SCMP: “Japan: now open to foreign workers, but still just as racist?” Quotes Debito.

mytest

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Hi Blog.  As a follow-up to what I wrote for the Japan Times in my end-year column last January (see item #1), here’s the SCMP offering more insights into the issue of Japan’s new visa regimes and the feeling of plus ca change.  My comment about the article is within the article.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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Japan: now open to foreign workers, but still just as racist?

Japan is opening its doors to blue-collar workers from overseas to fill the gaps left by an ageing population
Resident ‘gaijin’ warn that the new recruits – whom the government refuses to call ‘immigrants’ – might not feel so welcome in Japan
By Julian Ryall, South China Morning Post, 11 May, 2019
https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3009800/japan-now-open-foreign-workers-still-just-racist

Japan’s reluctance to allow foreigners to fill the gaps in its labour market has finally crumbled, as the country begins issuing the first of its new visas for blue-collar workers from overseas.

The first exams for applicants are being held in locations across Japan and also in Manila, following the introduction last month of new visa classifications that the government expects will lead to the admittance of more than 345,000 foreigners over the next five years.

Teething problems appear all but inevitable given the nation is famously insular, is not experienced with large-scale immigration and has a deep distrust of change.

Companies struggling to find enough employees as the population ages and fewer young people enter the workforce have broadly welcomed the new immigration rules – though there are still many who insist that the government has made a mistake and that local people’s jobs and social harmony are at risk. Ultra-conservatives, meanwhile, are railing at the potential impact on the racial purity of their island nation.

And there are foreign residents of Japan who fear the new rules may encourage even more overt discrimination against “gaijin”, or foreigners, than already exists. According to government statistics, there are 2.217 million foreign residents of Japan, with Koreans, Chinese and Brazilians making up the largest national contingents.

The new visa has two versions, both requiring a company to sponsor the foreign worker and provide evidence that he or she has passed various tests, including on Japanese language ability.

Fourteen industries – including food services, cleaning, construction, agriculture, fishing, vehicle repair and machine operations – are covered by the first visa, aimed at those with limited work skills. The worker’s stay is limited to five years, with the option of visa renewals, but they are not permitted to bring their family members to Japan.

The second type of visa does permit skilled workers to bring their families to Japan when they meet certain criteria, although this has led to domestic criticism that the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has opened the door to enabling immigrants to settle permanently in Japan, despite the government’s insistence they are only in the country temporarily and are not immigrants.

Industry analysts say the issue needs to be addressed urgently, although they also warn that the 47,550 visas that are expected to be issued in the first year of the new scheme, and the total of 345,000 over the initial five years, will still fall well short of what domestic industries require.

Japan’s open to foreign workers. Just don’t call them immigrants

“Government statistics and industry are both telling us that the labour market is completely empty,” said Martin Schulz, senior economist for the Fujitsu Research Institute in Tokyo.

“With the boom in the construction sector ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, companies are becoming desperate,” he said. “They are finding it very hard to fulfil their current project requirements and they are refusing to take on new projects.

“But in truth, Japan has no choice but to open up to foreign workers,” Schulz said. “Even with more automation and robots, there are simply not enough people.”

Yet there has been significant resistance among those who fear their jobs will be taken by foreigners who will work longer hours for lower wages, those who say outsiders will cause problems because they will be unable to assimilate into Japanese society or struggle with the language barrier.

The concerns about foreigners settling in Japan cut both ways, however.

Very often, according to French expat Eric Fior, it’s the relatively minor but persistent incidents of discrimination in Japan that get under his skin. Such as the time it snowed heavily one winter and the janitor of the building in Yokohama where he had his office shovelled the snow away from every door in the building. Except his.

Or the time he confirmed with the management of the property that he could have some flower boxes outside his office door, just like the other tenants, and he was given permission to do so. Three days after he positioned the flower boxes, the nearby tap he used to water them was disconnected.

He asked the janitor where it had gone and got a shrug in reply. As the man turned away, Fior could see the tap in his pocket.

“What can you do?” said Fior, 47. “Japan is such a polite country on the surface and everyone smiles and bows, but there are a lot of times when you get the sense that not far below the surface is the wish that us foreigners were just not here.

