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    Issues regarding employment of NJ, and how jobs affect integration and assimilation in Japan (particularly regarding the “trainee” visa regime that even our politicians call a “scam”).

    My Japan Times JBC Column 82: “Time to Burst your Bubble and Face Reality”, December 4, 2014

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th December 2014

    OPENING: I want to open by saying: Look, I get it. I get why many people (particularly the native speakers of English, who are probably the majority of readers here) come to Japan and stay on. After all, the incentives are so clear at the beginning.

    Right away, you were bedazzled by all the novelty, the differences, the services, the cleanliness, the safety and relative calm of a society so predicated on order. Maybe even governed by quaint and long-lamented things like “honor” and “duty.”

    Not that the duties and sacrifices necessary to maintain this order necessarily applied to you as a non-Japanese (NJ). As an honored guest, you were excepted. If you went through the motions at work like everyone else, and clowned around for bonus points (after all, injecting genki into stuffy surroundings often seemed to be expected of you), you got paid enough to make rent plus party hearty (not to mention find many curious groupies to bed, if you happened to be male).

    Admit it: The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money, and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.

    But these incentives are front-loaded. For as a young, genki, even geeky person finding more fun here than anywhere ever, you basked in the flattery. For example, you only needed to say a few words in Japanese to be bathed in praise for your astounding language abilities! People treated you like some kind of celebrity, and you got away with so much.

    Mind you, this does not last forever. Japan is a land of bubbles, be it the famous economic one that burst back in 1991 and led two generations into disillusionment, or the bubble world that you eventually constructed to delude yourself that you control your life in Japan…

    Read the rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/12/03/issues/time-burst-bubble-face-reality/

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, Labor issues, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Practical advice, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 39 Comments »

    Asahi’s AERA Mag July 14, 2014: Special on NJ in J globalized companies, says “Offices without NJ will not succeed”. Yet again panders to stereotypes

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th July 2014

    On the heels of our prior discussion about the Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s “scandal” about having the audacity to put a NJ as CEO of the company (shock horror! Think of how much the company will be compromised!, was the narrative), here’s a special issue by left-leaning AERA magazine of July 14, put out by the (left-and-right-leaning, depending on the editor) Asahi News Corp, on Japan’s “global companies”. Its big headline is that offices that are not multinational in terms of staff “will not succeed”. (Somebody tell that to Takeda Pharma’s xenophobes!) [scan of magazine banner enclosed]

    You might think this is a forward-thinking move, but AERA also resorts to the same old media tropes about NJ. For example, it puns on the seminal TV show of more than a decade ago called “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo, Nihonjin” with a bit on “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo, Japanese workplaces”. Not to appear dated, it also refers to Koko Ga Hen’s current incarnation “YOU Wa Nani Shi Ni NIhon E” (What did YOU [sic] come to Japan to do?), with a poll of twenty (a scientifically-significant sample!! /sarcasm) real-live NJ residents of Japan saying what they find unsatisfactory about Japan. There’s also a discussion between two J pundits on immigration (yep; how about polling an immigrant?), a comparison between NJ transplant schools modeled on the Indian, Chinese, and Canadian education systems (why? dunno), and the coup de grace — the influential Oguri Saori manga “Darling wa Gaikokujin” being riffed on to talk about “Darling wa Damenzu Gaikokujin”.

    This is about J women marrying NJ “Wrong men” (from a manga title, a polyglot word of Dame (J) and Mens (E?)) who are penniless, unfaithful, or violent (and in this case, according to AERA, from less-economically-developed countries, viz. the newly-coined word “kakusa-kon”, or economically-tiered marriages), because the NJ get a visa, and the women get the relief (iyashi) of having less to lose (financially or materially) after the breakup. Whaa….?

    Yep, even when we resort to the hackneyed stereotypical tropes (gotta love the swarthy smitten NJ in the illustration; clearly by the skin tone there’s kakusa there), we still have to pander to prejudices by including some nasty ones.

    There’s more up there, so other comments? Mine is that even if J companies take things to heart and hire more NJ employees, I’m worried that 1) like before, it’ll only be on a “contingency” basis (to take the NJ out for a test drive, meaning the hiring process is two-tiered and unequal, with less job security for the NJ), and 2) it’ll just happen because it’s “trendy”. NJ have been hired as “pet gaijin” (as was common practice during the “Bubble Years”; I know) to show off how “international” the company has become, without ever allowing NJ employees to play any real part in the company’s future. Just plonking NJ in your office doesn’t necessarily mean much (until NJ become, for example, managers). And when they do, the Takeda-styled soukaiya mentioned last blog entry will no doubt protest it anyway (if not fire you for doing the right thing about J-boss corruption, a la Olympus).

    Sorry to rain on what may be a positive trend (I’d much rather have them acknowledge that J companies cannot remain insular than not, of course), but I’m not sure AERA is encouraging real non-insularity. Especially when even they can’t keep the discussion serious and refrain from painting NJ with negative stereotypes.

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Education, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Labor issues, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 19 Comments »

    Reuters Special Report on Japan’s “Trainee System” as “Sweatshops in Disguise”: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd June 2014

    REUTERS: The most recent government data show there are about 155,000 technical interns in Japan. Nearly 70 percent are from China, where some labor recruiters require payment of bonds worth thousands of dollars to work in Japan. Interns toil in apparel and food factories, on farms and in metal-working shops. In these workplaces, labor abuse is endemic: A 2012 investigation by Japanese labor inspectors found 79 percent of companies that employed interns were violating labor laws. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said it would use strict measures, including prosecution, toward groups that repeatedly violated the laws or failed to follow its guidance in their treatment of technical interns.

    Critics say foreign interns have become an exploited source of cheap labor in a country where, despite having the world’s most rapidly ageing population, discussion of increased immigration is taboo. The U.S. State Department, in its 2013 Trafficking in Persons report, criticized the program’s use of “extortionate contracts”, restrictions on interns’ movements, and the imposition of heavy fees if workers leave. […]

    Not long after [Trainees Lu, Qian and Jiang’s] arrival, the [Burberry outsourcing] apparel association took the women’s passports and passed them to Kameda in violation of Japanese law protecting interns’ freedom of movement, according to the lawsuit. An Ishikawa Apparel Association spokeswoman, who declined to give her name, said the group does not conduct inappropriate supervision and training, but declined further comment citing the lawsuit.

    At the factory, Lu, Qian and Jiang’s overtime stretched to more than 100 hours a month, the lawsuit says. A timesheet prepared with data supplied by Kameda to the Japanese labor standards bureau shows Lu logged an average of 208 hours a month doing overtime and “homework” during her second year in Japan. That is equivalent to almost 16 hours a day, six days a week. Japanese labor policy considers 80 hours of overtime a month the “death by overwork” threshold.

    For this, Lu earned about 400 yen, about $4, an hour at Kameda, the timesheet shows. The local minimum wage at the time was 691 yen an hour, and Japanese law requires a premium of as much as 50 percent of the base wage for overtime. […]

    Japan faces a worsening labor shortage, not only in family-run farms and factories such as Kameda but in construction and service industries. It is a major reason that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is planning a further expansion of the trainee program.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 20 Comments »

    My Japan Times JBC column 76: “Humanize the dry debate about immigration”, June 5, 2014, with links to sources

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th June 2014

    Opening: Japan’s pundits are at it again: debating what to do about the sinking demographic ship. With the low birthrate, aging and shrinking society (we dropped below 127 million this year) and top-heavy social security system, Japan’s structural problems will by many accounts spell national insolvency.

    However, we’re hearing the same old sky pies: Proposals to plug the gaps with more Japanese babies, higher retirement ages, more empowered women in the workplace — even tax money thrown at matchmaking services!

    And yet they still won’t work. Policymakers are working backwards from conclusions and not addressing the structural problems, e.g., that people are deserting a depopulating countryside for urban opportunities in an overly centralized governmental system, marrying later (if at all) and finding children too expensive or cumbersome for cramped living spaces, having both spouses work just to stay afloat, and feeling perpetual disappointment over a lack of control over their lives. And all thanks to a sequestered ruling political and bureaucratic elite whose basic training is in status-quo maintenance, not problem-solving for people they share nothing in common with.

    Of course, proposals have resurfaced about letting in more non-Japanese (NJ) to work….

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 29 Comments »

    Saitama’s Konsho Gakuen school, “Japanese Only” since 1976, repeals rule only after media pressure, despite prefecture knowing about it since 2012

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd May 2014

    Significant news: In addition to the bars, bathhouses, internet cafes, stores, restaurants, apartment rental agencies, schools, and even hospitals, etc. that have “Japanese Only” policies in Japan, the media has now publicized a longstanding case of a tertiary education institution doing the same. A place called Konsho Gakuen in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, offering instruction in cooking, nutrition, and confections, has since it opened in 1976 never accepted NJ into their student body. This exclusion was even written in their recruitment material as a “policy” (houshin): (scan)

    People knew about this. A Peruvian student denied entry complained to the authorities in 2012. But after some perfunctory scolding from Saitama Prefecture, everyone realized that nothing could be done about it. Racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan. Nobody could be penalized, and it was unclear if anyone could lose a license as an educational institution.

    So finally it hits the media. And after some defiance by the school (claiming to NHK below that they don’t want to be responsible for NJ getting jobs in Japan; how conscientious), they caved in after about a week and said that the policy would be reversed (suck on the excuses they offered the media for why they had been doing it up to now — including the standard, “we didn’t know it was wrong” and “it’s no big deal”).

