Asahi: MOJ & MEXT crafting “point system” for immigration policy


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Hi Blog.  In a move that may be heralding the fundamentals of an actual Japanese immigration policy (something I was told back in November the DPJ was not considering), the primary ministries in charge of bringing in, registering, and policing NJ (traditionally MOJ, MEXT, and MHLW) are apparently beavering away at a “points system” for allowing in people with a skill set, modeled on other countries’ immigration policies.  On the other hand, people who have gotten preferential visa treatment in the past (by dint of having Japanese blood and not necessarily much else) are going to see their opportunities narrow (they’ll have higher hurdles and be tested on their acculturation).

I might say this is good news or a step in the right direction (if you want an immigration policy, it’s good to say what kind of immigrants you want), but it’s too early to tell for two reasons:  1) We have to see how realistic this “points list” is (if it’s even made public at all; not a given in Japan’s control-freak secretive ministries) when it materializes.  2) There still is no accommodation for assimilation of peoples (I don’t see any Japanese language courses, assistance with credit and housing, faster tracks to naturalization, and heaven forbid anything outlawing NJ discrimination!).  Just a longer tenure for you to make your own ends meet without being booted out after three or so years.

Given the GOJ’s record at designing policies that make Japan’s labor market pretty hermetic (including ludicrous requirements for Permanent Residency, unreasonable “up-or-out” hurdles for NJ such as health-care workers, and bribes to send unwanted workers “home”), at this stage I don’t see how this is necessarily anything different from the “revolving door” labor market pretty much already in place, except with higher value-added workers this time.

Maybe I’m just getting too cynical.  But let’s wait and see.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


“Point system planned for immigration policy”
Asahi Shinbun Jan 20, 2010
, Courtesy of Yokohama John

To prepare for the expected population decline, the Justice Ministry plans to welcome highly educated professional foreign workers, but it will make entry tougher for descendants of Japanese.

The planned new immigration policy, based on a point system, is intended to maintain Japan’s future economic growth by taking in more skilled foreigners, such as researchers, doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs.

These measures were featured in a report submitted Tuesday to Justice Minister Keiko Chiba by an advisory group on immigration control policy. The group, the fifth of its kind, is chaired by Tsutomu Kimura, an adviser at the education ministry.

The Justice Ministry is expected to review the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law and related laws and ordinances, and submit a revision bill to the Diet as early as next year.

A point system for skilled workers has already been introduced in countries like Britain and Canada.

By grading would-be workers in Japan based on their education levels, professional skills, qualifications, work experience, incomes and other criteria, the Justice Ministry will recognize those above a certain level as highly skilled workers.

Those recognized will receive preferential treatment, such as longer periods of stay in Japan, as well as permanent residency status after five years of living in Japan, instead of the usual 10.

But the ministry plans to establish more rigorous entry requirements for foreign nationals of Japanese descent.

At the request of the business community in need of labor, the immigration control law was revised in 1990 to grant residence status–without employment restrictions–to second- and third-generation Japanese. That led to a steady inflow of unskilled workers, mainly from Brazil and Peru.

But now, unemployment has become a serious problem among these nikkeijin, as manufacturers have closed factories amid dwindling demand in the struggling economy.

In admitting foreign citizens of Japanese descent, the Justice Ministry plans to require “an ability to make a living in Japan on their own” by, for example, having secured employment beforehand.

The ministry later intends to demand of the nikkeijin “a certain level of proficiency in the Japanese language” through a certification exam or other measures.
Original Japanese follows:

外国人受け入れにポイント制、専門技術者ら優遇 法務省







18 comments on “Asahi: MOJ & MEXT crafting “point system” for immigration policy

  • My japanese wife has some experience with our “point system” here in Canada, and it’s pretty much what it says: you get points based on things like work experience, how much money you have saved, education

    …but something not mentioned here, is that you also get points for passing language proficiency tests, and if you’re married to a Canadian, etc. (Not surprising, but more things to note)

  • Unseen Controllers says:

    No, you can’t roam freely, our border system will keep you caged.

    Now, only the highest-producing-slaves will be allowed to move.
    Soon, only the highest-producing-slaves will be allowed to live.

    We only need 500 million profit-producers, especially meek ones.
    The lowest-producing 6.5 billion, and the rebels, will be killed.

    We have released memes about overpopulation & saving the earth.
    Already, we have convinced you that depopulation is the best path.

