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  • WSJ: Domestic Group Appeals for Overhaul of Japanese Immigration

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 29th, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  Here’s a really good article from the WSJ which reports a lot of things that Debito.org has been saying for many years now (categories here and here).  Glad to see it gaining traction even domestically.  Arudou Debito

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    Group Appeals for Overhaul of Japanese Immigration
    Wall Street Journal NOVEMBER 24, 2010, courtesy of KC
    By MARIKO SANCHANTA

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704526504575634151044954866.html?mod=WSJASIA_hpp_SecondTopStories

    TOKYO—A powerful group of politicians, academics and business leaders is set to launch an unusual campaign to urge Japan to pry open its doors to foreigners, saying the country’s survival hinges on revamping its immigration policy.

    Japan has one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world, and the debate over whether to allow more foreigners to settle in the country has long been a contentious, politically charged issue for the nation. But recently, calls to allow more foreign workers to enter Japan have become louder, as the aging population continues to shrink and the country’s competitiveness and economic growth pales in comparison with its neighbor to the west: China. A minuscule 1.7% of the overall Japanese population are foreigners, compared with 6.8% in the United Kingdom and 21.4% in Switzerland, according to the OECD.

    Courtesy WSJ

    The 87-member policy council of the Japan Forum of International Relations, a powerful nonprofit research foundation, will on Thursday launch a half-page advertisement in the country’s leading newspapers, urging Japan to rethink its immigration policy. They also submitted their policy recommendations to Naoto Kan, the country’s prime minister.

    “If Japan wants to survive in a globalized world economy and to advance her integration with the burgeoning East Asian economy, she essentially has no other choice but to accept foreign migrants,” the advertisement says.

    The policy council has issued several recommendations, including allowing more skilled workers to enter the labor market, particularly in industries where there are shortages of domestic workers, such as construction and the auto industry. Under economic-partnership agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines, Tokyo has allowed nurses and nursing-care specialists from these countries to enter Japan, but applicants are subjected to a grueling test in Japanese that only three people have passed. The council says these tests have to be made easier.

    “Foreign employment may create employment for the Japanese—it’s bridging Japan with the rest of the world,” said Yasushi Iguchi, a professor at Kwansei Gakuin University and a member of the policy council.

    Despite Japan’s stance that it doesn’t accept unskilled foreign workers, these days, Chinese cashiers are a common sight at Tokyo’s ubiquitous convenience stores; South Asian clerks are becoming more plentiful at supermarkets and on construction sites. Their ability to work in these positions is often thanks to numerous loopholes in Japan’s immigration policy, which allows students studying in Japan to work a certain number of hours a week. The country also has a technical internship program that allows younger workers to come into Japan and work as a “trainee” for a year, though this has been maligned as a cheap way to exploit foreign workers and pay them menial wages.

    Mr. Kan’s government has said it wants to double the number of high-skilled foreign workers as part of its strategy to revive Japan in its growth strategy report compiled in June. The government is eyeing the introduction of a points-based system, in which it gives favored immigration treatment to foreigners depending on their past careers, accomplishments and expertise. The government also aims to increase the number of foreign students to 300,000 through initiatives such as allowing them to accept credits earned in foreign colleges and accepting more foreign teachers.

    But this doesn’t mean more foreigners will necessarily want to come to Japan: in 2009, the number of foreigners who live in Japan fell for the first time in nearly half a century. Only one group bucked the trend: the Chinese, one of the few minority groups to increase its presence last year. Chinese nationals now make up nearly a third of Japan’s foreign population.

    “If we stop discussing this and stop reforming, our system will be inadequate to cope with the realities,” said Mr. Iguchi. “In rural areas, we can’t maintain local industries—it will increase our competitiveness.”
    ENDS

    19 Responses to “WSJ: Domestic Group Appeals for Overhaul of Japanese Immigration”

    1. Matt Says:

      Another thoughtful, well-reason argument for immigration. Unfortunately, the typical oyaji on the street doesn’t want foreigners coming here, and until that changes I don’t think we will see anything significant happening; just a continuation of superficial measures like the current Indonesian nursing program.

      There are too many political parties ready to use fear tactics solely to increase their standing among said oyajis. I have already seen it in the political literature floating around stating that ‘Japan’s problems will be solved by only the Japanese’. Foreigners equal crime, a loss of Japanese culture, and when the shi*t really hits the fan, these foreigners will be the first ones out- typical scare tactics used by political groups that, amazingly, are devoid of actual facts, and, more amazingly, don’t seem to care about the future of the country.

    2. Nick Says:

      Greetings,
      The thing is, the typical oyaji in any country doesn’t want foreigners coming to their country.
      It is more likely that public opinion is something that is shaped, and it reflects past policies more than it points to the direction a country is heading to.
      True, some try to maintain the state of society, blaming unwelcomed changes on easily targetable friges of the population, because of their own feeling of insecurity and for their own benefit. But that’s also the same pretty much everywhere.