    Debito.org would normally cheer for this. But the school is just taking their sign down. Whether they will actually ALLOW foreigners to join their student body is something that remains to be seen (and the J-media is remarkably untenacious when it comes to following up on stories of racial discrimination). When we see enrollments that are beyond token acceptances (or happen at all, actually) over the course of a few years, then we’ll cheer.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Exclusionism, Food, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 32 Comments »

    SAPIO Mag features special on Immigration to Japan: Note odd media narratives microaggressing NJ (particularly the Visible Minorities) into voiceless role

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 15th May 2014

    As noted in the Japan Today article cited below, SAPIO debate magazine (June 2014) devoted an issue specifically to the issue of immigration (imin) to Japan (what with the Abe Administration’s renewed plan to import 200,000 NJ per year). Good. But then SAPIO fumbles the issue with narratives that microaggress the NJ immigrant back into a position of being powerless and voiceless. First, let’s start with SAPIO’s cover. Notice anything funny? Look at the sub-headline in yellow talking about having a vigorous debate from “each world” (kyaku kai). Each? Look at the debaters pictured. See any Visible Minorities there? Nope, they’re left out of the debate once again. All we get are the typical powerful pundits (probably all Wajin, with “Papa Bear” Wajin Ishihara second in line). Where is the voice of the immigrant?

    And by “immigrant”, I mean people who have immigrated to Japan as NJ and made a life here as long-term resident if not actual Permanent-Resident holder. The people who have indefinite leave to remain. The “Newcomers”, who work in Japan and work for Japan. As depicted in the picture of the labor-union demonstrators in the inset photo in the top right.

    Now look at the larger photo. It’s a xenophobic public demonstration about issues between Japan and Korea (and no doubt China). That’s not a debate about immigration. It’s a hate rally airing historical grievances between Japan and it’s neighbors, gussied up as a jerry-rigged issue about “Zainichis having special privileges as NJ”. The point is that the cover does not convey the issue of “immigration in Japan” accurately. Zainichi issues dominate and suck the oxygen out of the arena.

    Lastly about this photo, note how all the Wajin demonstrators have their faces blocked out in the photo. Clearly Wajin have privacies to protect. Not so the NJ protesting in the photo inset. Hence NJ once again have fewer rights to privacy in the Japanese media. Just like this photo from the racist Gaijin Hanzai Magazine of yore (remember that?). Comparative powerlessness in visual form. Now let’s look at some arguments within the magazine itself:

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, GAIJIN HANZAI mag, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 21 Comments »

    Reuters: Abe Admin seeks to expand, not contract, the deadly exploitative NJ “Trainee” program

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th May 2014

    When Debito.org last seriously talked about the issue of Japan’s foreign “Trainees” (i.e. NJ brought over by the GOJ who are allegedly “in occupational training”, therefore not qualifying as “workers” entitled to labor law protections), it was back in July 2010, when news broke about the death of 27 of them in 2009. The news to me was that it was only the SECOND worst casualty rate on record. Even more scandalous was that about a third of the total dead NJ (as in eight) had died of, quote, “unknown causes” (as if that’s a sufficient explanation). Kyodo News back then rather ignorantly observed how problematic the “Trainee” system has been, stating that “a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages”. Hardly “recent” even back then: Despite years of calls to fix or abolish the program entirely, with official condemnations in 2006 of it as “a swindle”, and the UN in 2010 essentially calling it slavery (see article below), it was still causing deaths at the rate of two or three NJ a month. (The irony was that karoushi (death from overwork) was a big media event when Japanese were dying of it. Clearly less so when NJ die.)

    Now sit down for this news: The GOJ is seeking not to reform the “Trainee” system, but rather to EXPAND it. As the article indicates below, we’ve gotta get more cheap, disposable, and ultimately expendable foreigners to build our Tokyo Olympics in time for 2020. And then we can round them up once their visas expire and deport them (that is, if they’re still alive), like we did back in Nagano for the 1998 Olympics.

    This is precisely the type of exploitative capitalism that creates Marxists. But again, who in Japan empathizes with NJ workers? They’re only here to earn money and then go home, right? So they deserve to be exploited, runs the common national narrative. And under that discourse, no matter how bad it gets for them (and so far it really, really has), no amount of domestic or international condemnation will stop it.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, United Nations, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 17 Comments »

    SITYS: Japan Times: “Points System” visa of 2012 being overhauled for being too strict; only 700 applicants for 2000 slots

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th February 2014

    When looking through my “Draft” posts (i.e., the ones I put on hold for publication later), I noticed that I forgot to blog this one when it came out. It’s another instance where Debito.org got it right (filed under the category of SITYS, or “See I Told You So”). Let me just put this post up as a matter of record (I already incorporated the information into my January Japan Times JBC column; see Item 4).

    When the GOJ came out with its “Points System” in 2012, we said that it would be a failure (actually even before that — in its embryonic stage Debito.org still doomsaid, see here and here), because, as the previous links discuss, a) its standards are awry and too high (even giving no real weight to the NJ who took the trouble to learn Japanese), and b) it is underpinned with an elite arrogance that NJ are beating down the doors to enter rich and safe Japan no matter what (without paving the way for them to be treated equally with Japanese in terms of employment or civil rights). Japan isn’t as attractive a labor market as Japan’s bureaucrats might think, for structural and systemic reasons that Debito.org has been substantiating for decades. And yes, as the article below substantiates, the “Points System” has failed — less than half the number of people the GOJ was aiming for bothered to apply.

    Posted in Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, SITYS, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 3 Comments »

    Weird stats from Jiji Press citing MHLW’s “record number of NJ laborers” in Japan. Yet Ekonomisuto shows much higher in 2008!

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd February 2014

    JIJI: The number of foreign workers in Japan stood at 717,504 at the end of last October, up 5.1 percent from a year before, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday. The figure was the highest since it became mandatory for employers to submit reports on foreign employees to the ministry in 2007.

    COMMENT: Okay, there’s something fishy going on here. Check out this cover from Ekonomisuto of January 15, 2008, now more than six years ago, which puts the figure of NJ working in Japan at more than 930,000 (the すでに93万人 in the subtitle after the yellow kanji) — a helluva lot more than the allegedly record-breaking 717,504 quoted in the article above.

    I have the feeling that statistics somewhere are being kneaded for political ends (unsurprisingly), as you note. We must show a recovery of sorts no matter what (ironically now pinning part of it on NJ workers in Japan), making Abenomics a bubble in thought as well as in economic stats. What a shame that JIJI seems to be parroting the ministerial line of calling it record-breaking without any research or critical thinking.

    Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the more standardized statistics from the Ministry of Justice (not MHLW) which shows how many NJ are registered as LIVING in Japan. NJ do a lot more in Japan than just work, and the figure given for Brazilians in Japan (95,505) seems remarkably small compared to the hundreds of thousands that lived (or used to live) in Japan in previous years.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, History, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Media, 日本語 | 5 Comments »

    My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013″, with links to sources

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 6th January 2014

    Happy New Year to all Debito.org Readers. Thank you as always for reading and commenting. 2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column of January 7, 2014:

    “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013″
    By ARUDOU, Debito, Column 71 for the Japan Times Community Pages

    Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration:

    6. Fukushima is complicated by xenophobia
    5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty
    4. Visa regimes get a rethink
    3. Hate speech turns murderous
    2. LDP holds both Diet chambers
    1. The state secrets law

    Bubbling under:
    11. Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first foreign-born Diet member of European descent, loses his seat.
    10. Donald Richie, one of the last of the first postwar generation of NJ commentators on Japan, dies aged 88.
    9. Beate Sirota Gordon, one of the last living architects of the liberalizing reforms within the postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89.
    8. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes a revisionist stance on Japanese history regarding the wartime sex-slave issue and reveals his camp’s political vulnerability.
    7. Tokyo wins the 2020 Olympics, strengthening the mandate of Japan’s ruling class and vested construction interests

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, SITYS, Sport, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 21 Comments »

    Tokyo Metro Govt issues manual for J employers hiring NJ employees: Lose the “Staring Big Brother” stickers, please!

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd November 2013

    Debito.org Reader JF found this sticker up in Ikebukuro a few weeks ago. Issued by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Youth and Safety Policy Division, it says that the employer of this establishment will not hire illegal foreign workers. The slogan above says, “Office declaring its promotion of the proper employment of foreigners”, complete with The Staring Eyes of Big Brother that probe all souls for criminal intent, sorta thing. Like this one snapped in Tamagawa last September:

    JF comments: “I sort of see what they are trying to say with it, but I still think this sticker is bad style and puts all of us in a bad light. Suggesting yet again that many foreigners work illegally, while the actual percentage is probably tiny.”

    It is, the number of so-called “illegal foreigners” long since peaking in 1993 and continuing to drop, despite police propaganda notices claiming the contrary (see for example here and here). JF did a bit more searching about the origin of the stickers, and discovered a downloadable manual directed at employers about how to hire foreign workers legally. Here’s the cover. Entitled “Gaikokujin Roudousha Koyou Manyuaru” (Hiring Manual for Foreign Workers), you can download it from Debito.org at http://www.debito.org/TokyotoGaikokujinHiringManual2013.pdf. Synopsis of the Manual follows…

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Discussions, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Labor issues, Media, Practical advice, 日本語 | 11 Comments »

    Come back Brazilian Nikkei, all is forgiven!, in a policy U-turn after GOJ Repatriation Bribes of 2009

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 19th October 2013

    In an apparent policy U-turn, the GOJ decided last week to lift the ban on certain South Americans of Japanese descent (Nikkei) from re-entering Japan. This after bribing them to leave in 2009 so that they would not become an inconvenient unemployment statistic (not to mention that it was cheaper to pay their airfare than to pay them their social welfare that they had invested in over the decades, or pay them their pensions in future when reaching retirement age).

    The reasons for this U-turn are being discussed in a recent Japan Times article, excerpted below. The article speculates that a couple of embarrassing lawsuits and visa-denials might have tipped the GOJ’s hand (I for one doubt it; Japan’s visa regimes, as can be seen for example in its perennial stance towards refugees, are generally impervious to public exposure and international pressure). I believe it was more an issue of the GOJ facing reality (as happened more than one year ago at the highest policymaking levels, where even the GOJ still maintained the stance that if immigration was an inevitability, they had better bring back people with Japanese blood; after all, the only ones in attendance were all Wajin and one token Nikkei).

