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

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    The Japan Times, Tuesday, March 6, 2012
    JUST BE CAUSE
    Japan’s revolving-door immigration policy hard-wired to fail
    By DEBITO ARUDOU
    Column 49 with links to sources
    Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120306ad.html

    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.

    These NJ were all qualified nurses in their own countries, so their only real obstacle was the Japanese language. Yet this visa program required that they pass the same nursing exam that native speakers sit. Within a time limit of three years. Otherwise they lose their visas and get sent home.

    This, coupled with a full-time job (of humiliating unskilled labor, including bathing patients and setting tables) and insufficient institutional support for learning kanji, ensured they would fail. And they did: The Yomiuri (Jan. 5) reported that 95 percent of the Indonesians tested over the past three years did not pass — and more than half (even one of those who did pass) have gone home. Future applications have since dried up.

    This begs the question: If learning written Japanese was so important, why didn’t the government hire nurses from kanji-literate China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan? Because, I guess, that would be too easy, and we’d get hordes of skilled Chinese. Undeterred by policy failure, the country being asked next for nurses is — drum roll, please — Vietnam.

    Now consider another regime: 1990s nikkei South Americans’ special “repatriation” visas.

    The nikkei were invited to come to this country based on the assumption that somehow their Japanese blood would make them more assimilable (see Just Be Cause, April 7, 2009). Wrong. So, after nearly two decades of working full-time keeping Japan’s export industries price-competitive, the nikkei were told after 2008’s economic downturn that they were no longer employable. Because of — you guessed it — their lack of Japanese ability.

    The government offered only 1 percent of the nikkei any retraining, and the rest for a limited time only a free plane ride home (forfeiting their unemployment insurance and pension claims, natch).

    Out they went. Over the past three years, the Brazilian population alone has dropped more than 8 percent per annum, and it’s accelerating. They will probably dip below the fourth-place minority (Filipinos) next year.

    Now triangulate this with concurrent “trainee” and “researcher” visa regimes, bringing in even cheaper (sometimes slave-labor) NJ from all the other less-developed countries. Applicants were once again lured with false promises of “training” or “research,” only to be given unskilled labor like cleaning pig sties or pounding sheet metal. And, once again, their visas only lasted one to three years. Back home they mostly went.

    I think we can safely say that Japan’s working-visa regimes (including, if you think about it, even the JET Programme) are deliberately designed to discourage most NJ from ever settling here. Given this context, let’s now consider this new “points system.”

    While I am in favor of having an objective and reviewable program (for a change) for granting visas, it is still no substitute for a real immigration policy. All of Japan’s visas are temporary migration policies; this new one just aims for a rich elite with a housekeeping entourage.

    Not to worry: It will fail to bring in any significant numbers of foreigners. By design. For in this era of unprecedented levels of international migration, think about the incentives available to all governments to use exclusivity as a weapon.

    Here’s what I mean: One of the prerogatives of a sovereign nation-state is the ability to make laws about who is a “member” of its society (i.e., a citizen) and who isn’t (i.e., a foreigner).

    Axiomatic is that citizens have full rights and foreigners have fewer, meaning that the latter is in a weakened position in society.

    This is how countries exploit people: Give them visas that don’t let them get too settled, because foreigners who stay indefinitely might put down roots, agitate for more rights as contributors to society, even — shudder — take out citizenship and expect to be treated like citizens.

    So Japan’s visa regimes use criteria that practically guarantee foreigners stay disenfranchised — such as low language ability. After all, an unassimilated foreign populace without the means to communicate their needs remains the perpetual “other.” Then you can siphon off their best working years, send them home with a simple visa nonrenewal, and never have to pay back their social contributions and investments.

    But if a nation-state can set boundaries on membership, it must also set criteria for how people can surmount those boundaries and graduate into becoming members — in this case, making foreigners into Japanese citizens.

