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  • Sunday Tangent: Economist (London) passim on “Global Creativity Index”, which ranks Japan over USA in terms of creativity

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on January 24th, 2010

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    Hi Blog. In their bumper Xmas Issue last year, The Economist had a number of (as usual) interesting articles. Here’s another, about what makes America attractive as a destination for immigration.

    The part that I’ll excerpt from concerns how countries attract talent and creativity, citing an odd survey called the “Global Creativity Index” created by a Richard Florida.  The Economist notes, “The index combines measures of talent, technology and tolerance. America comes fourth, behind Sweden, Japan and Finland,”, then picks apart the methodology that would put Japan as more tolerant to people from elsewhere than the US (and Finland, which also has a very low percentage of foreigners).  Given the revolving-door labor market (here and here) and the trouble NJ in Japanese universities have getting favorable study conditions and domestic employment afterwards (here and here), one wonders if this celebrity researcher has ever lived or worked overseas much. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


    Going to America

    A Ponzi scheme that works

    From The Economist print edition

    The greatest strength of America is that people want to live there
    (pertinent excerpt)

    Mr Florida and Irene Tinagli of Carnegie Mellon University compiled a “Global Creativity Index”, which tries to capture countries’ ability to harness talent for “innovation…and long-run prosperity”. The index combines measures of talent, technology and tolerance. America comes fourth, behind Sweden, Japan and Finland. You could quarrel with the methodology. America comes top on certain measures, such as patents per head and college degrees, but it is deemed less tolerant than other countries in the top ten. This is because the index rewards “modern, secular” values and penalises Americans for being religious and nationalistic.

    This is a mistake. Some religious countries are indeed intolerant, but America is not one of them, as Ms Hirsi Ali attests. And for many talented people, such as Mr Lee, America’s vibrant and varied religious scene makes the country more attractive, not less.

    Michael Fix of the Migration Policy Institute, a think-tank, observes that religion has a strong effect on who comes to America. For example, although Muslims slightly outnumber Christians in Nigeria, Nigerian immigrants to America are 92% Christian and only 5% Muslim. Christians are about a quarter of the South Korean population, but four-fifths of Korean immigrants in America are Christian. Migrants from the Middle East and North Africa are mostly Muslim, but a hefty 28% are Christian and 10% are Jewish.

    Christians and Jews are drawn to America in part because they know it is an easy place to be Christian or Jewish. They don’t face persecution, as they might in the Middle East. Nor do they face derision, as they might in more aggressively secular parts of Europe. Also, churches create networks. Migrants typically go where they already know people, and often make contact through a church.

    It is also a mistake to rate Americans as less tolerant because they are nationalistic. Americans may have an annoyingly high opinion of their country, but theirs is an inclusive nationalism. Most believe that anyone can become American. Almost nobody in Japan thinks that anyone can become Japanese, yet Japan is rated more “tolerant” than America. This is absurd.

    Rest of the Economist article at


    13 Responses to “Sunday Tangent: Economist (London) passim on “Global Creativity Index”, which ranks Japan over USA in terms of creativity”

    1. TJ Says:

      I read the whole article from The Economist, and it seemed to have some valid points.

      However, some parts of the article seemed to have an overly American point of view. This lead to IMHO flawed or at least highly biased conclusions, that I didn’t quite agree with.

      For example, the claim that the religious nature of the U.S. doesn’t affect tolerance is downright ludicrous. A good number of religious fanatics in America seem to adamantly protest against e.g. stem cell research and several other “heathen practices”. The same people also advocate intelligent design to be tough in schools as opposed to the theory of evolution.

      This isn’t to say that contrasting views on religion are discriminated per se, but people with differing views can be excluded from politics etc. The level of intolerance exhibited becomes clear if one considers how difficult it would be for a sworn atheist to be elected as the president of the US. If such an event should ever occur, the new president would surely need to think of a new phrase to replace the traditional “God bless America” -slogan, that always seems to find its way to presidential speeches that address the nation.

      Now, if we compare the U.S. to Japan (or Sweden and Finland) there is no doubt that Japan is MUCH more tolerant in these issues. I highly doubt that religious views of a candidate would be an obstacle in becoming the prime minister of Japan/Sweden/Finland.

      I also think that the “tolerance” indicated in the global creativity index, expresses more likely tolerance towards forming and expressing new ideas and innovations, rather than just tolerance towards immigration.
      For example, it’s much simpler for a subordinate to disagree with the bosses idea in Sweden or Finland, than it is in the U.S. This sort of tolerance makes it easier for people who are situated lower in the company/university food chain to have their opinions heard, and ultimately leads to a higher level of creativity. The current management ideology in the US seems to have a strong “my way or the highway” -fixation, that doesn’t really help cultivate creativity.
      I suppose Japan might be worse of than the US, when one considers the strong presence of hierarchy in the Japanese culture.