    Debito.org has spoken out quite hot-tonguedly about how ludicrous the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe was, not the least because of its inherently racialized paradigms (because they only applied to Nikkei — people who were also in even more dire financial straits due to the economic downturn, such as the Chinese and Muslim factory workers laboring in conditions of indentured servitude, were left to fend for themselves because they lacked the requisite Japanese blood).

    So as a matter of course Debito.org cheers for the lifting of the ban. But the Bribe and the Ban should never have happened in the first place. So the GOJ can also take its lumps even if they are ultimately making the right decision.

    Does this mean that the numbers of registered NJ residents of Japan will start to increase again? I will say it could happen. I stress: could, not will happen. But if it did, that statistic, not any asset bubbles and transient stock-market numbers that people keep championing as the putative fruits of “Abenomics”, will be the real indicator of Japan’s recovery. That is to say, if Japan ever regains its sheen as an attractive place to work for international labor, then an increase in Japan’s NJ population will cause and signal a true leavening of Japan’s economic clout and prowess. But I remain skeptical at this juncture — as I’ve said before, the jig is up, and outsiders generally know that Japan has no intention or enforceable laws to treat immigrants as equals, no matter how much of their lives and taxes they invest.

    At this time, I believe international migrant labor will continue to vote with their feet and work elsewhere. So good luck with significant numbers coming to Japan even with this ban lifted.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Pension System, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 9 Comments »

    Good news: Japan Times Community Pages expanding from two-page Tuesdays to four days a week

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 15th October 2013

    Good news. With an imminent tie-up between The Japan Times and The New York Times, the Community Pages (which I have written for since 2002) will expand from its present two pages on Tuesday to four days a week. The JT explains in more detail below.

    Proud to be part of this writing crew. We are the only English-language newspaper that is covering issues in this degree of depth in ways that matter to the English-reading NJ communities, and now we’re getting even more space. Bravo. Thank you to everyone for reading and encouraging this to happen. — Arudou Debito, JUST BE CAUSE Columnist, The Japan Times

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, Practical advice | 5 Comments »

    Yomiuri on “Points System” visa: “Too strict”, few takers, under review by Justice Ministry (which institutionally will never be able to fix it)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 7th August 2013

    An attempted panacea to Japan’s lack of formal immigration policy floated many moons ago (and discussed here and here) was a “Points System” visa, here to bring “higher-skilled” workers (koudo jinzai). I critiqued it for its probable failure in the Japan Times. Now the failure has officially happened. Even the Justice Ministry admits below that the visa regime has attracted few people, and that, as Debito.org has reported before, is because its requirements are too strict.

    But to me it’s no wonder it failed. It’s not merely (as alluded below) an issue of criteria, but rather institutionalized treatment of immigrants. We saw attitudes towards immigration last summer when ministries debated how immigrants should be treated, and cross-ministerial officials only weakly offered the same old hackneyed conclusions and lessons unlearned: Privilege granted to Nikkei with the right bloodlines, more attention devoted to how to police NJ than how to make them into Japanese citizens (with their civil and human rights protected), insufficient concern given for assimilation and assistance once NJ come to Japan, and almost no consultation with the NJ who are already in Japan making a life as to what assistance they might need.

    This is what happens when you put a people-handling policy solely in the hands of a policing agency (i.e., the Justice Ministry): Those people being perpetually treated as potential criminals. There is automatically less focus on what good these people will do and latent suspicion about what harm they might. It doesn’t help when you also have an administrative regime trying to find any excuse possible to shorten visas and trip immigrants up to “reset the visa clock” for Permanent Residency, through minor administrative infractions (not to mention the fact that changing from your current visa to this “Points System” visa resets your “visa clock” once again). It’s official ijiwaru, and without a separate ministry (i.e., an Imincho) specifically dedicated configuring immigration or integration into Japanese society, things will not be fixed.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Practical advice, SITYS, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 12 Comments »

    WSJ: Abenomics’ Missing “Third Arrow: The absence of immigration reform from Abenomics bespeaks a deeper problem”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 30th July 2013

    One of the things that the LDP has been good at during this election cycle has been controlling the agenda. By diverting attention away from contentious constitutional reform by talking about economic reform (or at least the promise of it), Abe and Co. have used imagery of loosing “three arrows” (monetary easing and fiscal stimulus, then eventually structural reforms). The Economist (London) on June 15 wondered if “Abenomics” had “failed before it even properly began”.

    As Debito.org and others have been saying for years now, you can’t have sustained growth without a healthy and energetic workforce, especially as society ages, pensioners crowd out taxpayers, and public works continue to fill in the gaps and crowd out entrepreneurship. And if you want youth, energy, and entrepreneurialism, you cannot beat immigration and the Can-Do Make-Do Spirit of the Immigrant.

    But the strong xenophobic tendencies of the LDP and the dominant fringes within the ruling side of Japan’s politics have made this currently politically untenable. And here’s the Wall Street Journal giving us their take on why a serious immigration policy should have been one of the GOJ’s “arrows”:

    WSJ: If there’s one reform that’s symbolic of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s eponymous program to rejuvenate the Japanese economy, it’s immigration. By importing new consumers and workers, immigration is crucial to stimulating domestic capital investment by companies. By expanding the taxpaying population base, it improves the government’s fiscal position. Immigration will facilitate foreign direct investment, boosting productivity.

    All of that makes immigration reform precisely the kind of bold and deep change Mr. Abe promises. But the thing that makes immigration reform most emblematic of Abenomics is that despite its importance to Japan’s future, it is almost entirely absent from the agenda…

    Investors have lately panned Abenomics, rightly, for its lack of daring. Optimists hope this is a political calculation that a month before a major election is no time to introduce bold reforms, and that more and better is on the way later. But reflection on the immigration problem raises a different prospect. Any meaningful reform will be deeply disruptive—whether in terms of new immigrants let in, small farms consolidated and old farmers retired, new businesses started and old firms bankrupted. In all the hubbub about Abenomics, everyone forgot to ask whether Japan really wants the upheaval needed to restart growth. Unless and until Japanese are willing to tolerate such changes, Abenomics will be more wish than reality.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 17 Comments »

    FGU on how Japan’s employers are circumventing new contract law protections: poison pills in contracts

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 24th June 2013

    We’ve talked about Japan’s Academic Apartheid at the university level (i.e., NJ on perpetual contracts, J on permanent tenure) for decades now on Debito.org (especially since employment standards of NJ in academia set precedents for employment everywhere). And thanks to decades of pressure, as of April 2013 the GOJ built in safeguards to stop perpetual contracting — where working five years continuously on fixed-term contracts now gives the contractee the option for more stable contract work. But employers are now getting around that by capping their contracts at five years with a “non-renewal clause”, building in a poison pill for employees no matter how hard they work or contribute to the company.

    It’s one more reason to reconsider ever working in Japan. For those who have no choice, keep an eye out for the poison pill and don’t sign a contract with one.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 49 Comments »

    NPA “Crime Infrastructure Countermeasures” campaign also targets “foreign crime” anew. Justifies more anonymous anti-NJ signs

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 20th June 2013

    Last blog entry we talked about how the National Police Agency exaggerates and falsifies data to whip up media panic about “foreign crime”. We’ve also talked for many years on Debito.org about how the NPA has been putting out racist public notices about NJ criminals (including, in my opinion, assisting the seedier J-media to publish some examples of hate speech). Well, anonymous postermakers are now getting into the act, what with the NPA’s most recent anti-crime campaign:

    The poster at right calls upon Tokyo Immigration Bureau to do something about fake international marriages, claiming they’re “rising rapidly” (kyuuzouchuu), and says (with the obligatory plural exclamation points that are characteristic of the alarmist far-right) that we cannot permit illegal foreign labor or overstayers!!

    The poster at left calls for the expulsion of foreign crime (!!), with murder, mugging, arson, rape, and theft listed at 25,730 cases! (Again, no comparison with Japanese crime, which is far, far higher — especially if you look at theft.) The bottom boxes are not to me fully legible, but the blue one asks the authorities not to give up in the face of fake applications for visas, Permanent Residency, and naturalizations!

    Here’s is a poster from the Kanagawa Prefectural Police site (a proud sponsor of the door-to-door neighborhood resident checks and forked-tongue friendly cops who produce racist posters). It warns people in four languages that what they’re doing is criminal activity, including forgery, “bogus marriage” (wow, the language level is getting better), “false affiliation” (gizou ninchi, meaning a J male falsely acknowledges paternity of an NJ child to get that child Japanese citizenship), and false adoption (I hope this won’t now target Japan’s Douseiaisha). Although not mentioning NJ in specific, the poster’s multilinguality means it’s meant for an international audience (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, English, and I think either Tagalog or Bahasa Indonesia).

    The interesting bit is in the bottom green section, where it talks about the Hanzai Infura [illegible] Taisaku (Crime Infrastructure Countermeasures). What’s meant by “crime infura”? It’s a new enough concept to warrant an explanation from the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Site: “Infrastructure” is the things and organizations that are the basic foundation of a society, meaning roads, rails, plumbing, etc. By “Crime Infrastructure”, this is meant to be the the same thing to undergird crime, such as cellphones under false names, fake websites, false marriages, false adoptions, and false IDs. The Ibaraki Prefectural Police have a more elaborate explanation, with helpful illustrations of eight cases (five of which racialize the issue by pinning it to “foreign crime”).

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Labor issues, Media, 日本語 | 11 Comments »

    Tangent: Julian Ryall on how Japanese employees educated abroad are denied opportunities by Japanese companies

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th June 2013

    Ryall: Many young Japanese students go abroad to study with high hopes. They return home with foreign degrees and even higher hopes, only to be shot down by conservative company ideals.

    On the very first day in her first job after graduation, Tomoko Tanaka says her dominant emotion was of disappointment. Tanaka, who does not want her real name or the name of her company used in this article because it could affect her career, began work in April of this year and had high hopes that the years she spent studying overseas would make her a popular candidate with Japanese employers.