    3. jonholmes Says:

      “The tests have to be made easier”? Sounds like a dumbing down to me.

      If they want Kanji fluent nurse, hire a Chinese or Korean nurse. This obsession with importing Filipinas and Indonesians is nothing more than the exploitation of cheap labor, thats why.

    4. PKU Says:

      A reasoned call for a reasonable proposition that most reasonable people would agree with, and I think many thinking Japanese people would agree with, at least on paper, if they were to be able to read the logic of the argument.

      You’d think so, wouldn’t you?

    5. Kimpatsu Says:

      @Matt:
      I agree with you. I’ve been saying for years that the NJ-bashing rhetoric of all the Japanese political parties can be seen in the UK: Coming from the BNP, EDL, NF, and other blatantly racist organisations. IOW, what is mainstream here qualifies as hate speech in the West.

    6. Iago Says:

      Just to be clear, @#1, you’re saying the “typical oyaji on the street,” who “doesn’t want foreigners coming here,” shouldn’t over-generalize and stereotype the “typical foreigners off the boat,” who “equal crime, a loss of Japanese culture, etc.”?

    7. anonymous Says:

      The report further sounds like a trick when it includes sentences like these:

      “Though extending local suffrage to permanent foreign residents is now in discussion, this idea requires careful consideration, as it is probably unconstitutional and might also lead to grave political consequences.” Japan had a bad track-record for decades when it comes to treatment it gives zainichi residents. > what kind of “grave political consequences?”

      “Unlike the case of admission of foreigners temporarily visiting Japan for purposes of sightseeing and business, the case of admission of foreigners coming to Japan for the purpose of long-term residence needs to be carefully examined on the basis of comprehensive and selective judgments of factors not only in social and economic fields but in those of national security, public order and national integrity(or identity), etc.” > so it’s a conservative call for more measures and stringent management triggered by a visa relaxation for visitors from China, India and other countries.

      Here are the concrete steps for stronger management:
      “we would like to propose that the clauses related to the management of foreigners residing in Japan in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act be so improved that they become the grounds for promotion of the social integration policy as the second pillar of Japan’s migration policy in tandem with another pillar of the immigration control.
      (1) Municipalities and government ministries concerned should introduce effective and fair system of information sharing (…)
      (2) The national government (…) should implement measures for Japanese language training, school education and employment etc. for foreigners.
      (3) etc.”

      and it calls for stricter -not looser!- control on employment of foreign laborers..:
      “Mandatory reporting system on employment of foreign workers by employers based upon Employment Countermeasures Act should be transferred to “Employment of Foreign Nationals Act.””

      The English is shabby too, even the organization could do with extra lessons. Or start by learning Mandarin, Korean and Russian.

      The full document:
      http://www.jfir.or.jp/e/pr/pdf/33.pdf

    8. Matt Says:

      >Just to be clear, @#1, you’re saying the “typical oyaji on the street,” who “doesn’t want foreigners coming here,” shouldn’t over-generalize and stereotype the “typical foreigners off the boat,” who “equal crime, a loss of Japanese culture, etc.”?

      I am not sure I know what you are saying ;)

      What I said was certainly nothing new: the average Japanese citizen has a knee-jerk (read: adverse) reaction to the idea of recruiting foreigners to live in Japan. Certain political parties exploit this fear for the sole reason of gaining political power, and not because these fears are in anyway true.

      It is may or may not be true that the oyajis of the world share these same thoughts, but, unfortunately, these other oyajis don’t live in a country where a shrinking population holds such dire consequences.

      Do I think immigration is the answer to Japan’s problems? I don’t know. I think that it may take a generation or two to see the benefits of mass immigration but Japan doesn’t seem to be thinking beyond taking the first step, let alone 50 years down the line.

      What I do take issue with is the racism that gets stirred up whenever this topic of immigration takes the public spotlight. Angry, ugly oyajis screaming that Japan will sink into the sea if foreigners come here. Hey oyaji, guess what? Your country is already sinking and it is partially because of you.

    9. jonholmes Says:

      oh, the irony. Here’s an idea for a poem on this whole absurd situation:

      J rightists say “We dont need to give NJs benefits, they ll keep coming anyway”.

      But only the Chinese keep on coming.

      J rightists say “We want the creme of the creme to come (it means rich white people, according to the ex police chief)”

      But only the Chinese keep on coming.

      J rightists say ” We don’t trust the
      Chinese”.

      But only the Chinese keep on coming.

    10. Shinrin Says:

      “…“If Japan wants to survive in a globalized world economy and to advance her integration with the burgeoning East Asian economy, she essentially has no other choice but to accept foreign migrants…”

      The campaign`s discourse sound, a little bit, like blackmail to most Japanese…Yes, there is another choice…Japan could choose to become just a “small country”.