“But there really is little point in confronting them as nothing will get done and we just end up with the reputation of ‘foreigners who cause problems’,” he shrugged.

Reports of discrimination against the foreign community in Japan are countless and varied – from landlords who refuse to rent to non-Japanese for no apparent reason other than their nationality, commuters who refuse to sit next to a foreigner on a packed train or signs at the entrances to bars or restaurants baldly stating “No foreigners” – but a new study indicates the scale of the problem.

Conducted by the Anti-Racism Information Centre, a group set up by activists and scholars, 167 of the 340 foreign nationals who took part in the study said they had experienced discriminatory treatment at the hands of Japanese.

Replying to the study, a foreign part-time shop employee recalled a Japanese customer who did not like seeing foreigners working as cashiers, refused to be served by them and demanded Japanese staff. Another response to the study noted the case of a Chinese employee of a 24-hour store who was reprimanded after speaking with a Chinese customer in Chinese and ordered to only speak in Japanese.

Others reported being refused rental accommodation or denied access to shops.

Activists point out, however, that the Japanese government’s new regulations that relax visa requirements for workers from abroad mean that there will soon be tens of thousands of additional foreigners living in Japanese communities.

“It’s a net positive that Japan is bringing over more people, since that may help normalise the fact that non-Japanese are contributing to Japanese society,” said Debito Arudou, author of Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination.

“But it is disappointing that Japan still is not doing the groundwork necessary to make these newcomers want to stay and contribute permanently,” he said. “The new visa regime still treats these non-Japanese entrants as ‘revolving-door’ workers, with no clear path to permanent residency or citizenship.

“And – as the surveys seem to indicate – one fundamental flaw in these plans is that non-Japanese are insufficiently protected from the bigotry found in all societies,” Arudou said.

“Japan still has no national law against racial discrimination, remaining the only major industrialised society without one. Even government mechanisms ostensibly charged with redressing discrimination have no enforcement power.”

Tokyo needs to pass the laws that make racial discrimination illegal, empower oversight organisations and create an actual immigration policy instead of a “stop-gap labour shortage visa regime”, he said.

“At the very least, tell the public that non-Japanese workers are workers like everyone else, filling a valuable role, contributing to Japanese society and are residents, taxpayers, neighbours and potential future Japanese citizens,” he added.

Discrimination is arguably felt more by people from other Asian nations than Westerners, while even Japanese women are often described as second-class citizens purely as a result of their gender.

“I first came to Japan in the 1970s to attend university and, being from a third-world country, the Philippines, I encountered a few obstacles when I was looking for apartments,” said Joy Saison, who today has her own business and is a consultant to a French start-up company.

“Despite fulfilling the requirements for a Japanese guarantor and having bank statements, there were many occasions when I was refused,” she said. “Back then, going to an ‘onsen’ or restaurant with ‘gaijin’ friends was a pain, too. If none of us looked Japanese enough, we were refused entry right at the door.”

But Saison has a theory about racism in Japan.

“Japan has always been a homogenous society and so the default mindset here is that anything alien to them gets scrutinised and is not trusted,” she said. “But having a win-win attitude will get you on their good side.”
ENDS

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Yomiuri: GOJ now requiring hospitals (unlawfully) demand Gaijin Cards from NJ as a precondition for medical treatment

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Related to recent discussions about public refusals of service for either not complying with (unlawful) demands for NJ ID, or denial of service anyway when people in charge arbitrarily decide a visa’s length is not long enough, mentioned below is a move by the GOJ to require hospitals demand Gaijin Cards etc. (as opposed to just requiring medical insurance cards (hokenshou), like they would from any Japanese patient) as a precondition for providing treatment to sick NJ.

Granted, the Yomiuri article below notes that for Japanese patients, the government is “considering” requiring a Japanese Driver License etc. as well, because the hokenshou is not a photo ID.  But once again, NJ are clearly less “trustworthy” than the average Japanese patient, so NJ will have more (again, unlawful) rigmarole first.