    Instead, it seems, the effort and money that went into perfecting her English skills in the UK may have been wasted as Japanese firms do not always welcome potential recruits who have been exposed to foreign ways of thinking and behaving…

    A survey conducted in March 2012 by Disco, a Tokyo-based recruitment company, determined that less than one in four firms planned to hire Japanese applicants who had studied abroad. Even among major, blue-chip companies, less than 40 percent said they would employ Japanese who had attended a foreign university. Aware of the problems they face if they have invested their time and funds on an education overseas, more are staying closer to home.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Labor issues, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 29 Comments »

    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 13, 2013 PART 2: New eBooks by Debito on sale now

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th May 2013

    New information about three new books of mine that are now out in downloadable eBook form:

    1) Debito’s eBook “GUIDEBOOK FOR RELOCATION AND ASSIMILATION INTO JAPAN” now available on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $19.99

    Following December’s publication of the revised 2nd Edition of long-selling HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS comes a companion eBook for those who want to save paper (and money). A handy reference book for securing stable jobs, visas, and lifestyles in Japan, GUIDEBOOK has been fully revised and is on sale for $19.99 USD (or your currency equivalent, pegged to the USD on Amazons worldwide). See contents, reviews, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/handbook.html

    2) Debito’s eBook “JAPANESE ONLY: THE OTARU ONSENS CASE AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN JAPAN” now available in a 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $9.99

    It has been more than ten years since bathhouses in Otaru, Hokkaido, put up “NO FOREIGNERS” signs at their front doors, and a full decade since the critically-acclaimed book about the landmark anti-discrimination lawsuit came out. Now with a new Introduction and Postscript updating what has and hasn’t changed in the interim, JAPANESE ONLY remains the definitive work about how discrimination by race remains a part of the Japanese social landscape. See contents, reviews, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html

    3) Debito’s eBook “IN APPROPRIATE: A NOVEL OF CULTURE, KIDNAPPING, AND REVENGE IN MODERN JAPAN” now available on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $9.99

    My first nonfiction novel that came out two years ago, IN APPROPRIATE is the story of a person who emigrates to Japan, finds his niche during the closing days of the Bubble Years, and realizes that he has married into a locally-prominent family whose interests conflict with his. The story is an amalgam of several true stories of divorce and child abduction in Japan, and has received great praise from Left-Behind Parents for its sincerity and authenticity. See contents, reviews, and links to online purchasing outlets at http://www.debito.org/inappropriate.html

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Child Abductions, Education, Good News, Handbook for Newcomers, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Labor issues, Media, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Pension System, Practical advice | No Comments »

    New book: “Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight” by Hepburn & Simon (Columbia UP, 2013). Includes Japan.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th April 2013

    Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight
    By Stephanie Hepburn and Rita J. Simon

    Published by Columbia University Press, this unprecedented study of sex trafficking, forced labor, organ trafficking, and sex tourism across twenty-four nations highlights the experiences of the victims, perpetrators, and anti-traffickers involved in this brutal trade. Combining statistical data with intimate accounts and interviews, journalist Stephanie Hepburn and justice scholar Rita J. Simon create a dynamic volume sure to educate and spur action.

    Among the nations examined is Japan, which has not elaborated a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. Although the government took a strong step forward in its 2009 Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons by acknowledging that sex trafficking is not the only form of human trafficking, forced-labor victims continue to be marginalized. As a result of ethnocentric policies, the government prohibits foreign unskilled laborers from working in Japan. But the disparity between the nation’s immigration posture and its labor needs has created a quandary. With a demand for inexpensive labor but without an adequate low wage labor force, Japan uses the government-run Industrial Training Program and Technical Internship Program to create a temporary and low-cost migrant workforce for employers. The stated purpose of the program is to transfer skill, technology, and knowledge to persons of other nations and thereby play a central role in the economic growth of developing nations, specifically those in East Asia. Instead, it has created opportunities for exploitation and human trafficking.

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Education, Gaiatsu, Good News, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 4 Comments »

    New eBook: “JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Onsens Case”, 10th Anniv Edition with new Intro and Postscript, now on Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook $9.99

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th April 2013

    I am pleased to announce the eBook release of my book “JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” Tenth Anniversary Edition, available for immediate download for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble NOOK.

    The definitive book on one of Japan’s most important public debates and lawsuits on racial discrimination, this new edition has a new Introduction and Postscript that updates the reader on what has happened in the decade since JO’s first publication by Akashi Shoten Inc. A synopsis of the new book is below.

    You can read a sample of the first fifteen or so pages (including the new Introduction), and download the ebook at either link:
    http://www.amazon.com/JAPANESE-ONLY-Springs-Discrimination-ebook/dp/B00C8UB6U8
    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/japanese-only-debito-arudou/1115061298
    Price: $9.99

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Gaiatsu, Good News, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Injustice, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Issho.org/Tony Laszlo, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Media, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Practical advice, United Nations, 日本語 | 9 Comments »

    JT on “Kyakkan Setsu vs. Nibun Setsu”: Grey zones in compensation for “work hours” in Japan

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 30th March 2013

    As our last post talked about labor law issues (and the proposal to abridge Labor Standards in favor of greater “flexibility” to dismiss labor without reasons), here’s an important article that came out in the Japan Times last December that I was waiting to get to, discussing issues once again of employer power over employees: When is a person under the authority of his or her employer, deserving compensation as “work time”? Okunuki talks about important cases in a very enlightening article about just how grey “work hours” are, and underscoring how powerless Japanese employees are regarding all that overtime going unpaid — how many people take things to court or to labor unions to fight under this precedent, or are even aware of “kyakkan setsu vs. nibun setsu”?. And the proposal we discussed last blog entry is to give even more power to employers?

    JT: The Labor Standards Law sidesteps a proper definition, and labor law scholars fall into two camps over how a work hour should be defined. One subscribes to what is known as kyakkan-setsu, roughly translating as “objective theory.” This camp argues that work hours are the entire time during which the employee can objectively be considered to be under the authority of her or his employer.

    The nibun-setsu (two-part theory) camp, on the other hand, splits work hours into “core” and “peripheral” work hours, with the status of the latter gray area between strictly defined work hours and break time to be determined through agreement between the employer and employed.

    The gold standard in case law regarding work hours is the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagasaki Shipyard case. The Supreme Court’s Petty Bench on March 9, 2000, rejected outright the nibun-setsu approach and backed the kyakkan-setsu interpretation. Let’s examine the case.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | No Comments »

    Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 27th March 2013

    Asahi: Business leaders at a government panel have proposed that employers in Japan be allowed to fire workers at their discretion as a way to improve the nation’s economic growth. Members of the Industrial Competitiveness Council called March 15 for rules that will, in principle, allow employers to dismiss regular employees freely if the workers are compensated with “re-employment support.” The council is chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

    COMMENT: Debito.org has previously discussed the curious phenomenon of “Gaijin as Guinea Pig”, where future reforms that put the general public at a disadvantage to the elite are first tested out and normalized through application on Japan’s foreigners. For example, “Academic Apartheid” (the practice of contracting all NJ educators while granting Japanese educators tenure from day one in Japan’s higher education system) gave way to contract employment for every educator in 1997. More examples here. Now according to the Asahi we have the previous legally-enshrined practice of making all workers (roudousha) protected by Japan’s labor laws being chipped away at. Previously seen in the labor-law exemption given NJ workers under “Trainee” Visas (e.g., foreign factory workers, farm laborers, caregivers), we are now seeing a similar push to exempt all Japanese workers from labor law protections. Japan hopes to make themselves more attractive to international labor migration when they’re in process of making an exploitative labor market even more so, for everybody? Again, deserves to be known about.

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Japanese Government, Labor issues, NJ legacies, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 6 Comments »

    SITYS: GOJ’s new “Points System” to attract “higher-skilled” NJ being reviewed due to dearth of applications, impossibly high hurdles

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 24th March 2013

    Asahi: A policy initiative designed to encourage highly skilled foreign professionals to come and stay in Japan is not working out as the Justice Ministry had envisioned. In fact, the point-based system has proved so unpopular that it is being reviewed only a year after it was introduced. […] According to the Justice Ministry, less than 1,000 will likely be certified in the initial year, compared with 2,000 that officials had expected.

    COMMENT: We’ve talked about Japan’s “Points System” before on Debito.org, where I took a dim view of it as just another “revolving door” labor visa regime to bring people over, leech off their prime working lives, and then boot them back home without letting them settle and reap the rewards for contributing to Japanese society (cf. the “Trainees”, the “Nikkei Returnees”, and the “foreign caregivers“, all of whom I have written about for the Japan Times). Well, now, in yet another episode of SITYS (“See I Told You So”), Asahi reports the “Points System” is going through similar “revisions” as the visa scams above due to a dearth of applications. As I thought would happen — the PS’s qualifying hurdles are simply too high. Even if one assumes good faith in Japan’s policymakers (some of whom do see the slow-motion demographic disaster in progress due to crushing public debt unsupportable by a society that is shrinking and aging) who might want to treat “foreign laborers” as people, Japan’s bureaucrats are so paranoid about NJ somehow “abusing” the system that they make it practically impossible for anyone to ever “use” the system to their benefit. Again, the GOJ keep wanting “workers” and discover to their surprise later that they imported “people”, with livelihood needs beyond mere work hours converted into “the privilege of living in Japan”. These policy failures will keep happening again and again until NJ are treated as “people”, and given a fair chance by the GOJ at becoming “Japanese” (with transfers of political, economic, and social power — and that includes input at the policymaking stage too). But I still don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    Posted in Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, SITYS, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 34 Comments »

    Amazing new Cabinet survey finds “81% welcome ‘foreigners’ of Japanese descent”. Festival of cognitive dissonance!