    If it doesn’t, it becomes clear that the goal is to deliberately create a weakened subset of the labor force that can be politically disenfranchised and permanently exploited. This can go on for generations, as the zainichi Koreans and Chinese might attest.

    However, for Japan these visa scams are no longer sustainable. Demographically, Japan needs more laborers to pay its taxes, work its factories and service sectors, and support its aging society. It needs measures to make Japan open enough to get people to stay — like, for instance, a law against racial discrimination, protecting residents regardless of nationality from prejudice and inequality. But no.

    Still, it really doesn’t matter now, because the jig is up. With decades of economic stagnation and now falling incomes, people are staying away from Japan. After an unbroken rise for 48 years, the registered NJ population in 2011 dropped for the third consecutive year.

    International labor is bypassing Japan for other rich countries — those with more accommodating labor practices, more open import/export markets, a more internationally useful language to learn, and a less irradiated food chain.

    Japan has the option to believe that immigrants do not belong in Japan’s future. On the other hand, potential immigrants have the option to watch from afar as Japan withers into an economic backwater. Again, by design.

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

    Discussions on this issue can be found at debito.org/?p=9848 and debito.org/?p=9809. Debito Arudou’s latest book is “In Appropriate” (www.debito.org/inappropriate.html) Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp
    ENDS

    UPDATE MARCH 13, 2012:  More proof of the agenda and character of GOJ policy, in case you needed it, follows.  Courtesy of Ben

    ===============================
    The Japan Times ,Tuesday, March 13, 2012
    Panel advises keeping nursing test in Japanese
    Kyodo

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120313f3.html

    A health ministry panel is urging the government to keep holding the national nursing test for foreign examinees in Japanese, despite strong calls to let them take it in their mother tongues.

    At a meeting last week, the panel also opposed the idea of introducing a foreign-language nursing exam in combination with a Japanese-language aptitude test for foreign applicants seeking nursing licenses.

    Amid a nationwide nurse shortage, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will use the report to pick a specific plan for the nurse test to be held this month.

    The pass rate for foreign nurse candidates is pathetic at just 4 percent. This includes those undergoing preparatory training in Japan under bilateral economic partnership agreements.

    The panel concluded that the present system should be retained as nurses must be able to accurately understand doctors when updating medical records and reading them.

    The decision is likely to discourage foreign nurse candidates and the Japanese medical facilities training them. ENDS
    ===============================

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

    1. Bucky Says:

      >Crowds of NJ completely fluent in Japanese are exactly what the government does not want.

      Key sentence of the entire essay right there.

    2. FinanceManTokyo Says:

      I’m a young(-ish) finance professional with 12 years of experience in Japan, a very high level of Japanese proficiency, and decent income. With the proposed “new international finance area between Shinagawa and Tamachi Stn” (no comment on what a joke that is), my inflated ego tells me that I’m just the person that the GOJ would want. I’m glad that I already have PR as I fall short of the 70 point mark even with a generous self-scoring.
      The criteria has been outlined, but I think that there is still a lot that will be left open to interpretation by the powers-that-be, meaning if you go in on a bad day, you may get a lower score. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    3. Tom R Says:

      Debito, you should have someone investigate these agencies and come up with hard evidence. Find an immigrant, get a name, background story the full 9 yards. Post it in the newspaper. Get a real story that pulls heart strings. I’m betting the GOJ is ripe for the picking when you compare it to the stories done on corruption in other western countries. It would be like Enron in Japan!

    4. snowman Says:

      Superb, well written article as usual Debito!

      Oh yes, you too can come to Japan to enjoy your wonderful criminal fingerprinting welcome, claim your wonderful 1 year contract job and experience untold hassle renting a place to live. It’s all so laughable.

    5. With h/t to Debito, Japan Ministry’s new point system for permanent residence. | Hoofin to You! Says:

      […] The link to the PDF (Japanese) is here. (H/T Debito.) […]

    6. Charuzu Says:

      An excellent analysis that merits full marks.

      It should be translated into Japanese, would be my suggestion.

