Posted by debito on April 24th, 2009
Hi Blog. Here’s a brief from The Economist, also questioning the wisdom of the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe, as similar influential media in yesterday’s blog entry did. Courtesy of Norik. Feel free to comment there as here. (Not sure if I’ll have access to my blog during the weekend, so please be patient with comments, sorry.) Arudou Debito in Sapporo
April 23, 2009
And don’t come back
Posted by: Economist.com | NEW YORK
PROTECTIONISM is rearing its ugly head again, in unusual ways. Japan is offering money to unemployed low-skill immigrants if they leave the country and do not return. Well, they can come back as tourists, but they give up the right to live and work in Japan again (unless they transform into high-skill professionals).
Low-skilled workers are an odd target for Japan. The country has so few immigrants to begin with; they make up less than 2% of the population. (Most immigrant labourers are ethnic Japanese coming from Latin America.) Given the demographic pressures facing Japan, the government should be begging immigrants to come. Perhaps they have plans to counteract this policy with a programme to encourage Japanese women to have more babies.
Japan’s policy results from a perception that the stock of jobs is fixed, so if you remove the foreign population more jobs go to natives. But low-skill immigrants often do jobs natives will not. Some argue that without immigrants these undesirable jobs would pay more and then natives would take them. But that simply encourages employers to outsource these jobs to another country (which means the wages are spent elsewhere). When it comes to jobs that can physically not be sent abroad, it raises the costs of production which can mean fewer high-skill, well-paid jobs.
Low-skill foreigners also provide cheap services to natives, such as childcare and care for the elderly (something Japan needs). This frees up family members to pursue other work that pays more than what a low-skill immigrant demands, but less than the market wage if only natives did the job.
The Czech Republic and Spain have also bribed foreigners to leave, but at least they will let them come back. Japan is pursuing this policy because its concerned about rising unemployment, but presumably it will need immigrants when the economy improves. Jiro Kawasaki, a former health minister and senior lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party explains:
“Naturally, we don’t want those same people back in Japan after a couple of months,” Mr. Kawasaki said. “Japanese taxpayers would ask, ‘What kind of ridiculous policy is this?’”
It’s a good question.