    We, the real top of the pyramid, stay safely out of the spotlight.
    We use elite puppets to rule you slaves who think you are “free”.

    You slaves assume the elite royalty & politicians are at the top.
    You argue with each other about “rights” and other such illusions.
    Occasionally, for a laugh, we read your whining about “fairness”.

    From ancient Sumeria to modern Japan, nothing has changed at all.
    Look, you are all simply slaves living on the plantation WE own.
    Your worth is measured in the amount of profits we get from you.

    Will your kids be one of the lucky 500-million profit-producers?
    You had better tell them now: quietly produce high profits or die.

    — Yes, Master.

  • Call me cynical, or elitist, but could we get our visa point score printed on our gaijin cards? And if our point score is higher than the IQ of the person (J cop, hotel desk staff, stubborn city clerk, racist ass, landlord, corporate boss who won’t promote a gaijin beyond a glass ceiling, etc.) then they have no right to detain us for racial-profile-based questioning or demand to see our passports as if we are potential terrorist-criminals.

    But the main problem is most highly-skilled workers probably already know that it’s not a good idea to set up a life in a society that is doomed to be the world’s first and worst case of the aging society crisis and destined to put an ever-increasing tax burden on highly-skilled, well-paid workers until the economy eventually collapses. Only dumb, hard-core Japan-o-philes (like me) will stay. There are plenty of countries in Asia that have worse standards of living and freedoms than Japan, but they aren’t quite as doomed as Japan, are they? Or are they?

  • Oh yes, you really can see a flood of skilled immigrants flocking to Japan to “enjoy” a rubbish 1 year contract job and all the hassle of renting a place to live, now can’t you?

  • From what we know of it, this is good policy, and it addresses the hurdles to PR you complain of, Debito. I agree with your wait and see attitude, but let’s call good ideas good.

    — Go ahead. I’m still waiting a little while in hopes I can speak definitively.

  • “There still is no accommodation for assimilation of peoples”

    I see this as a key point. The article bemoans the trend toward “dekasegi”, but until Japan makes it easier for entire families to set up shop in Japan, it’s going to continue — especially with people from Brazil, India, and other countries where the standard of living is lower and those yen go a lot farther.

    “Oh yes, you really can see a flood of skilled immigrants flocking to Japan to “enjoy” a rubbish 1 year contract job and all the hassle of renting a place to live, now can’t you?”

    It’s a good point. While I’m sure there are a lot of people who will come for the economic opportunity regardless of how poorly they’re treated, Japan could appeal to the “desirable” immigrants — i.e. the ones they’re targeting with this point system — much better by saying “hey, we’ve also got laws that make sure you won’t be discriminated against, too.”

  • Just cynical brainstorming here but, will the point threshhold be “flexible” depending on the demand for less-skilled labor? Changing from on year too the next, so that it becomes much easier and more clinical to deport (in effect, by denying visa renewals) unwanted laborers without having to bribe them. Just say “Your points are too low this year. Leave. Now.”

    Hopefully, employers will not have input into the point process, it would just be a new way for them to abuse the same system that gave us slave-trainee visas. Especially for less-skilled workers with few points to begin with, any employer-assigned points would be a relatively large portion.

  • I welcome the fact that they are actually considering the issue at all. But it is only a very cautious welcome until I see what they are actually proposing. In any case, the main stumbling block for “skilled” immigrants is not so much the immigration system – in fact I haven’t heard of a single person who has had any problems with it, and have breezed through the renewals a few times myself – but rather the lack of tenured positions (and perhaps glass ceilings for those who are tenured), which strongly discourages many.

  • anybody interested can read the full report here:
    they address a lot of what you raise in the report, but all bets are off once politicians get their hands on it.
    Also, hillarious that the token 欧米 foreigner is an 異文化コミュニケーション specialist so would get points only for language.

  • Debito,

    I must admit to being kind of surprised to see that you’d have mixed feelings about the point system, especially as you yourself have proposed it as one step towards having an actual immigration policy, which, up to now, seems not to exist. Granted, most of our discussions on such topics have tended to either be recorded with me goading you or to follow liberal participation in support of the brewing industry, but still. . .

    Anything that brings transparency to the process is a boon.

    Re: the bleak economic prospects facing some highly skilled immigrants, we’re talking apples and oranges. The employment opportunities available, the support offered, and the relevant laws are all wholly different things.