    7. Mumei Says:

      I thought it was a rather good article.
      You got bonus points from me for the macron in “kōdo jinzai”.
      I am even got excited to see it make it into the linked article.

      I do have one piece of friendly criticism, though.
      The article seems to equate or at least imply that learning Japanese is the same as learning kanji.
      Quotes:
      [Preceded by paragraphs about fluency in Japanese.]
      “insufficient institutional support for learning kanji”
      “If learning written Japanese was so important, why didn’t the government hire nurses from kanji-literate China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan?”
      Surely there is much more to learning Japanese than kanji.

      > Take the test and see if you qualify

      I do qualify with 75 points in the 技術 category.
      That said, 20 of those points are bonus.
      However, I am nearly already at the ten consecutive years for PR, so it hardly makes any difference.
      And there were a number of non-consecutive years and student time before that, as well, that never counted.

      I’ve been here for about half of my life and plan to spend the rest of it here.
      In that time, I have had a number of experiences where Japanese people just can not fathom that a NJ would ever desire to live here permanently.
      Rather, it is assumed that all foreigners will eventually leave, even those on PR.
      It seems that anything short of naturalization* is not really considered immigration.
      I occasionally wonder if this attitude influences the lack of a real immigration policy.

      * I would LOVE to naturalize. I even have most of the documents assembled and paperwork complete for the last 15 years.
      But Japan will first need to allow multiple citizenship.

      – “Surely there is much more to learning Japanese than kanji.” Obviously. But ultimately that is what is being tested in order to let these otherwise qualified nurses practice their vocation properly in Japan. Read the articles on the issue being referred to. If you have a criticism, it is not with my article, but with how these nurses are facing unreasonable hurdles assigned, by design in my opinion, by the GOJ.

    8. flyjin Says:

      @snowman…and pay that city tax contribution to society without being given many rights in return! I have often thought there isnt too much of a point to becoming a PR, except perhaps being able to get easier credit loads (?) so I turned it down and left instead.

    9. me Says:

      Debito, something you should also talk about at a future date is how a lot of NJ, who have PR because of marriage, do lack language skills because there is a lack of hope. There is no hope for actually achieving anything, outside the good feelings, with the sweat of learning the language. Other than manual labor and/or contract jobs, there is no hope of better.

    10. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Mumei

      ‘Rather, it is assumed that all foreigners will eventually leave, even those on PR.
      It seems that anything short of naturalization* is not really considered immigration.’

      I agree with that idea completely. Whenever my wife’s friends say to her in hushed tones (fearing that one day I will just abscond from our marriage without so much as a thank you, no doubt) ‘but why doesn’t he (your husband) naturalize?’, I can hear the gasps from the kitchen when she explains that there is so much institutionalized racism in Japan that I would never give up my passport and allow myself to be at the mercy of such a system.

      This whole points system is a farce. Seriously, does anyone really think that 2000 highly skilled and well paid professionals are waiting to rush over to Japan? What’s Japan got that’s worth giving up their present locale for? Radiation? A language system that even the government won’t reward you for mastering (on the points), a looming demographic and taxation disaster, institutionalized racism, a Japanese ‘tradition’ of unethical business practice (I’m looking at you Olympus/AIJ!), regulation of business designed to hamper starter companies rather than encourage them?

      If you’re up for that kind of challenge, wouldn’t you just go somewhere with better profits to be made, like China?

      If it’s researchers that are the aim, good luck to them! They guy who invented the blue LED got a 200 USD bonus from his Japanese employer. Nice.

    11. Peter Says:

      @flyjin: isn’t it a grand scheme? We were literally giving our income to the government but we had no say in how it will be used, i.e no voice in gov’t/politics, no ability to vote unless you are a citizen.

      It’s one of my main gripes about the place and a complete turn off for me ever living long term in the country. One could say “become Japanese then you can vote” well, I like my Canadian citizenship too much to give it up, so no.