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd March 2013

    Kyodo: More than 80 percent of respondents in a new poll said they are open to foreign nationals of Japanese descent living in the nation, the Cabinet Office reported. The office’s first survey of its kind, released Thursday, found 80.9 percent of respondents expressed openness to living alongside those with Japanese ancestry, including Brazilian and Peruvian descendents of Japanese immigrants. Only 12.9 percent opposed the idea.

    JDG: “It’s a brilliantly pointless piece of reporting, for the sake of massaging the egos of the Japanese readers, and assuring them that Japan is a ‘modern’ country… J-public are finally willing to accept foreigners… as long as they are ‘Japanese’ foreigners… I feel like I have gone back in time 5 years. The same politicians are back, the same old economic policies are back, and now Japan wants all those Nikkeijin they paid to go home, to come back too?”

    RM: Hopefully government officials will use this survey to promote further initiatives to empower the Nikkei (and hopefully other non-Japanese) in Japan. Publicly conducting the survey, posting it on the Cabinet Office website, and releasing it to the press, may indicate that the government is testing public support for such initiatives.

    DEBITO: Bingo! As has been noted before on Debito.org, the Cabinet, in its sessions last summer on how to “accept” NJ into Japanese society for future economic vitality, only showed interest in the treatment of Nikkei. Nikkei, you see, are somehow part of “us” (due to Wajin blood conceits), and it looks like Japan’s policymakers are going to give the old failed Nikkei worker importation strategy another try, and cite this “shooting fish in a barrel” survey to support it.

    Anyway, if the Cabinet is so keen on taking surveys, how about its perpetually embarrassing (and, as I’ve reported in the Japan Times, very flawed) Cabinet Survey on Human Rights that it conducts every four years? I just found the 2012 version, a year late, made public with significantly less fanfare. Perhaps because the results in the past were far more revealing about Japan’s cognitive dissonance regarding human rights, meaning a large proportion don’t support granting equal human rights to foreign humans! You see, human rights for NJ, by the very nature of having to ask this kind of question, are optional in Japan. Less so, it would seem based upon this new Cabinet survey, for the “foreigners” with the right bloodline. Which is the conceit that this new Cabinet survey is pandering to.

    Ultimately, I believe the GOJ will once again fall into the same old shortsightedness (like so many other societies) of wanting “workers” only to discover later they brought in “people”. And then, as before, society will seek to denigrate if not get rid of them as soon as they actually have needs (such as health care to provide, children to educate, lifestyles that reflect their backgrounds, retirement pensions to pay, political power to cede) that run counter to the original national plans…

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 9 Comments »

    The 25-year “Special Reconstruction Tax” of Jan 1, 2013 — yet another GOJ leech on the Japan workers’ payroll?

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 17th February 2013

    Japan Times payroll: “Thank you very much for contributing your articles to The Japan Times.
    We would like to inform you that the special reconstruction income tax, introduced by the government to secure financial resources for reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, took effect on January 1, 2013. This tax is imposed on individuals and corporations – both Japanese and foreign – at a rate of 2.1 percent over a 25-year period through 2037.”

    Debito: Have other Debito.org also received word of yet another tax on income to go towards “reconstruction”? We’ve already seen where money earmarked for “disaster relief” has been going — to fund corrupt bureaucratic practices within the GOJ (e.g., “road building in distant Okinawa; prison vocational training in other parts of Japan; subsidies for a contact lens factory in central Japan; renovations of government offices in Tokyo; aircraft and fighter pilot training, research and production of rare earths minerals, a semiconductor research project and even funding to support whaling”). I’ve also heard of pay cut after pay cut in the academic communities for “reconstruction”, with little to no accountability over the funds afterwards (one case I’ve heard of is where the gakuchou of a major national university has been sequestering monies into an account to earn interest for his own purposes). So what say you, Debito.org Readers? Are you also seeing more skimming, both GOJ and non-GOJ related, from your paychecks for “reconstruction”? Just how bad do things have to get before people say “enough”?

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 29 Comments »

    Mainichi: NJ medical intern death from overwork finally officially recognized as karoushi after 2 years

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 14th February 2013

    In a sad precedent, we have a clear case of death through overwork being officially recognized as such for a NJ doctor. It’s sadder that it has taken so long (more than two years) for that official recognition to come through. I’ve long realized that Japan has at times some pretty crazy work ethics (and a peer group atmosphere that encourages people to give their all, even until they die), but it seems even more crazy for NJ to leave their societies to come to a place that will work them to death. Especially as a NJ “trainee”, where they have even fewer labor-law rights than the locals who are in similar work circumstances. This situation has to be known about, since Japan’s immigration laws aren’t allowing a labor market where enough doctors (even imported ones) can satiate the perpetual labor shortage being referred to below. Only when GOJ authorities realize that the jig is up, because the international labor force is avoiding Japan as a harsh labor market to work within, will things change.

    Mainichi: A regional labor standards inspection office in Aomori Prefecture has recognized that a Chinese trainee doctor who was working at a municipal hospital died from overwork, a lawyer representing the victim has disclosed. It is reportedly the country’s first case in which a foreign doctor working in Japan has been recognized by a labor standards office as having died from overwork. The Hirosaki Labor Standards Inspection Office in Aomori Prefecture acknowledged that the 2010 death of Lu Yongfu, a Chinese trainee doctor at a municipal hospital in Hirosaki, was work-related, in a decision on Dec. 20. Lu died at the age of 28 after working up to 121 hours overtime a month…

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Cultural Issue, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 17 Comments »

    Quoted in Die Zeit newspaper: “Japan: Old and Xenophobic” (German with machine translation)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 11th February 2013

    Sometimes I wish the Star Trek Universal Translators were already here. But we’re getting closer. Here’s a Google Translate version of an article that came out in Die Zeit newspaper a couple of months ago that cites me and others about Japan’s political problems with creating an immigration policy. Not a lot here that frequent readers of Debito.org don’t already know, but here’s a German media take on the issue:

    DIE ZEIT: For decades, Japan has been in a shaky position. The once-booming industrial nation barely registered economic growth. The national debt – in terms of economic power – is higher than that of Greece.

    Even today, every fourth Japanese is over 65 years old . The birth rate is so low that the population will decline by 2050 from 127 million today to below 90 million. Several governments have tried to counter by more kindergartens, child care allowance and the like, but little has borne fruit. In 100 years, there might be only 40 million Japanese.

    Now there is a lack of skilled labor, falling tax revenues, and no one knows who is going to pay in the future the growing pension claims. According to calculations by the United Nations, by 2050 only 17 million workers will be found to fund the pensions.

    But there is a solution: Immigrants like Ezekiel Ramat. Japan’s foreign population is currently 1.3 percent, extremely low for a highly developed country: Germany has at about 8.5 percent foreigners. In Japan, the number of immigrants in recent years even went down. But strange: no one in politics seems to care about immigration policy. Neither the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) nor the main opposition parties mention the subject at all in their campaigns. When asked, all assert that they want to promote more immigration. But they make no specific proposals…

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 26 Comments »

    Interesting lawsuits: French “Flyjin” sues employer NHK for firing her during Fukushima Crisis, 8 US sailors sue TEPCO for lying about radiation dangers

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 17th January 2013

    Here’s a couple of interesting lawsuits in the pipeline: A French woman being fired from NHK (despite 20 years working there) apparently for leaving Japan during the Fukushima crisis, and eight US Navy sailors suing TEPCO (from overseas) for lying about nuclear fallout dangers and exposing them to radiation.

    No matter what you think about the act of litigation (and there are always those, such as House Gaijin Gregory Clark or tarento Daniel Kahl (see Komisarof, “At Home Abroad”, p. 100) who decry anything a NJ does in court, saying “they’re suing at the drop of a hat like the litigious Westerners they are” — even though millions of Japanese in Japan sue every year), these cases have the potential to reveal something interesting: 1) Blowing the lid off the Flyjin Myth of “fickle NJ leaving their work stations” once again, this time in the Japanese judiciary; and 2) showing whether international effects of GOJ negligence (and irradiating the food chain both domestically and internationally counts as such) is something that can be legally actionable from afar.

    Kyodo: A French woman on Tuesday sued public broadcaster Japan Broadcasting Corp., or NHK, for dismissing her after she left Japan in response to a French government warning issued during the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Emmanuelle Bodin, 55, who had engaged in translation and radio work, said in a complaint filed with the Tokyo District Court that she had told her boss that she would return to work on March 30, 2011, but received a termination letter on March 22. Two days after the earthquake-tsunami disaster triggered the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant on March 11 that year, the French government advised its citizens to leave the Tokyo area.

    Bloomberg: Tokyo Electric Power Co. is being sued for tens of millions of dollars by eight U.S. Navy sailors who claim that they were unwittingly exposed to radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdowns and that Tepco lied about the dangers. The sailors aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan were involved in the Operation Tomodachi disaster relief operations following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region and led to the nuclear catastrophe, according to their complaint filed in U.S. federal court in San Diego on Dec. 21.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Gaiatsu, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 22 Comments »

    Call for help from JALT PALE group for Publications Chair

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th January 2013

    PUBLICATIONS CHAIR WANTED
    HELP KEEP JALT PALE FROM POSSIBLE DECOMMISSIONING

    Hey everyone. Arudou Debito here. I have been told that one of the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT)’s most important SIG groups, PALE (Professionalism, Administration, and Leadership in Education), is in some difficulty at the moment.

    The PALE SIG desperately needs a Publications Chair. If it does not have one, then someone on the board will have to pick up the load, which has been the case the past year or so with disappointing results. It is a fact, alas, that PALE is not a popular SIG due to its stands on controversial issues, and it should not be surprising that some would be happy to see it go. It is still odd, since PALE is all about helping people find job stability and better employment conditions through being informed about labor law etc. We are the group that acts as a safety net, one that people keep falling upon to when times get tough in the workplace. Decommissioning the group is an option for JALT. One that we don’t think should happen, for everyone’s sake.