But there’s a deeper pattern in this policy creep.  Recall the “Gaijin as Guinea Pig” syndrome we’ve discussed on Debito.org for well over a decade now:  Public policies to further infringe upon civil liberties are first tested out on the Gaijin — because foreign residents even Constitutionally have much fewer civil liberties — and then those policies are foisted on the general public once the precedent is set.   So once again, the GOJ is taking advantage of the weakened position of NJ to assume more government control over society.

NB:  There’s also a meaner attitude at work:  Note in the last paragraph of the article below the echoes of 1980‘s “foreigners have AIDS” paranoia creeping into LDP policy justifications once again.  I say “mean” because the point would have been made by just stopping at “the person fraudulently used somebody else’s insurance”.  And I’m sure presenting a Gaijin Card would have fixed the AIDS issue!  (Not to mention that the GOJ apparently WANTS people to get AIDS screening, especially if they’re visibly foreign!)  Such ill-considered policymaking signals!

Meanwhile, don’t expect equal treatment as a patient if you get sick while foreign.  It’s official policy.  Debito Arudou Ph.D.

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病院で「なりすまし防止」外国人に身分証要求へ
2018/11/18(日)  読売新聞, Courtesy of SendaiBen and MJ
https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20181118-00050002-yom-pol

(写真:読売新聞)

政府は外国人が日本の医療機関で受診する際、在留カードなど顔写真付き身分証の提示を求める方針を固めた。来年4月開始を目指す外国人労働者の受け入れ拡大で、健康保険証を悪用した「なりすまし受診」が懸念されるためだ。外国人差別につながらないよう、日本人にも運転免許証などの提示を求める方向だ。

来年度にも運用を始める。厚生労働省が在留外国人への周知徹底を図るとともに、身分証の提示要請を各医療機関に促す。

国民皆保険制度を採用する日本では、在留外国人も何らかの公的医療保険に原則として加入することが求められる。保険証を提示すれば、日本人か外国人かを問わず、原則3割の自己負担で受診できる。ただ、保険証には顔写真がついていない。「別人かもしれないと思っても『本人だ』と主張されると、病院側は反論が難しい」(厚労省幹部)という。

自民党の「在留外国人に係る医療ワーキンググループ」が医療関係者や自治体から行ったヒアリングでは、なりすまし受診の実例が報告された。神戸市では不法滞在のベトナム人女性が2014年、日本在住の妹の保険証を悪用してエイズウイルス(HIV)の治療を受けていた。他人の保険証で医療費の自己負担軽減を受けることは、違法行為に当たる可能性がある。

ends

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Mark: New Discriminatory Policy by Rakuten Mobile Inc., now “stricter with foreigners”, refusing even Todai MEXT Scholarship Students cellphones

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s another example of how unequal treatment in customer service, when predicated upon things such as visa status (which is in fact none of the company’s business), leaves NJ open to discrimination.  According to Submitter “Mark”, this is affecting people on Student Visas, where denial of service is apparently new and arbitrary.  He describes his experience at Rakuten Mobile below.  It’s tough enough for NJ to do the basics for life in Japan, such as open a bank account or rent an apartment.  Now NJ students can’t even get a cellphone from Rakuten.

Alas, this is in fact nothing new (I’ve written about, for example, cellphone operator’s NTT DoCoMo’s unequal policies before, which were so silly that they eventually abandoned them after the information came out in one of my Japan Times columns).  But it still should be known about, so people can take their business elsewhere, if possible.  Anyone know of an alternative cellphone company with less discriminatory policies?  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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From: “Mark”
Subject: New Discriminatory Policy by Rakuten.
Date: April 26, 2019
To: Debito Arudou (debito@debito.org)

Dear Debito,

I would like to make public a New Discriminatory Policy being implemented systematically in Rakuten Mobile.

It seems that the company recently decided to deny the service to foreign customers.

I have living in Japan for 2 years. When I arrived, I applied online for their service and they accepted my application immediately. This week, I tried to make a contract online for 2 friends that just came to Japan. Their online application was rejected 3 times without providing the reason. I checked everything in their application and was correct. They uploaded their scanned residence card and the quality of the image was perfect. Also the contents of the application were correct.