    12. Charuzu Says:

      Peter:

      “One could say “become Japanese then you can vote” well, I like my Canadian citizenship too much to give it up, so no.”

      It derives from the fundamental question of what is citizenship, I think.

      Is citizenship essentially an exclusive duty of allegiance and mutual obligation?

      That is the view of Japan, and some other countries (the US has something similar though not identical).

      Those countries tend to be more nationalistic, is my experience.

      And, historians do often say that nationalism has defined Japanese history in powerful ways.

      Or, is citizenship a relationship based on mutual duties and rights, but non-exclusive?

      Many EU countries take this view.

      – Relate this back to the topic of this blog entry, please.

    13. flyjin Says:

      Call me a cynic (of course) but if you learn Japanese you are in fact making yourself available for MORE hardship, more work, more responsibility, more available for lower paying jobs.

      It was only when I left Japan was I able to market my Japanese ability as a job skill and be paid more accordingly. In Japan it is just taken for granted and taken advantage of. “Koko wa nihon dakara” no doubt, and yes, in America they would expect you to speak English and not particularly reward you for it, thus 10 points. There is of course not much recognition of how hard to learn Japanese is, which is the reality, and if you do learn you will inevitably be translating or working double time on behalf of colleagues who do not.

    14. Jay Says:

      From the way I understand this, it’s for applying for a work permit and permission to stay in Japan, no? It’s meant to attract people from abroad to the country, not determine who gets permanent residency, so it really has nothing to do with those of us already living here. It would, ostensibly, free up people who are looking to move to Japan to look for work. But people with the kinds of jobs that they’re targeting aren’t usually the type of people that are out for an adventure, but would have sorted out their work before coming and, thereby, not really need this point system at all since it would seem to be much easier to simply be sponsored by their employers like the system works now.

      A bigger issue, I would argue, is that there doesn’t seem to be a target of trying to attract skilled labor in areas where we need workers in agriculture, forestry, and all that economic potential that is left in the emptying out inaka.

      In addition, if anyone were really interested in making this country sustainable, the government would offer homesteads to anyone (new immigrants or not) on potentially productive land that is currently not being used by offering money to the owners and then financing new immigrants or migrants in some sort of leasing scheme. These points look like they’re aimed at populating the cities and we don’t have a problem with that.

    15. beneaththewheel Says:

      @jim di griz

      I’m also gotten questioned as to why I don’t naturalize by Japanese acquaintances, but I take it differently than you, I take it as a compliment. To me it means that they see a fake barrier between us, and they’re wondering why I don’t want to get rid of it. I think there’s nicer ways to tell the average Japanese citizen why you don’t want to naturalize (I usually leave it as I don’t want to give up my Canadian citizenship, which people understand, as chances are they wouldn’t want to give up their Japanese citizenship).

      As for this point system topic, I’m seeing things a little differently. First, it doesn’t replace the current system. People can still come on work, work holiday, spousal visas or what have you. Jim pointed out that he doubts that Japan will reach their target of 2000 people. That’s fine, then Japan reweights the system to get closer to their target. The good part of the point system is it’s easy to change. Perhaps they would make the age requirement less strict.

      As for the Japanese requirement, I don’t think it has anything to do with Westerners, and it mainly to do with Chinese. Perhaps Japanese is difficult for Westerners (debatable), but I have many Chinese acquaintances who passed N2 with no difficulty, and N1 with little difficulty. If the point system allowed for hundreds of thousands of Chinese to come to Japan, it wouldn’t be serving its purpose. Likewise, I’m sure that America’s immigration policy has a focus on how reducing Mexican immigration to the numbers they want. Perhaps it sounds racist, but I think when countries are trying to reduce the number of people from a certain country, it’s inherently racist (and something many countries do). Is it negative racism? That’s a good debate question.

      Ultimately, it just seems like they are experimenting for now. 2000 is quite a low number, and they’re starting low with the system to see how it works, and when they get a feel for it.

