Foreign Employee’s Responses to the 2011 Triple Disaster in Japan


The purpose of this work is to examine how the Great East Japan Earthquake impacted foreign employees at subsidiaries in Japan. We divide foreign employees in three types, classic expatriates, locally hired foreigners and short term employees which are known in the literature as frequent fliers. We found that foreign employees differ according to their type in adjusting in case of an emergency. Expatriates exhibited a higher tendency to leave the country than locally hired foreigners. Frequent fliers hardly arrived to the Japanese subsidiary anymore after the triple disaster. Surprisingly, subsidiaries faced more hardship because of the lack of frequent fliers than to a lack of locally hired foreigners. Results also depend on the respondents’ nationality. On the one hand, Japanese respondents expressed more concern that it was difficult at the triple disaster to retain expatriates in their Japanese jobs. On the other hand, German respondents were more concerned about retaining locally hired and frequent fliers at their subsidiaries. Our surprising results of more hardship when frequent fliers left than when local hired foreigner left was given by a higher importance of Japanese respondents. Furthermore, German respondents see still nowadays difficulties to get local hired foreigners back to their subsidiaries when they left the country. Implications are discussed.


Research Institute for Economics and Business Administration
Kobe University
Rokkodai-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe
657-8501 Japan
Phone: +81-78-803-7036
FAX: +81-78-803-7059

University of North Carolina Greensboro, USA

Business Faculty at Kobe University