As the media so loudly pointed out, a large number of foreign residents left Japan right after the earthquake of March 11, mainly due to fears of radiation from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi reactor. According to the Mainichi Shimbun, most have returned, or, at least, those who worked in nominally white collar jobs did. For instance, about 40 percent of the foreign language teachers at Berlitz went home, and since then 90 percent have returned.
The situation is much different when it comes to low-wage laborers, particularly those from China. The foreign trainee program has been badly hit. Many people believe that the program, which is supposed to offer people from foreign countries the opportunity to learn skills in Japan, is more or less a front for trafficking cheap labor, and the agricultural and textile industries are heavily dependent on workers from Asia. The Asahi Shimbun reports that before the earthquake there were about 40,000 foreign trainees working at Japanese textile companies, 99 percent of whom were Chinese. Almost all of them went home and very few have returned.
An association in Dalian that processes potential trainees for work in Japan told the Asahi that before the earthquake there were five applicants for every potential job opening, but now there are none. Another association that helps Chinese pass the test to be accepted in the trainee program said that all 50 people who passed a test to work at a marine products processing plant in Chiba Prefecture have now changed their mind and are staying in China. In almost all these cases the Chinese trainees are quite young, which means the decision to leave Japan or not go in the first place was made by their parents. Since China still has a one-child policy, a parent may not want to risk the health of his or her only child.