Hi Blog. One social statistic that is very politically-charged in Japan (along with the unemployment rate, which is according to some kept low due to methodological differences in measurement) is Japan’s birth rate. I have already argued that Japan’s demographic science is already riddled with politics (in order to make the option of immigration a taboo topic). But here is another academic arguing that how the birth rate is measured differs from time to time, sometimes resulting in not counting NJ women giving birth in Japan! In other words, Japan’s demographic science is methodologically leaning towards only counting births of Japanese citizens, not of births of people in Japan — and a prominent scientist named Yoshida at Tohoku University is actually advocating that NJ births be excluded from Japan’s birth rate tally, for the purposes of formulating “appropriate public policy”! Application of the Nationality Clause to demographics to systematically exclude them from public policy considerations? The author of this piece from H-Japan calls it “apartheid”. So would I. Have a read. Arudou Debito
Apartheid or Academic Accuracy: Japan’s Birth Rate
Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2012
Venue: H-Japan Website, courtesy of LB
Dear List Members,
On 12th July 2012, Professor Yoshida Hiroshi of the Graduate School of Economics, Tohoku University, made a press release of research conducted under his direction. So far as I can ascertain, this press release was ignored by almost all mainstream media, but NHK reported the content of his team’s findings on its TV news programmes in detail, and featured a detailed interview with him on its evening radio news show.
The starting point for Professor Yoshida’s research is the discrepancy between the official birth rate announced by the Japanese government. The birth rate for years when a census conducted is higher than that for years when there is no census. The reason for this is that in census years, the birth rate is calculated on the basis of women of Japanese nationality resident in Japan, whereas in non-census years the birth rate is calculated using the total number of women in the relevant age cohort; i.e. including women of foreign nationality resident in Japan. Professor Yoshida recalculated the birth rate for 2011, a non-census year, excluding women of foreign nationality from his figures and compared it to the birth rate for 2010, a census year, for various levels of local governmental bodies across Japan. His press release demonstrates that when comparing 2011 and 2010, the official figures for the birth rate show either no change (10 prefectures ) or a decline across the prefectures of Japan, whereas when the 2 years are compared using his equivalent data, the birth rate shows a decline in only 8 prefectures (of which 5 are most likely affected by the events of March 2011), and actually shows an increase (albeit small) in 30 prefectures.
Professor Yoshida’s research is very important in any discussion of the birth rate and population issues in Japan. It is extremely important in formulating pubic policy on matters concerning population, and the related issue of women’s issues, especially at the level of local government, as regional discrepancies between the local birth rate and the national average are large. In his long radio interview with NHK, Professor Yoshida emphasised the importance of collecting statistically valid and meaningful data in order to formulate and evaluate the effectiveness of public policy, particularly in an issue so delicate as the birth rate.
So far so good. However, in the pursuit of statistical consistency, Professor Yoshida has committed a form of apartheid, and NHK by uncritically reporting the methodology and ‘significance’ of Professor Yoshida’s research, has amplified his methodological error across Japan, and given it quasi-official sanction by reporting it on the ‘national’ news network.
Professor Yoshida’s work contains two problems. If he wishes to point out the methodological inconsistency in the way the current Japanese birth rate is calculated, he has an important and very valid point. All scholars who use the official figures for the Japanese birth rate should be aware of his research. However, if he is going to claim (as he does in his press release and on public television and radio) that his figure are the objectively ‘correct’ figures for the Japanese birth rate, than his calculations are just as methodogically flawed as the governmental figures that he criticises. His calculations assume that all children of Japanese nationality born in Japan are born by women of Japanese nationality. The rate of marriages of Japanese men to women of foreign nationality has accounted for 3.2 to 4.6% of all marriages in Japan over the past 10 years or so. The overwhelming majority of children born from these marriages will be registered as ‘Japanese nationals.’ The gist of Professor Yoshida’s criticism of the official figures for the birth rate in non-census years is that they are lower than the reality. However, the figures that he claims are the objectively correct figures, by the same token, will always produce a figure for the birth rate that is higher than the reality, because it denies that there are children born to mothers of foreign nationality throughout Japan. If Professor Yoshida merely wished to demonstrate the inconsistency of the official figures for the Japanese birth rate then his research would be valid. However, to claim that his figures are objectively correct is not as invalid as the data that he criticises and for exactly the same reason that he criticises the government figures, the gross insult that he has committed by denying the existence of 10’s of thousands of women of foreign nationality married to Japanese men and bearing Japanese children is unforgivable.
To add insult to injury, Professor Yoshida in his radio interview claimed that statistics for foreigners resident in Japan should be excluded from all public calculations of population within Japan, in order to formulate appropriate public policy. The example he used to make his point was Gifu Prefecture, which has a relatively large concentration of foreign workers. After the depression following the Lehman Brothers’ Shock of 2008, the majority of foreign workers remaining in Japan are people who have lived here for 20 years or more, and are not likely to conveniently return to their home country. By claiming that foreigners/foreign workers should be excluded from all statistics for population in Japan and any formulation of policy based on these statistic, Professor Yoshida is doing nothing other than advocating a form of apartheid.
I have submitted a letter directly to Professor Yoshida pointing out the methodological shortcomings and social implications of his research and public statements. I have also submitted an email to NHK outlining the problems involved in their reporting, and have not received an answer from either.
Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University,
Tohoku Uni press release of Professor Yoshida’s research
Professor Yoshida’s web site
Official governmental figures on marriages by nationality within Japan