    PALE has a long history of activism and assistance. I was the editor of the PALE Journal for several years. An archive of PALE activities and publications is available at http://www.debito.org/PALE

    So if you a) are a JALT member (or are willing to become one), and b) are willing to join PALE (it costs a mere 1500 yen per year), and c) are willing to become Publications Chair, then please contact Tom Goetz right away at professor_goetz@yahoo.com.

    Posted in Education, Labor issues, Media, NJ legacies | Comments Off

    Beate Sirota Gordon, one architect of the Postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89, her goals uncompleted if not currently being undone

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 5th January 2013

    Let me devote this blog entry to the passing of a historical figure whose importance within Japanese history cannot be overstated. Beate Sirota Gordon, a woman in a committee of men drafting the Japanese Postwar Constitution, wrote articles that remain fundamental to the rights Debito.org has devoted decades to upholding: Article 14, which guarantees that “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.” The other, Article 24, states (excerpt), “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes;” this guarantees fundamental human and civil rights to women that weren’t present under the horrible Prewar Ie Seido (which among other things made people into property). A hearty Debito.org salute to Gordon for a life well lived and opportunities to improve Japanese society well taken. NYT obituary enclosed below.

    A few Debito.org-esque comments: One is that the NYT’s claim below of “Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution” is probably erroneous. That honor probably belongs to an old teacher of mine when I was at Cornell, Milton J. Esman, who was born in 1918 and is apparently still alive (see his resume page two here). (Wikipedia also notes that Gordon was not the only woman assigned to the group either, as economist Eleanor Hadley was also present.)

    Second, reflecting upon Gordon’s life when eulogizing, it is important to note a number of fundamental rights enshrined in the Japanese Constitution that have remained unenforced. One is of course the lack of a law against racial discrimination (which is unconstitutional under Article 14 but not illegal in the Civil or Criminal Code), meaning racial discrimination can be (and is) “practiced undisturbed”, as the UN has noted in the past, in a “deep and profound” manner (despite Japan effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination in 1996; we’re now approaching seventeen years of unkept promises).

    The other I will just mention is the clause of “essential equality of the sexes” mentioned above in Article 24. Despite the Equal Employment Opportunities Law of 1986, Japan still maintains an immense gender-wage gap. (ILO data here.) Japan ranks at the very bottom (basically on par with ROK and Malaysia), and although the research notes that comprehensive comparisons cannot be made, the point still remains that women in Japan earn less than half of what men in Japan make for comparative work. Wage differentials may be true in all societies (I know of no society where gender-pay equality is systemwide), but this egregious a gap is unbecoming of a developed country, and shows the lack of good-faith drafting or enforcement of constitutionally-grounded laws in Japanese society.

    Finally, we have seen how much trouble the Japanese elite has gone to circumvent and undermine the Postwar “Peace Constitution”. We can start with the translation into Japanese (that Gordon’s group missed despite their fluency) that limited Article 14’s interpretation of constitutional protections for “all of the people” to Japanese citizens only. We can go on to talk about the unconstitutional standing military that is the JSDF and the right of education limited to citizens only in the Fundamental Law of Education. Plenty more, if people wish to point that out in Comments. And now, with the new PM Abe government, we can look forward to proposals for constitutional revisions to restore Japan’s military in name and allow for a remilitarization of Japan.

    I wonder what Gordon would say now about Japan’s December 2012 rightward swing. My guess is that she would lament her work remaining unaddressed if not being undone.

    Posted in History, Human Rights, Japanese Government, Labor issues, NJ legacies | 12 Comments »

    Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 59: The year for NJ in 2012: a Top 10

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 2nd January 2013

    Debito’s Top Ten human rights issues in Japan for NJ residents in 2012:
    10. DONALD KEENE’S NATURALIZATION
    9. OSAKA CITY DEFUNDS LIBERTY OSAKA
    8. COURTS RULE THAT MIXED-BLOOD CHILDREN MAY NOT BE “JAPANESE”
    7. DIET DOES NOT PASS HAGUE CONVENTION
    6. GOVERNMENT CONVENES MEETINGS ON IMMIGRATION
    5. MAINALI CASE VICTORY, SURAJ CASE DEFEAT
    4. JAPAN’S VISA REGIMES CLOSE THEIR LOOP
    3. NEW NJ REGISTRY SYSTEM
    2. POST-FUKUSHIMA JAPAN IS IRREDEEMABLY BROKEN
    1. JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SWING
    Links to sources included

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Media, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 12 Comments »

    Japan now a place to avoid for international labor migration? NHK: Even Burmese refugees refusing GOJ invitations, electing to stay in Thai refugee camp!

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th December 2012

    In this time of unprecedented migration of labor across borders (click to see some international labor migration stats from the ILO and the OECD), I think increasingly one can make a strong case that Japan is being seen as a place to avoid. As I will be mentioning in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out January 1, 2013), as part of my annual countdown of the Top Ten most influential human rights issues in 2012 affecting NJ in Japan, Japan’s “revolving-door” visa regimes (which suck the most productive work years out of NJ while giving them fewer (or no) labor law protections, and no stake in Japanese society — see here and here), people who are even guaranteed a slot in Japan’s most difficult visa status — refugees (see also here) — are turning the GOJ down! They’d rather stay in a Thai refugee camp than emigrate to Japan. And for reasons that are based upon word-of-mouth.

    That’s what I mean — word is getting around, and no amount of faffing about with meetings on “let’s figure out how We Japanese should ‘co-exist’ with foreigners” at the Cabinet level is going to quickly undo that reputation.

    Immediately below is the article I’m referring to. Below that I offer a tangent, as to why Burmese in particular get such a sweetheart deal of guaranteed GOJ refugee slots. According to media, “From 1982 to 2004, Japan accepted only 313 refugees, less than 10 per cent of those who applied. Even after its rules were slightly liberalized in 2004, it allowed only 46 refugees in the following year. Last year it accepted only 34 of the 954 applicants. Those numbers are tiny in comparison with Canada, which accepted more than 42,000 refugees last year, despite having a much smaller population than Japan. But they are also tiny in comparison to European countries such as France and Italy. On a per capita basis, Japan’s rate of accepting refugees is 139th in the world, according to the United Nations.” This means that Burmese make up between a third to a half of all refugees accepted! Why? As a holiday tangent, consider the elite-level intrigue of a wartime connection between the Japanese Imperial Army and SLORC…

    Posted in Gaiatsu, History, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 61 Comments »

    2nd Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, & IMMIGRANTS to Japan on sale Dec 2012, updated

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 3rd December 2012

    I’m very happy to announce that at long last (it takes a number of months to get things through the publishing pipeline), the Second Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN goes on sale in December 2012.

    This long-selling bilingual guide to life in Japan, co-authored with legal scrivener Akira Higuchi, has assisted thousands of readers and engendered rave reviews. Its goal has been to assist people to live more stable, secure lives in Japan, and walks the reader through the process of securing a better visa, getting a better job (even start one’s own business), troubleshooting through difficult situations both bureaucratically and interpersonally, establishing one’s finances and arrangements for the next of kin, even giving something back to Japanese society. It is a one-stop guide from arrival in Japan through departure from this mortal coil, and now it has been updated to reflect the changes in the Immigration and registry laws that took place in July 2012. Get ready to get yourself a new copy!

    (Oh, and my Japan Times JBC column has been postponed a week due to a major scoop this week that will fill the Community Page…)

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Good News, Handbook for Newcomers, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Labor issues, Practical advice, 日本語 | 4 Comments »

    Sakanaka in Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed, only immigrants can save it

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd October 2012

    Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed. Only a revolution can save it. What kind of revolution? Japan must become “a nation of immigrants.”

    That’s a hard sell in this notoriously closed country. Salesman-in-chief — surprisingly enough — is a retired Justice Ministry bureaucrat named Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the ministry’s Tokyo Immigration Bureau and current executive director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, a private think tank he founded in 2007.

    “Japan,” he said in a recent telephone interview, “is on the brink of collapse.” […] No nation, barring war or plague, has ever shrunk at such a pace, and as for aging, there are no historical precedents of any kind. The nation needs a fountain of youth. Sakanaka claims to have found one. Japan, he said, “must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.” […] It sounds fantastic, and in fact, Sakanaka acknowledges, would require legislation now lacking — anti-discrimination laws above all.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Cultural Issue, Discussions, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Practical advice, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 52 Comments »

    Kyodo: NJ on welfare (unlike Japanese on welfare) now need to pay pension premiums, says Japan Pension Service

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 19th October 2012

    Kyodo: Japan Pension Service has drawn up a guideline that renders foreign residents on welfare no longer eligible for a uniform waiver from premium payments for the public pension, effectively a turnaround from a long-held practice of treating them equally with Japanese, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

    Human rights activists said it is tantamount to discrimination based on nationality. In fiscal 2010, roughly 1.41 million households were on public assistance. Around 42,000 were households led by foreign residents.

    In a reply dated Aug. 10 to a query from a local pension service office, JPS, a government affiliate commissioned to undertake pension services, said, “Public assistance benefits are provided to foreigners living in poverty as done so for Japanese nationals, but foreigners are not subject to the law on public assistance.”

    Posted in Exclusionism, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Pension System, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 15 Comments »

    Kyodo: “Foreign caregiver program faces tightening”: Death knell of program as J media finds ways to blame the gaijin?

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 8th September 2012

    Let’s have a look at what’s becoming of Japan’s latest “revolving door” labor visa regime scam (after the “Trainees”, the “Nikkei Returnees”, and the “Points System”): the “foreign caregivers”, which has ground to a halt due to the (otherwise fully-qualified) NJ health professionals themselves realizing that the systematic barriers were creating an exploitative regime. So now according to Kyodo News it looks like it’s being scaled back. But not without kicking someone in the ribs first. As submitter JDG notes:

    “The foreign caregiver program was launched because there was a realization that the looming shortage of caregivers to meet Japan’s aging population had already arrived. However, as you have documented, from it’s inception it has been riddled with unrealistic expectations, low pay, harsh conditions, few incentives, and subject to some strange accounting.