    16. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @BTW

      ‘I’m also gotten questioned as to why I don’t naturalize by Japanese acquaintances, but I take it differently than you, I take it as a compliment. To me it means that they see a fake barrier between us, and they’re wondering why I don’t want to get rid of it.’

      Please re-read my comment. It is my J-wife who explains that I (and sometimes her also) are subjected to racism in Japan. Shop staff who won’t assist me, but will assist her, restaurants that are full when I phone to make a reservation, but have a opening 30 seconds later when she calls them, people sitting next to us on the train, or in cafes, and saying bad things about me in Japanese (on the assumption that I cannot understand, but somehow thinking that it doesn’t matter that she can). My J-wife is the one who explains her perception of the racism that we both face, to her J-friends.

      I would suggest that you consider the possibility that your J-friends have not the slightest idea what it is like to live in Japan as an NJ, and have no real understanding of the social freedoms you enjoy in your home country. Therefore, on that basis, they (somewhat passive aggressively, wouldn’t you say?) think that you are ‘keeping a barrier’ between you and them (why don’t you ask them if they would like to give up Japanese nationality, and see what response you get?).

    17. J.J. Says:

      Funny that points system guidelines were obviously engineered by bureaucrats who got the ideas from no documented or researched areas (sooooo GOJ); the fact that learning Japanese is so low-ranked yet salary, youth, and academic credential ranks high is proof of no logical thought put into it whatsoever. Would there be anyone attracted to Japan? Then again, perhaps Japanese language rates low because you have to already understand to read the requirements? Lol

    18. Oh come on Says:

      While yet again the Japanese display the persistent sense of exclusivity (the Japanese ‘race’ notion despite Japanese being a South-east Asian/Han Chinese/Mongolian/Polynesian/Korean mix) which is better suited to its pre WW2 mentality than the year 2011, in fairness its neighbour Korea also has the same kind of delusion.

      An absurd visa has been offered in Korea whereby if you deposit half a million dollars US (about 500 million won) you get the right to live on Jeju Island down south (note its away from Seoul and from other cities with established infrastructure and services). Even then the visa is subject to a number of restrictions that do not apply to Koreans who are free to reside in many countries especially western countries without being subject to so many legal leashes.

      Koreans in the Republic of Korea (NOT North Korea for which there might be some excuse) generally tend to assume it’s their right to live in our countries while being shrill about 1 year contracted native speaking English teachers who are tied down to their employer, have little security with only 1 year visas and are regularly bashed in the print, digital and televised media for not learning Korean fluently and for supposedly being awash in drugs and perversions.

      Now they have adopted the Japanese fingerprinting at the airport as yet another way to demonstrate the short legal leash on foreign residents. No, there has been no terrorism committed by foreigners in the ROK just like there has been none in Japan from foreigners while Japanese terrorists notoriously murdered people in Europe some decades ago.

      See a pattern here? The problem is broader than that of the mentality perpetuated by successive Japanese governments and authorities as well as influential figures and social structures. It is also found in the Republic of Korea (South Korea). It is deeply rooted in East Asia and even in our globalised world it persists.

    19. Charuzu Says:

      Jum di Griz:

      Your comment:

      “Shop staff who won’t assist me, but will assist her, restaurants that are full when I phone to make a reservation, but have a opening 30 seconds later when she calls them, people sitting next to us on the train, or in cafes, and saying bad things about me in Japanese (on the assumption that I cannot understand, but somehow thinking that it doesn’t matter that she can).”

      raises another issue.

      Were you and your wife to be Japanese citizens, what if you had any children?

      While you might elect to join a society that will forever despise you on racial grounds, what of any children?

      Is it fair to children to raise them as citizens in a society that will forever [treat them as different]?

      Given that one of you is not a Japanese citizen, you afford such hypothetical children the option to leave.

    20. Fred Says:

      “Is it fair to children to raise them as citizens in a society that will forever [treat them as different]?”