    11. John (Yokohama) Says:

      Shinrin,

      Replace “small country” with a “poorer country”. As the population shrinks the amount of government debt per person for example increases.

      The country will not shrink evenly across the board either. The population is getting older (average age is the highest in the world) and there are less people to support each retired person.

      John

    12. Shinrin Says:

      Hi John.

      Thank you, “poorer country”…Although “small” means “humble” in this context.
      And that seems to be fine to most Japanese.

      Besides…Why should we presume that; a nation where suicidal, hikkikomoris, and herbivores men are normal things; do care about economic rationality ?

    13. jonholmes Says:

      Until now Japan’s artifically high living standards and squeaky clean streets have been maintained since the bubble by increasing debt, the largest in the world other than basket cases like Zimbabwe, I believe. I quote this blog post on Wizbang:

      “As the global credit crunch drives Japan into its first recession since 2001, the country is building roads and airports that have helped make it the world’s most indebted major economy”

      Japan has borrowed money every year since 1965 to finance its budget, saddling each household with the equivalent of 17 million yen ($182,000) in debt. The spending has pushed the government’s debt to the highest among the Group of Seven economies — 170 percent of annual gross domestic product last year, compared with 63 percent in the U.S., according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

      “Smaller” means “poorer”, and that probably also means longer hours, no jobs or crappy jobs (as not enough gaijin to do them, haha), less opportunities for women (though hostesses etc are always needed-goes hand in hand (pun intended) with those longer hours the men are working), and the worsening of services and falling living standards, not to mention an ever widening gap between the haves and have-nots, along with the inevitable rising crime that will result.

      Wave goodbye to the honest,safety country.

    14. Sam Shaw Says:

      I’m sorry – can you explain the phrase “artifically (sic) high standard of living”? How can you have an artificially high standard of living?

      If you mean unsustainable, then presumably you are referring to the high national debt and concluding that this equates to an inevitable drop in the living standards of the population. According to you, the government has been borrowing excessively since 1965. So where is the depravation you describe? I don’t see it in my street or in my town. There’s no mugging here, or thieving from shops, or drug dealers or anything remotely anti-social – just a lot of normal decent people, living normal decent lives. So where is the problem?

      According to your logic, the US with its lower national debt is therefore a safer place to live. Really? Have you compared the murder rate? the muggings? the theft? Please explain to me why Japan with it’s national debt is going to be a worse place to live than the US anytime soon?

      – I’ll approve this, but we’re getting off topic.

    15. John (Yokohama) Says:

      On a bit of a related note, interesting piece in Japan Today.

      http://www.japantoday.com/category/lifestyle/view/younger-foreign-residents-seek-a-more-multicultural-japan

      “Younger foreign residents seek a more multicultural Japan
      TOKYO —
      While the foreign resident population in Japan remains relatively small compared to most developed countries at slightly less than 2% of the populace, as of 2009, its presence is being increasingly felt.

      From ethnic Koreans to Japanese Brazilians, the younger generations are actively making their voices heard, calling for greater understanding from the Japanese people while also tackling their own identity issues.

      ‘‘As a third generation ethnic Korean resident, I personally have had almost no experience of any direct discrimination,’’ said Kim Bung Ang of the Korea NGO Center Tokyo branch. ‘‘People of our parents’ generation were unable to get jobs at Japanese companies, but nowadays rejection due solely to foreign nationality is rare.’‘

      ‘‘However, there are still cases in which Korean residents were asked by their employers to change their names (to Japanese ones) or were turned down by landlords when trying to rent accommodation,’’ he said.

      Unlike in some other advanced nations, such as Britain and the United States, being born in Japan does not confer automatic right to Japanese nationality if both parents are not Japanese, and the majority of those classified as foreign residents in Japan were born and raised here.

      The number of registered foreign residents of Japan came to around 2.2 million as of the end of 2009, or 1.71% of the total population, according to the Justice Ministry. Chinese nationals accounted for the largest group of foreign residents, at about 31%, followed by those of Korean descent and Brazilians.

      Kim, who was born in Toyama Prefecture, noted that while Japan’s treatment of foreigners has improved as a result of advocacy movements and international trends, protection of their human rights remains inadequate.

      ‘‘Japanese people tend to think foreigners living in Japan are like when they themselves go on vacation abroad,’’ Kim said. ‘‘But to live in a foreign land is not as simple as that. The majority of ‘zainichi’ foreigners had no choice but to come to Japan due to reasons such as historical background and poverty.’‘

      Many ethnic Koreans came to Japan when the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945. A large number of Koreans were also conscripted by Japan during World War II, including into forced labor.