    “Well, here is the logical conclusion: foreign caregivers are ‘gaijin criminals taking advantage of the system’. Rather than examining what is wrong with the system, the (of course) natural response by officials is to make the program even tougher to live with for caregivers. Only a Kyoto University Prof. seems to have any sense about him. I would say that this development will mark the end (in real terms) of the program. Of course, it’s all the NJ’s fault…”

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Media | 13 Comments »

    Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 54 Aug 7, 2012: “For nikkei immigrants in Japan, it doesn’t have to be a bug’s life”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 9th August 2012

    With apologies to Franz Kafka: As Beto awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his futon into a gigantic cockroach.

    “What’s happened to me?” he thought. In his native land down south, he had been a person — if at times underprivileged due to his nikkei status. So, years ago, he “repatriated” to Japan, attracted by promises of better milk and honey. Yet now he felt even more marginalized by the locals here, who called themselves “people” yet treated him at times like he was an insect.

    Beto scurried off to work, where people shied away and refused to sit by him in the train cars. But as the end of the line approached, the coach filled up with fellow cockroaches, and people stopped paying attention.

    The people at his factory also took no notice of his metamorphosis. His supervisors were used to dealing with cockroaches. Bugs seemed an inevitable part of lower-rent circumstances. As in the train, it seemed some people had learned to “co-exist” with them in close quarters.

    In public, however, reactions were different. Alone, Beto was often seen as something exotic, maybe even collectable if there was a curious person flitting about who was interested in “speaking bug.” But if seen as part of a swarm, people’s knee-jerk reactions were to take steps against them. Bugs might overrun the place, making it feel less the realm of the masters, more of the roaches…

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Humor, Immigration & Assimilation, Labor issues, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited | 12 Comments »

    Japan Times on reaffirmed J workers’ “right to strike”, thanks to judicial precedent set by defeated 2012 nuisance lawsuit from eikaiwa Berlitz Inc.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 29th July 2012

    In one important NJ legacy, Japan’s courts have, according to the Japan Times, reaffirmed the right to strike for “laborers” (roudousha) in Japan’s private sector. Note that the right to strike has been denied to public-sector laborers — a legacy of SCAP’s “Reverse Course” of 1947-8 (Akira Suzuki, “The History of Labor in Japan in the Twentieth Century”, in Jan Lucassen, ed. “Global Labour History”, pg. 181), when the American occupiers were worried about Japan “going Red” like China and North Korea; to maintain administrative order, bureaucrats were explicitly denied the right to strike or engage in political activities (fortunately, they retained the right to vote; thanks for small favors). But in the face of eroding labor rights over the past few decades (when, for example, the rights of permanently-contracted workers to not have instant termination without reason, were being abused by unilateral contract terminations of NJ educators), a nuisance lawsuit by Berlitz against its eikaiwa workers fortunately ended up in the reaffirmation of their right to strike last February. Since we have talked about it on Debito.org at great length in the past, I just wanted to note this for the record. And say thanks, good job, for standing your ground for all of us.

    Japan Times: Over 100 Berlitz Japan teachers struck over 3,000 lessons between December 2007 and November 2008 in order to win a 4.6-percent pay hike and one-off one-month bonus. The language school claimed the strikes were illegal mainly because the union gave little notice of the impending strikes… Tokyo District Court dismissed the entire case in its Feb. 27, 2012, verdict, reaffirming the powerful guarantee of the right to strike in Japan.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Labor issues, Lawsuits, NJ legacies | 2 Comments »

    Yomiuri: Iwate town sponsors Vietnamese future doctor — and people reportedly react with trepidation

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 23rd July 2012

    In light of how NJ nurses under a national visa program have been treated in the face of a chronic careworkers shortage, here we have a case where even local sponsorship of a NJ doctor is also viewed (according to the Yomiuri, which may indeed in the interest of “balance” be conjuring up a tempest in a teapot) with suspicion because she is a foreigner. After all, she might not stay! Then again, so might not anyone else being trained on that scholarship program regardless of nationality. Ah, but foreigners are different, you see. They always represent a flight risk… Anyhoo, good news tainted with an editorial bias of caution and trepidation just because the subject is NJ.

    Yomiuri: Facing a serious and chronic shortage of doctors, the town of Ichinohe felt it necessary to look overseas to find medical staff willing to live and work in the rural area. The town plans to spend more than 10 million yen on school and living expenses for a Vietnamese woman on the condition that she will practice medicine in the town for at least seven years after obtaining her license.

    The unusual plan raised eyebrows when the town ran it by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, and some residents have questioned why the town is sponsoring a foreigner. However, Ichinohe Mayor Akira Inaba believes the unprecedented plan is just what the town needs. “The scholarship program for Japanese medical students hasn’t attracted enough applicants to meet its quota,” he said. “We have no other choice but to secure our doctors on our own.”

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 13 Comments »

    Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 July 3, 2012: “In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for NJ”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 4th July 2012

    My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 dated July 3, 2012, is on the Japanese Government’s renewed policy debate on creating conditions conducive to immigration (without actually portraying it in any way as “immigration” (imin), just more NJ residents). It’s their attempt to address Japan’s demographic and probable economic nosedive despite their assiduous efforts over the decades to a) exploit NJ as temporary workers on a revolving-door labor visa regime, b) blame NJ for all manner of social ills, including foreign crime and desertion, and in the process c) poison the public debate arena for productive discussion about ever treating NJ well enough that they might want to actually stay (since the past three years have seen the NJ population continuously dropping, after 48 years of unbroken rise). The writing’s on the wall, and the GOJ is finally doing something constructive. But (as usual) the bureaucracy is controlling the agenda, and the typical blind spots are coming into play, so as things stand now I think the policy drive will be ineffective. Have a read and a think.

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Good News, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Practical advice, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 13 Comments »

    Asia Pacific Bulletin: “Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st July 2012

    Here’s some evidence of how the debate regarding Japan’s need for immigration is starting to percolate through USG policy circles — this time the Asia Pacific Bulletin. It’s another well-intentioned brief article for busy policymakers, but with a couple of mistakes: 1) “since the 2011 earthquake the number of foreign residents in Japan has also been on a downward trend” is not quite right since it was on a downward trend before 3/11 too (in fact, when I was debunking the “Flyjin” Myth in my Japan Times column I demonstrated how the decreasing trend in NJ numbers was largely unaffected by the multiple disasters); 2) the “stagnant policy discussion at the national level” has in fact been restarted and quite actively discussed starting from May onwards (perhaps after Mr. Menju sent the article to press, but the APB website notes their turnaround on articles is mere weeks), as has been discussed here in detail on Debito.org. But Mr. Menju does get some important things very, very right — as in the other J media-manufactured myth of NJ crime and social disruption (especially the NPA’s involvement in cooking the numbers), how this dynamic forestalls a healthy discussion on immigration policy, and Japan’s overall need for immigration despite all the years of active ignoring of local governments’ advice on tolerance and acceptance. Decent stuff, and worth a read.

    Posted in Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 32 Comments »

    GOJ Cabinet “Coexistence with NJ” Pt. 2: Critique of June 15, 2012 meeting — a very positive Third Act to this Political Theatre

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 28th June 2012

    Following up on my blog post of June 10: “GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for ‘co-existence with foreigners'”, here is an evaluation of the GOJ’s third meeting of June 15, 2012. I offer summaries of each presenter’s materials below. My overall comment is that despite some fair-to-middling presentation styles (one a bit limply bureaucratic, another full of irrelevant chaff), all of them have their heart in the right place. Two of them I just wanted to hug the presenter afterwards for getting things right all the way down to the proper semantics (of seeing NJ as fellow “resident” with their own sense of “community”; they even overrode the potentially dichotomous “coexistence” meme for seeing NJ as perpetual outsiders to “handle and administrate”, which Japan’s sweaty-handed bureaucrats can never get beyond). How much of this advice will be taken is another issue, but at least the advice is being given. It’s a good Third Act in this political theatre. It’s just a pity the short-sighted bureaucrats almost always get first dibs on agenda setting, with the people who might offer different opinions thrown in later down the line as an afterthought. And there’s still no mention of that law against racial discrimination…

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Practical advice, Unsustainable Japanese Society, 日本語 | 12 Comments »

    Kyodo: Foreign caregiver exits put program in doubt, complete with editorial slant blaming NJ for being fickle

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 22nd June 2012

    The Kyodo article below, on how Indonesian and Filipina nurses and caregivers (even those who have passed the arduous qualifying exam) are leaving Japan anyway, has been featured within the comments section of another Debito.org blog entry (here). It seems to be gathering steam there, so let me post the article here as a stand-alone, and repost below it the subsequent replies from Debito.org Readers (the really good ones start doing the math, revealing there’s something fishy going on at the administrative level, beyond just blaming the NJ caregivers for not doing what they’re told after all the GOJ bullshit they’ve put up with).

    My take on this Kyodo article is about the nasty little editorial slants and needles within. Particularly nasty is how all otherwise qualified NJ caregivers are suddenly unworthy of emptying Japanese bedpans just because some decide they have a life outside Japan. Quoth one professor with a PhD in nastiness at Todai (Kiyoshi Kitamura, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s International Research Center for Medical Education): “To what extent would it be considered appropriate for the foreign caregivers’ lives to be bound by the program? We must contemplate this, along with the question of whether the Japanese people are really up for nursing care provided by foreigners.”

    Moreover, Kyodo, is this news, or editorializing? “Yet as of June, five of them had quit and returned to Indonesia ‘for personal reasons,’ bringing great disappointment to the facilities that spent tens of millions of yen training them.” Awww, diddums!