      I dont think it is. I have been around many “halfus” and they had a complex, developed by years of being treated as “others” I also know many gaijin dads who would put up the the gaijin crap all day at work, only to come home to their half japanese children and get it all over again…lol. Otosan wa gaijin.

    21. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @Charuzu

      You are absolutely right!
      My refusal to give up my own passport does indeed afford my children the option to choose their own nationality when they have grown up a little, and had the chance to get some experience on which to make that decision. This is a responsible attitude as an NJ parent, I think, given (as you rightfully say) that J-society also marginalizes ‘double’ children.
      My kids will have the choice. Why should I want to take that away from them? (of course, my wife’s friends, who can’t understand why I don’t want to naturalize, also wouldn’t be able to understand why my kids might want to leave a country where they are labelled as ‘haafu’ all the time).

    22. Shinrin Says:

      Revolving-door immigration or rotation ?
      I think that the obvious purpose of this point system policy is to have high skilled professionals contributing for a while and leaving the country to be replaced by a new group.

      Maybe it could be also called “high-skilled dekassegi or high-skilled kenkyusei”system.

      Yes, indeed, Japan needs more tax payers, but they do not have to be the same people staying here for good.

      – You’re seriously arguing for the systematic exploitation of a whole people in a society? There’s a job waiting for you in Kasumigaseki. Limited-term contract, BTW.

    23. Ben Says:

      Hi there, long-time reader, first-time poster here with hopefully something useful to add to the discussion.

      Many of you may have already come across this news in today’s Japan Times, but if not, here it is: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120313f3.html

      ===============================
      Tuesday, March 13, 2012
      Panel advises keeping nursing test in Japanese
      Kyodo

      A health ministry panel is urging the government to keep holding the national nursing test for foreign examinees in Japanese, despite strong calls to let them take it in their mother tongues.

      At a meeting last week, the panel also opposed the idea of introducing a foreign-language nursing exam in combination with a Japanese-language aptitude test for foreign applicants seeking nursing licenses.

      Amid a nationwide nurse shortage, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will use the report to pick a specific plan for the nurse test to be held this month.

      The pass rate for foreign nurse candidates is pathetic at just 4 percent. This includes those undergoing preparatory training in Japan under bilateral economic partnership agreements.

      The panel concluded that the present system should be retained as nurses must be able to accurately understand doctors when updating medical records and reading them.

      The decision is likely to discourage foreign nurse candidates and the Japanese medical facilities training them. ENDS
      ===============================

      The gist of it is we have a new development regarding the state of the nursing exams for NJ. Details in the article are not very clear, but it seems that the tests will continue to be in Japanese (re: unchanged), citing the need for accuracy when working with doctors and medical records.

      While I can appreciate that need for the mission-critical aspects of language ability, I think it was already quite clear from Debito’s writeup that this is really just the latest step in the language/enfranchisement scuffle.

      What was clearly missing from today’s article was any discussion on the quality of the exam (apart from mentioning the 4% pass rate), or efforts being made to assist NJ with vocational language (access to kanji denshijishos on their ipads at work, for example). I just didn’t see anything indicative of a proactive approach towards seriously giving NJ the language skills needed to succeed in the workplace.

      Which, as Debito has so often pointed out, may be the entire point.

      What did other think of this article?

      – I appreciate you finding and sharing it with us. Thanks.

    24. beneaththewheel Says:

      Perhaps I’m missing the obvious, but shouldn’t we want nurses to be able to read medicine ingredients etc.? I think it’s unfortunate of the difficulty of Japanese medical jargon, but if the person is operating with medicine in Japanese, then I hope they learn what they are doing in Japanese.

      To me, the solution lies in somehow greater fostering foreigner’s ability to pass the test, and not changing the language of the test.

      If I’m missing something glaringly obvious, please let me know.

    25. Oh Come On Says:

      Hear Hear to Debito’s response to Shinrin. Skilled or unskilled, guest workers are exploited commodities although of course the unskilled from certain countries/racial/ethnic groups are more exploited than the skilled.