      Somewhere along the way a coherent reply turned into this arbitrary rant, but hopefully at least some of you were able to decipher it.

      PS. Even though Finland has a fairly small number of foreign residents, it shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign of anti-immigration policy. After all, foreign students are entitled to free tuition in Finnish universities etc. It’s far more likely that factors such as language, climate, and geographical location play a big role, and make Finland less attractive to foreigners.

    2. John (Yokohama) Says:

      Here’s a tangent for Sunday:

      Itabashi Ward to give dogs resident cards
      Sunday 24th January, 07:00 AM JST

      TOKYO —
      Itabashi Ward in Tokyo will start issuing residential cards for dogs on Monday in a bid to encourage more pet owners to officially register the animals, according to ward officials. For registered dogs only, the cards will be issued free of charge at public health centers in the ward. The postcard-size residential card will bear the dog’s name, picture, address, birth date and other information such as inoculation records, the officials said.

      “Issuing residential cards for dogs is rare in Japan,” said an official, adding that the move is aimed at encouraging dog owners to register their dogs and have them inoculation for rabies.

      — It’s more a weekday article, thanks for it. I actually had it loaded in the can to go in a few days.

    3. adamw Says:

      japanese version

      completely sick

    4. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Do the dogs have to be born in Japan to be registered on the jūminhyō?

      It might get people to thinking if residents with foreign-born dogs brought them to the alien registration counter and attempted to register them that way.

    5. MMT Says:

      Mark in Yayoi,

      In fact, if someone knows of someone who has a dog they brought from overseas as lives in Itabashi it would be a wonderful thing to have someone do just that. Go to get their dog a gaikokujin registration only to be taken over to the jūminhyō counter. A casual comment about how wonderfully easy it is if you happen to be a “foreign” dog compared to human foreigners.

    6. AWK Says:

      @Mark in Yayoi

      That`s funny. How about visa for foreign dogs? Anyway from 2012 foreign dogs may get chipped with RFID at the entry along with us.

    7. Gwrhyr Says:

      I’m an American who has lived in Taiwan, the Netherlands, and is now living in Sweden, and obviously whoever put Sweden and Finland so high on that list have never lived in these parts. There is currently a lot of scandal in Sweden because foreign graduates are devalued here. It’s very difficult for foreigners to get jobs in Sweden. In Finland it is just as hard. People outside of Scandinavia try to make these countries look very progressive and tolerant and accepting, but the reality on the ground here is that these are very, very, very conservative countries. Sure, they are not necessarily conservative in the way that that term is used in the US or the UK – for instance the high level of gay rights and attempted gender equality (they have not actually achieved near as much gender equality as is commonly believed by outsiders though) – but still, life in Sweden is very much about the family. The vast majority of the socialist benefits that Swedes enjoy are related to having children. The entire society is geared towards making life safe and comfortable for children and families. This is a very wonderful place to raise a family, but not to spend your teens and 20’s.
      Anyway, immigration to Sweden is still so recent and came so fast that even though Swedes think they are the most tolerant of immigrants in Europe, in reality they are quite racist and have yet to experience demands of emancipation from the immigrant groups about the discrimination that exists here. It is very common and very well known that people with non-Swedish sounding names have a VERY difficult time getting job interviews. A lot of immigrants change their names to typical Swedish names and then suddenly they start getting called in to interviews… but then once they are interviewed and the employer sees that they aren’t actually native Swedish, they still don’t get the jobs. This is because the culture here in Scandinavian countries is very insular and tribalistc. This isn’t an insult, I actually quite like it here or I wouldn’t be living here, but it’s very true. Sweden is a very conformist society where there isn’t a lot of room for people to do things their own way or a different way from the group. This is the primary reason why foreigners are discriminated in the job market – Swedes have a very particular way of working… a foreigner in the office causes a discord in the harmony of the office. For instance, foreigners often work harder and think of the natives as lazy and this makes the natives feel that the foreigner is a show-off (a very bad thing to be in Swedish culture). Foreigners who complain about the Swedish work ethic, though, are failing to understand that that is a part of the Swedish system – the entire reason taxes are so high here is precisely so that everyone can relax and have a slower pace of work than in other countries. The reason Sweden is socialist is to give people more family time, to decrease the dynamic of distant fathers always at work and stressed.
      Anyway, now I’m rambling, but my point is that a lot of times when you see Scandinavian countries at the top of international rankings you should just disregard that survey (which is most surveys). These surveys are conducted by people with no on-the-ground understanding of Scandinavia.