    Posted in Bad Business Practices, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 23 Comments »

    GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for “co-existence with foreigners”: Some good stuff, but once again, policy about NJ without any input from them

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 10th June 2012

    John Morris at H-JAPAN: A committee has been set up within the Cabinet Office of Japan, composed of the vice-ministers of the Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Ministiry of Law, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Education etc, Health etc, Agricutlure etc, Industry etc, Land etc, Police to investigate and recommend policy on “co-existence with foreigners”. Information on the committee can be found at the following URL:
    http://www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/kyousei/index.html
    The documentation provided here gives a very succinct summary of what the government (national level bureaucrats?) of Japan think about “foreigners” here, and how they formulate their perceptions of what the “problems” are, and very vaguely hint at where they see future solutions.

    SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS: This is not the first time the organs of the Japanese government have talked about “coexistence with foreigners” (gaikokujin to no kyousei shakai jitsugen), but more likely than not these happen at the local level (cf. the Hamamatsu Sengen, which happened repeatedly from over a decade ago yet was studiously ignored at the national level). Now that discussion on this is taking place at the national, Cabinet level, this is a positive development. However, these meetings (two so far, the first one was less than an hour) at the outset show the hallmarks of so much Japanese policymaking: a biased agenda (with all the normalized invective of “wagakuni” (our country) semantically offsetting those foreigners (who have to “co-exist” with Japanese, not merge into one polity)) regarding the policy treatment of people without any input from the people being treated. Inevitable blind spots, such as an overemphasis on Nikkei and children’s education, are already latent in the materials below. In any case, this is a very interesting and rare view into the dialogs and mindsets behind the creation of public policy re NJ in Japan. More detailed summaries and analysis follow below.

    Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 20 Comments »

    Kyodo: Municipalities to deny services to illegal NJ; Kuchikomi: Rising NJ welfare chiselers “social parasites”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 1st June 2012

    We’ve had a discussion recently as part of Debito.org Comments about one of the side-effects of Japan’s new residency-certificate registration (juuminhyou) coming up in July. People suspect that the GOJ is using this revision as a means not only to make sure that local governments aren’t being “soft” on NJ visa overstayers (by denying them benefits even the Kyodo article below acknowledges they are entitled to), but also to check whether all NJ residents are registered and paying into Japan’s social insurance system. This is controversial because plenty of Japanese also opt out of the system, and also because it will possibly become a means to say, “Pay in or no visa renewal,” something that citizens obviously cannot be threatened with.

    This is yet another example of social Othering on a policy level (if you want to tighten things up, you should do it across the board for everyone in Japan, not just NJ), not to mention with some pretty stiff potential penalties (back paying into the system may run into the tens and hundreds of man yen, which can be financially insurmountable, and unjust especially when some employers in Japan have conveniently forgotten to pay in their half of the NJ employee’s social insurance when hiring NJ full time). Thus NJ get uprooted from Japan due to their employer’s negligence.

    I for one haven’t done enough research on what’s going to happen in coming months under the new system (my scrivener colleague in the visa industry himself too is waiting and seeing), but when it becomes plainer it’ll be discussed here. What IS plainer is that the Japanese media is already gearing up to portray the perpetual scapegoats for Japan’s social ills — NJ — this time as welfare spongers and social parasites. See the second article below.

    Note that all of the things that are being alleged against foreign “welfare chiselers” in that article I’ve heard and seen being done by Japanese too (especially the fake marriage bit — but what’s not covered in the article is how a NJ visa changes when a divorce occurs, so it’s not that “easy”). But one need not mention that inconvenient detail. NJ shouldn’t be here anyway if they’re going to commit, er, the same crimes that Japanese commit. Once again, social Othering and scapegoating of a disenfranchised minority is SOP in Japan for lots of social ills — and worse yet, the specter of “foreign hordes taking advantage of Japan’s overgenerous system” sells newspapers and alienates the aliens. Nothing less than media-bred xenophobia.

    Posted in Bad Social Science, Exclusionism, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Media | 28 Comments »

    Discussion: Aly Rustom on “Ways to fix Japan”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 26th May 2012

    Rustom: It has taken me over a year to write this piece. I have put my heart and soul into making this reading as concise as possible. This is a small essay on the problems of Japan, and my personal opinion on how to fix them.

    These days, Japan is suffering from a lot of socioeconomic problems. Whenever I talk to people and ask how can we fix them, no one ever has an answer. Everyone just folds their arms, tilts their head and says “Muzukashii” (Its difficult) Well, I do have a few solutions.
    I have written a small piece here on how to solve these problems. I have written this as a foreigner who has lived in Japan for over ten years and has the unique perspective of looking at things from both the inside and the outside.

    It is not my intention to try to tell Japan or it’s people what to do. Nor do I have any delusions of grandeur that the Japanese will all of a sudden sit up and take notice of what I have to say. I am only writing this to show that there are concrete steps that can be taken to heal Japan, and that all it takes is a little bit of thinking outside the box to make this happen. I am also hoping that this small piece will at least start up some degree of discourse which will eventually lead to some level of action sometime in the future. I also felt the need to vent, as I see a beautiful country being destroyed since no one wants to take the helm and do what needs to be done. So without further ado, let’s start:

    Posted in Discussions, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Practical advice, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 40 Comments »

    Naha City now requires JETs/AETs and JTEs to provide urine sample (drug test?) for contract renewal (UPDATED: At this writing, probably a false alarm)

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 30th March 2012

    Here’s another example of how NJ are not being trusted. Employees under the auspices of the JET Programme in Naha, AET, are being required to provide a urine sample in order to get a job. […] We’ve seen this attitude from the police in Tokyo Azabu, who conducted similar “I-Pee” urine tests on NJ exiting bars in Roppongi without a warrant in 2009 just for tits and giggles, and because, after all, they’re the Japanese police so sod you. Now we see police powers expanding beyond the NPA (as they did when unlawfully deputizing hotels to smoke out illegal aliens back in 2005) and into private-sector/public-sector eikaiwa. Expect more of the same for whatever reason dreamable up.

    XY: Dear Debito, Naha city now requires all AETs to take a urine test. Only the AETs, not the Japanese teachers. I thought I would bring this to your attention, as you are the right one to handle this type of situation. Can you give advice on how to deal with it? As AETs are blocked from forming any type of organization or union to fight against this type of BS. Here is the link: http://www.edu.city.naha.okinawa.jp/gakkyou/H24AETnaitei.pdf Notice on the second set of requirements where it tells the prospective applicant to turn in health related materials, it includes urine analysis. This is for drug testing, and only applies to AETs…

    UPDATE MARCH 31: EVIDENCE PROVIDED THAT JTES ALSO REQUIRED TO SUBMIT TO URINALYSIS, SO THIS MEASURE ALSO APPLIES TO JAPANESE AS WELL. Conclusion: I still don’t think this is what some claim to be a mere “routine physical” (I think, given what I know about J employers’ access to health records, it is in fact a drug test, given the prior media shock of JETs and drugs in Okinawa), but if it’s applied across the board to Japanese and NJ as well, it’s not really a Debito.org issue. Might be an invasion of privacy issue, but not one necessarily of unfairness towards NJ, so that’s better discussed elsewhere. So Readers are welcome to continue to comment on this issue below, but unless we receive new information from the original claimant(s), I’m going to have to declare this one a false alarm and offer my apologies. Sorry.

    Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Japanese Government, Labor issues | 48 Comments »

    Mainichi: 23 percent of Japan’s top firms eager to employ more NJ. Why this is not newsworthy.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 15th March 2012

    Mainichi: Some 23 percent of Japan’s top 122 companies are considering employing more foreigners starting from next year, citing plans for overseas expansion as their main incentive, a Mainichi survey has revealed. Sixty-two companies, some 50.8 percent of all firms surveyed, further answered that they are likely to hire more foreign employees in the next 10 years as well. Conversely, 45 companies, or 36.9 percent, answered that their foreign employee numbers will remain unchanged. There were no firms that plan to decrease foreign employment from current figures.

    COMMENT: Well, seems that trumpeting that Japanese companies want to hire foreigners is becoming a periodic media thing (the last survey put up on Debito.org was featured in the Asahi back in April 2010). But saying you want something is not news; actually doing it, is. But the lack of job-placement support for NJ graduates of Japanese universities, and the treatment of Michael Woodford (who rose through the ranks to CEO over decades of dedication to the company, only to be sacked for “cultural reasons” in a sea of corruption), do not inspire hope.

    Posted in Cultural Issue, Good News, Labor issues, Media, 日本語 | 9 Comments »

    Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 49: “Japan’s revolving-door immigration policy hard-wired to fail”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on 7th March 2012

    Japan Times: Last December, the Japanese government announced that a new visa regime with a “points system” would be introduced this spring.

    It is designed to attract 2,000 non-Japanese (NJ) with a “high degree of capability” (kōdo jinzai), meaning people with high salaries, impeccable educational and vocational pedigrees, specialized technical knowledge and excellent managerial/administrative skills.

    Those lucky foreign millionaire Ph.Ds beating a path to this land of opportunity would get preferential visa treatment: five-year visas, fast-tracking to permanent residency, work status for spouses — even visas to bring their parents and “hired housekeepers” along.

    Sweet. But then comes the fine print: You must get 70 points on the Justice Ministry’s qualifying scale (see www.moj.go.jp/content/000083223.pdf) And it’s tough, really tough. Take the test and see if you qualify (I don’t). Symptomatic of decisions by committee, it’s a salad of idealized preferences without regard for real-world application. There’s even a funny sliding scale where you get more points the longer you’ve worked, yet fewer points the older you get.

    Interesting is how low Japanese language ability is weighted: only 10 points — in a “bonus” category. One would have assumed that people communicative in Japan’s lingua franca would be highly prized (especially when the call for kōdo jinzai is in Japanese only).

    However, I would argue the opposite: Crowds of NJ completely fluent in Japanese are exactly what the government does not want. Visa regimes with illiterate foreigners facing insurmountable hurdles are what maintain Japan’s revolving-door labor market.

    For example, consider 2008’s visa program to import elderly-care nurses from the Philippines and Indonesia…

    Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Exclusionism, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 34 Comments »