      We just have to look at the European example (the Turkish workers in Germany to name one) before Japanese and Japanophiles accuse us of ‘bashing’ Japan, or other Asian countries like Korea that also make use of guest workers who are then marginalised, whose children grow up with problems of access to education, and whose status makes them vulnerable by its very nature.

      The whole notion of ‘guest workers’ is fraught with cynicism. Sure, there are professionals who are not looking to relocate for the rest of their life or for a substantial period. However, being a guest worker implies many things, a number of which are exploitative. The semi-skilled and unskilled workers will bear the brunt of these negatives but the wider issue is that of countries that consider other nationals good enough to come in and do jobs that need to be done which their own people can’t or won’t do and then sent packing when it suits the host country.

      In the 21st century all developed countries can do better.

    26. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @Shinrin

      Fair point. Japan can chose to allow, and even encourage (don’t choke Shinrin!) foreigners to settle, or continue to offer this ‘rotation’ system (as you put it), that is Japan’s choice.
      Japan is choosing the rotation system at present. How’s that working out Shinrin? Not too well, is it! NJ numbers are down for the 3rd successive year. NJ are voting with their feet. If Japan needs all that ‘up-to-date’ expertise and skill sets, then clearly your ‘rotation’ system is failing. Japan must offer something better, or accept it is the author of it’s own decline. I have money with some other academics on Japan choosing to maintain its ‘purity’ and cutting off its economic noses to spite its face.

    27. Charuzu Says:

      Beneaththewheel:

      You say:

      “Perhaps I’m missing the obvious, but shouldn’t we want nurses to be able to read medicine ingredients etc.?”

      This is an issue that of course faces us in the Netherlands and throughout Europe.

      We found that requiring medical personnel to know a common language is important, clearly.

      We also found that requiring such personnel to all learn one of our harder written languages to be absurd.

      English is the international language of science, and thus of medicine.

      The number of medical journals in English si vastly greater than those in Lithuanians, or Dutch, or Italian.

      So, we require that skilled medical personnel be fluent in English as well as their own languages.

      An odd problem that I always find in Japan is that physicians and scientists have as execrable command of English as all others.

      It surely must play some role in being unable to access international journals, or to conduct research.

    28. beneaththewheel Says:

      Chazuru:

      If nurses aren’t proficient in the language of the country, how are they able to do their job? If it’s because everything is written in English, then it can’t be comparable to Japan, because not everything is written in English here. If it is everything SHOULD be written in English in Japan, then it’s a very different argument advocating a complete change to Japanese society, all in order to have more foreign nurses pass an exam. Is there another reason? Perhaps all medical words have a Latin or Greek root and the differences between languages isn’t much?

      If a nurse can’t see that I have a dust (塵?)or mold (黴) allergy which give me bad asthma (喘息), then I don’t want them looking after me when I’m at the hospital. (Excuse the poor example, if foreign nurses don’t know the difficult kanji for the test, then I don’t, just picked these few words as potential examples).

      – You are missing the point entirely. It is not in fact a matter of language ability. It is a matter of setting unreasonable hurdles (as in, 3 years or out, insufficient language support while working them full-time doing unskilled labor, and choosing countries that don’t have kanji so they have even higher hurdles to literacy).

      As I said in my column. If you would kindly reread it and absorb the points, and maybe even follow some of the links therein to see testimonials of how people are being treated, it might dawn on you that this program was designed as such — to keep people like you, who refuse to dig deeper into the design, double-guessing — blaming the victims and passing this issue off as a matter of job proficiency. It’s not. As qualified nurses, they’re already proficient in their job. They’re just not proficient in kanji. By design.

      Most tellingly, after four years of this resulting in what can only be called policy failure, it’s been announced that the program is still not going to be changed. Because it’s supposed to do this — bring ‘em in, suck ‘em dry, and send ‘em home.

