English teaching are really just talking about a small subset. But I really wonder how small? When I look at it, small looks pretty big–compared to other categories.

Like, the permanent residents. Are they all non-teachers? How could it be that the PR’s and the spouses of Japanese and the kids and so on, well, they don’t have anything to do with Eikaiwa, EFL or teaching? And these other lawyer/accounting, or engineer visa holders, why, their families make up the disproportionate amount of PR and spouses. Well, how did that come to be, when, clearly, the big numbers are in the education-dominated visa categories?

It could be that the Humanities and Instructor visa holders take a lot of international trips. But how realistic is that? I am not talking about the 90-day visa holders who teach English for 88 days and then make a visa run. I mean people for whom the company gives them two weeks vacation a year. It seems to me more likely that the other kinds of visa holders, the ones with professions that require graduate study or heavy certification, would be ones where the people travel more.

As a CPA and Humanities visa holder in 2009, I can tell you, I didn’t leave Japan the whole year. So I’m not in those numbers. In 2008, I took two–one was business.

The stats fly in the face of the image some Japan-side expats want to paint of a community that isn’t mostly Eikaiwa teachers being shuttled in and out of Japan, with a thin veneer of middle managers and corporate professional types, and an overclass of executives and their families.