Hence, we went to a Rakuten Mobile Store in Ikebukuro on the afternoon of April 23. They asked for their residence cards: after seeing the residence card they denied the service arguing that the company just established new rules and are now stricter with foreigners.

The 2 persons that were denied the service have a valid visa until April 2021 (2 years). They are graduate students at the University of Tokyo as me. They didn’t ask anything about the applicants. They just turned down the request based on being foreigners.

I asked the reason and the lady was ashamed and said that recently the Company has began to be stricter with foreigners. I replied back saying that 2 years ago my application was accepted under the same conditions and the lady was ashamed. It seems to be a new a discriminatory policy set by a well-known company.

I would like to explain things chronologically:

– April 19: Two international students enrolled at The University of Tokyo apply online for a SIM Card Plan only (they have cellphone already). I carefully checked their application since my level of Japanese is better. They got rejected. “Reason: Other” (理由:その他). In total, 3 attempts were done.

– April 23 (5.00pm): We went to Rakuten Mobile Ikebukuro Store (Telf. 03-5957-3051). A lady asked for their Residence Cards and consulted privately with other staff. She said: “Sorry. We cannot accept your application. Recently the Company began to be stricter with foreigners”.

I replied back: “Two years ago my application was accepted under exactly the same conditions as them. Why are they being rejected ?”

The Employee was really ashamed. She said “The Staying Time [在留期間] is not enough and the Company has become stricter with foreigners”.

My friends are MEXT Scholarship Students at The University of Tokyo with a mid-term visa valid From April 2, 2019 until April 2, 2021. Under the same conditions, I was accepted in Rakuten Mobile in 2017.

– April 25 (5.30pm): We visited Rakuten Mobile in BicCamera Akihabara. Again rejected. The only employee of Rakuten at that Branch said: It is NOT possible with this Visa.

We decided to try again and took a train to BicCamera in Kashiwa, Chiba-Ken. There, another MEXT Scholarship Student from The University of Tokyo got his SIM Card that same day few hours earlier. Another rejection! Surprised, I asked the reason(s). They said that my friend who went earlier had a “a few days more of validity” in his residence card and the system of Rakuten was issuing a rejection. My friend’s visa is valid from April 3 2019 until July 3, 2021 (3 months more than my friend rejected).

According to JASSO, there are 300,000 foreign students in Japan and 90,000 of them are enrolled at language schools. By law, their maximum period of stay is up to 2 years for life and they are usually granted visas of 1 year renewable. Other categories of students are also never granted more than 2 years. It seems that more than 50% of foreign students in Japan have Visa of 2 years of less. In essence, Rakuten Mobile seems to have established a new rule to deny service to most foreigners that hold a student visa.

That information can be verified at any Rakuten Branch in Japan but it is not disclosed online anywhere!  I didn’t ask for the written rules. It seems that it could be verified at any branch since is a nationwide ban on most foreign students. Interestingly, from October 2019 Rakuten will be a full Mobile Network Operator (MNO) at the same category as AU, Softbank and Docomo. My friends were not asking for installments to buy a new cellphone. They just wished to have a 3 Gb plan that according to Rakuten Mobile can be cancelled after 12 months without any fee . Anyways, Rakuten Mobile seems to be consistent in their rejection of foreigners.

I notified the Embassy of Japan in Venezuela (my native country) and they wished to investigate too. I hope the information could be useful to improve the situation. I regret that I didn’t ask the names of the employees and my friends seem to feel discriminated and disappointed as to go back to the stores! Their first experience in Japan in just few days after arriving! That reminds me of the United Nations Report written by Doudou Diène in 2006:

“The Special Rapporteur concluded that there is racial discrimination and xenophobia in Japan… The manifestations of such discrimination are first of all of a social and economic nature. All surveys show that minorities live in a situation of marginalization in their access to education, employment, health, housing, etc. Secondly, the discrimination is of a political nature: the national minorities are invisible in State institutions.”

Thanks for your attention and hard work! I always recommend your latest book and articles!

Sincerely, “Mark”

===========================
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