    29. flyjin Says:

      Why oh why dont they hire Chinese nurses? I knew one working in Japan actually, though she too returned home to China even though we communicated in fluent Japanese. She was an asset to Japan.

      Just tell me, what is the beef here?Why the emphasis, the obsession, of Japan on hiring Kanji illiterate (thru no fault of their own) Filipinas and Indonesians?

      PS. There are lots of Filipinas and Indonesians in places like Hong Kong working as MAIDS/babyminders/caregivers- basically house slaves in some cases, not allowed to leave the apartments they live in with their employers except on Sundays. They get paid about 30 000 yen a MONTH. I wonder if there is a resemblance to what Japan is aiming for here?

    30. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @Flyjin #29

      If I was especially cynical, I could answer your post by saying that yes, Japan is aiming for the ‘house slaves’ model. It would fit in perfectly with Imperialistic ideology regarding the ‘proper place’ of Japanese re: other Asian ethnic groups. My personal belief that former US Ambassador Grew was right when after 10 years in Japan before the war, his opinion was that the Japanese would be unable to divorce themselves from the ideology even in defeat.

    31. phu Says:

      As a fairly kanji-ignorant English-speaker, I’m wondering: Does anyone has an English translation of The Gaijin Scoresheet?

    32. James Annan Says:

      I’ve just (accidentally) come across the official points system, in English, and remembered this post.

      http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/topics/120502_en.html
      http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/topics/pdf/120502/02_e.pdf

      Given that it’s aiming at “highly qualified”, it really doesn’t seem all that challenging, at least in the research category I understand best.

      A PhD (30pts) with 5 years experience (10 pts) aged about 30-34 (10) with a 6m salary offer (20) and a mere 3 published papers (15) seems to get 85 points, well over the threshold, with possible extras relating to language, and the host institute’s “innovation” (don’t laugh, almost everything in Japan is given this tag these days). This seems like a pretty typical researcher profile to me, nothing outstanding.

      Whether or not such people want to come to Japan is of course another matter entirely. But a 5 year visa, with permission for their spouse to work, followed by easy PR, would surely help.

    33. Baudrillard Says:

      Why is age (relative youth) given 10 points? I suppose thats Donald Keene out then!

      Oh yeah,the youth factor. Japan needs and loves genki gaijin. The NJ is just out of his 20s so responsible enough, but still not senior enough to challenge (in Confucian age hierarchy) the ojisans who will be bossing him around.

      This was the exact age in the person specification (30-35) for the first management job I was given in Japan, after years of Engrish teaching. My immediate boss was 65.

      Also at even the wizened age of 34, I suppose thats plenty of years to pay tax into Japan’s ailing system.

      And its also a good age to get married to a Japanese? But here I jest. At least, I hope I do.

    34. Charuzu Says:

      Beneaththewheel #28

      You ask regarding Europe:

      “If nurses aren’t proficient in the language of the country, how are they able to do their job?”

      I would say that nurses are importantly medical professionals, rather than providers of palliative niceties.

      As such, hospitals with many foreign nurses who all speak English but perhaps no Frisian or poor quality Dutch also have personnel with translation abilities.

      But a nurse needs to be skilled in nursing science.

      There are health care assistants who work for nurses and are unlicenced individuals who speak the language of the patients and can and do assist skilled nurses in the provision of nursing care.

      I think such a system could rather easily work in Japan as well.

      The reference to mold or dust kanji is obviated because as in the Netherlands, J doctors should be able to access medical science journals and thus should be able to read and write English which is the language of medicine,

      While it is true I believe that many J doctors are not able to meaningfully read and write English, I describe that as a defect to be corrected because a J physician should be able to read and write the language of medical science.

      Thus, the doctor should be able to communicate with the nurses in the international language of medicine regarding professional matters.

      The bulk of all medical journals (including nursing journals) globally are in English, and physicians and nurses should be able to access those scientific journals.

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