    8. Justin Says:

      But will Japanese kennels start demanding to see foreign dogs’ gaijin cards before letting them in?

    9. Chris Says:

      I have in my close to 20 years found most individuals “tolerant”.
      However, there are so many institutions that are against foreigners to the point of spreading lies.
      For example, the Association of Shinto Shrines 神社本庁 is running a petition campaign to prevent NJ getting local suffrage as it will lead to Okinawa being given to China and Tsushima to Korea (I kid you not. ) And I thought only the Men in Black Trucks pulled silly stunts like that.

    10. jonholmes Says:

      Swedes have a very particular way of working… a foreigner in the office causes a discord in the harmony of the office.

      Hmm, it sounds like in some ways Japan isnt so unique after all, just another insular country.

    11. Steve Says:

      Hi Chris, surprising photo of that Shinto Shrine’s poster.

      About those people campaigning against NJ’s right to vote,
      their position is exactly like a racist white person saying:

      “We can’t give blacks the ability to vote, because if we do,
      and if they increase in numbers enough to gain the majority,
      those blacks might make laws that we white folks don’t want!”

      Hello, racists, anybody home? Here are some answers for you:

      #1 The majority of people in Japan now are Japanese: no threat.

      #2 If someday the majority of people in Japan were NJ: so what?
      Democracy means: laws ARE decided by the MAJORITY of the people.
      If you’re worried about “mob-rule” then start making more babies!

      #3 Yo Takeo Hiranuma, if a “half-breed” becomes Emperor: so what?
      Ningen means: we are ALL descended from the exact same 1st Human.
      Do you still think Jinmu’s G-G-G-Grandmother was a Japanese Goddess?

      Surprise! Jinmu’s G-G-G-Grandmother was an exiled Hebrew Queen!
      (scroll to the bottom for the best evidence, i.e. the “Yata-no-Kagami”)
      Wait, a Korean link is rational, but a Hebrew link is too crazy! Or… is it?

      Arinori Mori, Japan’s first Minister of Education, insisted that when he saw
      the back of Japan’s most sacred treasure “Yata-no-Kagami” (the mirror
      which Japan’s first emperor Jinmu received from his G-G-G-Grandmother)
      on the back was written in ancient Hebrew script “Eheyeh Asher Eheyeh”
      (I am that I am). So in response, a good Japanese patriot killed Arinori Mori,
      because when he had entered the forbidden room to view the holy mirror
      he didn’t take off his shoes! Note to self: remember to follow Japan’s rules.

      Oops, that’s not related to the topic, sorry, attempted hijack aborted. 😉

    12. TJ Says:

      @ Gwrhyr

      You’re right. Sweden and the other Nordic countries are surely less tolerant of foreigners than the US.

      However, the ranking list is titled Global Creativity Index. Thus ranking countries in order of creativity. The list is NOT stating which country is most welcoming towards foreigners.

      But as you mentioned yourself, these rankings are never the absolute truth.

    13. CB Says:

      To Gwrhyr,

      I am myself a Swede who has lived abroad for many years. I recognice the things that you describe. Sweden has a lot of problems concerning their relations to foreigners. I admit that there exist latent rascism in the society and this needs to be remedied. Unfortunately much is just talk and not much is done to remedy the problem.

      As a person who in 2006 conducted a research project in Hokkaido (Thanks Debito for your assistance!) concerning professor Florida’s Global Creativity Indiex I think that some things need to be understood about the index. The tolerance aspect concerning immigrants and gays is just one small part of the index. The biggest contributor to a good score is to have people working in “creative fields” doing “creative activities”, i.e. their main tool in their work is their education.

      Japan certainly scores great when measuring the number of university gradueates, and a lot of people are engaged in the “creative fields”. We got amazingly impressive statistics when dividing the Japanese population into these fields, being much on par with both the US and Sweden. However, when we studied these figures in more detail we found that a lot of these jobs that the Japanese were engaged in could hardly be labelled “creative”. We followed the guidelines put forward by professor Florida (some 200 pages of footnotes that people just ignores) and reached the conclusion that Japan were some ten years behind both Sweden and the US. Only Tokyo, Kanagawa and Kyoto could reach the US average. Hence, I fear that the journalist that wrote the article and compiled the statistics didn’t quite read the details of Florida’s works and might have come up with the wrong figures by simply overestimating the size of the Japanese creative class.

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