    If no skilled people were coming, the issue would never come up, but the fact remains that people don’t often make personal life decisions based on broad macroeconomic factors, nor should they.

    That said, the fortunes of foreingers in white collar jobs really seem to follow those of everyone else in the country. Yes, there is discrimination, but limits on contracts for foreigners are mirroring limits being placed on contracts for Japanese workers, too.

    Don’t let the good fight jaundice your eyesight. For example, you link here to your old piece on “Sayuki” not getting PR. The key there was that the loose PR guidelines (even as outlined in your own Handbook) ask for ten years of continuous residence (assuming no Japanese national as an immediate family member) – something “Sayuki” lacked, having come and gone without maintaining a continuous SOR over the 15 years of her coming and going. In that case, her becoming a geisha and her TV appearances didn’t net her a special exemption from the law. And? Isn’t that the whole idea behind fairness in the law – that it applies equally to everyone?

    — I agree with you when you say, “Anything that brings transparency to the process is a boon.” But as I wrote above, even with a “points system”, transparency is not necessarily a given if the “points system” is not made public. And will there be a system for appeal? etc. etc. Look, wait and see, shall we? Can’t I be a little cautious given the GOJ’s record towards immigration up to now?

  • Hi Debito, slightly off topic to this thread but, I was stopped by the police for the 3rd time this month just last night. The cop told me that the law has recently changed and now NJ have to carry their card at all times. After chatting for a while he said that he has to notify each NJ regarding this change of law.

    I live in Shibuya and work at home, and when its cold or when im busy i dont go out except for grocery shopping or a walk to get some air pollution. This year I`ve only ventured out 5 times, and have been stopped 3 time.
    At this rate I should hit 50 times for 2010 easy.

    — Keep us posted. Meanwhile, the law has always been that NJ must carry their Gaijin Card at all times. No change there.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Srini, the cop was making that up as a pretext for stopping people. As Debito mentions, NJ have had to carry these cards for close to six decades; it hasn’t changed “recently”.

    Were you stopped walking past a police box, by a cop on a bicycle, or by a patrol car? Have all three been from the same place? Start to learn their faces, and, if you can, get their names so that you can remind future cops that you’ve already been checked out by Tanaka, Sakamoto, etc.

    Even avoiding the side of the street that the police box is on can be helpful. Just stay out of their way, and your mental health will be better for it.

  • Another off topic, I flew to from Haneda to Okinawa last week and had my bag X-rayed twice. They asked if it was ok first. Then on the return trip, they X-rayed my bag twice and asked if it was ok to open my bag for a hand search. The guy actually removed everything and inspected it all. He was visibly shaking. In both cases, I protested racial profiling, but they just kind of smiled, apologized, and kept going. I even suggested that perhaps they were training a bit. Practicing their English?
    On the plane, the stewardess asked my wife if I was ok, because I was in the lavatory for too long. Crap! The toilet police are on the beat. Or perhaps she was genuinely concerned for my wellbeing?

    — Careful this doesn’t start to grind you down. Seriously.

  • Nadrew,

    I get that shit every time I fly to and from the USA. I suppose as a middle-aged white man living in Japan with no religious affiliations and who has never travelled anywhere remotely dodgy I must have a prime terrorist profile…

    Actually the main flag is probably that I usually don’t check in baggage, having got the art of packing light down pretty well pat. Also flying from A to B on C country’s passport may be an issue.

    One thing for sure, the Japanese security staff are *much* more polite and careful with my possessions than the aggressive American goons.

  • The DPJ may be sympathetic to this proposal but the Justice Ministry panel which came up with it was set up by the LDP and it’s been in the pipeline for at least two years.

    Most point systems are subject to regular review so certainly expect that to happen if Japan does introduce one. The aim is to give advantageous immigration procedures to desirable immigrants so conditions can be loosened or tightened depending on what any administration thinks the country needs. Even without a point system, the US has been known to set quotas for approving visa applications.

    A government will will watch educational standards in countries to see whether degrees or professional qualifications awarded too easily. You’ll notice that the head of the panel is Tsutomu Kimura who used to head the National Institution for Academic Degrees and University Evaluation in Japan. Exchange rate moves will affect the yen value of any money which an immigrant intends to bring in so, if that is a component, it will also be subject to review.

    — Thanks for this. Any links to substantiate the first paragraph?


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