      Such Korean residents and others from Taiwan who were in Japan since before the end of the war and lost their Japanese nationality through the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty, as well as their descendants, have been given special permanent residency in Japan. Some have obtained Japanese nationality through naturalization.

      ‘‘But the Internet, for example, is filled with messages saying things like ‘Koreans go home’,’’ Kim added. ‘‘I think if there is more understanding as to why these foreigners are living in Japan, it will be less likely that Japanese people would say such things.’‘

      Often, being discriminated against as foreigners is not the only problem. Many residents with roots originating in the Korean Peninsula, including younger generations who have obtained Japanese nationality by birth or naturalization, also feel uncomfortable when their ethnic identity is not given recognition.

      ‘‘Even when we try to tell Japanese people we are Korean, they insist we’re the same partly because we look no different,’’ Kim said. ‘‘We don’t get accepted as who we really are.’‘

      Similarly, the majority of Japanese Brazilians who came to Japan in the 1990s as migrant workers also have a lingering affection for their motherland even as they begin to put down roots here, said Angelo Ishi, a third-generation Japanese Brazilian who was born in Brazil in 1967 and came to Japan in 1990 to do research on migrant workers.

      Revised immigration laws which took effect in 1990 opened the door to employment of Brazilians of Japanese descent at a time when Japan’s manufacturing industry faced a labor shortage. It was attractive to Japanese Brazilians as many had difficulty finding jobs due to a prolonged recession in Brazil at that time.

      ‘‘But many feel they would like to return (to Brazil) eventually, as they could not secure a place where they truly feel at home in Japan,’’ said Ishi, an associate professor at Musashi University in Tokyo.

      Both Ishi and Kim stressed the importance of providing opportunities for the younger generations of such foreign residents to learn about their ancestors’ history and language in order to help them establish their identities in Japan.

      Kim, who was a leader at the Organization of United Korean Youth in Japan, said he had set up classes for ethnic Korean youths to learn about the history of the Korean Peninsula and the Korean language.

      Meanwhile, citing examples of bilingual public schools in the United States where Portuguese or Spanish are used in parallel with English, Ishi said, ‘‘In areas where the Brazilian population is concentrated, there should be public elementary and secondary schools that teach both Japanese and Portuguese, including to Japanese children.’‘

      ‘‘I believe this kind of school will help nurture people with an understanding of multiculturalism and will be effective in eliminating friction (between foreign residents and local Japanese),’’ he said.

      ‘‘Some Japanese people think of foreigners as uninvited intruders, but I hope they will recall that Japanese Brazilians were indeed their invited guests,’’ Ishi added. ‘‘Just like advocacy against smoking and the use of drugs, there should be more persistent campaigns against discrimination against foreigners.’’”

    16. jonholmes Says:

      @Sam Shaw

      “According to you,”

      No, not according to me. According to sources I quoted.

      ” the government has been borrowing excessively since 1965. So where is the depravation you describe?” I don’t see it in my street or in my town. ”

      Maybe “artificially high standard of living” shouldve been phrased as “fake affluence”.

      1. The government has borrowed huge sums of money and yet still funds the pointless pork barrel building of airports and roads in the middle of nowhere (Debito used one recently).
      This created a “facade of affluence”- people visiting Japan (Tokyo) comment on the new buildings and clean streets.

      2.Meanwhile, the majority of the Japanese work like crazy to afford overpriced, crappy housing. Each household is saddled with debt.It was also recently pointed out on another thread on this site that even if you sell your house, you have to retain the debt.

      “Rich Japan, poor Japanese” is not a new saying by any means.

      I didnt describe deprivation-I predicted the increasingly poor quality of life ordinary people will face, along with surely repressive taxation to pay off these ridiculous government debts.

      I m glad you live in such a nice, lucky town! Let’s hope it lasts.

    17. jonholmes Says:

      …And I forgot to add, more foreign tax payers would help pay these debts and help maintain the standard of living of Japanese.

      Instead of borrowing more and more money.

    18. Charles Says:

      “The government is eyeing the introduction of a points-based system, in which it gives favored immigration treatment to foreigners depending on their past careers, accomplishments and expertise.”

      There we go again — mentioning the points system. WHERE IS THIS POINTS SYSTEM? I have been eagerly awaiting news on that for well over a year (since its first mention in ’09), but so far, nothing. When are we going to see this points system materialize?

    19. jonholmes Says:

      @Sam Shaw and “artifical standard of living” -I m not the only one using this turn of phrase, here is Uniqlo boss Yanai arguing along the same lines:
      “This, according to Yanai has been allowed to happen as a strong yen and export-driven economy have kept the quality of life artificially high. In turn, Yanai argues that this has made Japanese folks over-reliant on their own country and stubborn in their faith in Japan’s position ahead of Asia.”

      Rings true. Full article at
      http://injapan.gaijinpot.com/2010/07/26/time-for-japan-to-internationalize/

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