Tangent: AFP/Jiji: “Workaholic Japan considers making it compulsory to take vacation days.” Good news, if enforceable

mytest

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Hi Blog. As a tangent to what Debito.org usually takes up, let’s consider something interesting that affects everyone in Japan: the pretty insane work ethic.

Caveat: Having a society that works hard pays out enormous benefits in terms of convenience. Who can grumble about being able to, say, get a good meal at any time from a convenience store, or have bureaucrats and postal workers working on weekends? Well, those people working those kinds of jobs. And while I see a similar erosion of working hours in the United States (according to the OECD, both Americans and Japanese work fewer hours per year in 2013 than they did in 2000, but Americans still work more hours than Japanese — not surprising seeing how inhumane the amount of time people in retail have to work, especially here in Hawaii), one big issue is the ability to take vacations. I see people working full-time around here able to take sick days and even vacations without much blowback from their colleagues. Not in Japan, according to the article below. That’s why the GOJ is considering making the vacations mandatory.

This is good news. However, a closer consideration of the stats given below show an disturbing tendency: Western Europeans take almost all of their mandatory paid holidays off (up to more than a month), while Japanese take less than half of the half of the paid holidays days off they possibly could (i.e., around nine days a year, according to the article below). And what are the labor unions pushing for? Eight days. How underwhelming. Earn your dues, unions!

I think anyone reading Debito.org (since so many of us have worked for Japanese companies) understands why Japanese workers take so few days off and sometimes work themselves to death — peer pressure. Hey Kinmu Taro, how dare you duck out of the office for a vacation and thereby increase the workload for everyone else? How dare you even try to leave “early” on a daily basis. After all, “early” is defined as ahead of anyone else — you even have to embarrassingly announce “Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu” (“Excuse my rudeness for leaving ahead of you.”) as you walk out the door as an apparent show of good manners (it’s more a mutual policing strategy). So you work late, even if that means you just sit at the office until 7 or 8 PM waiting for the boss, who often has no real interests outside of the company, to leave first (or ask you out for drinks, although that Bubble-Era experience is probably a dying phenomenon). So you find make-work or skiving strategies to look busy, and thus the company soaks up the overwhelming majority of your waking hours, for six or even seven days a week.  To the point where the overwheming majority of Japanese workers are reportedly bored to bits on the job. I’m not saying anything here you probably don’t know already.  I’m just explaining why I opened this blog entry with calling Japan’s work ethic “insane”.

So of course, what with all this embedded bullying, making the holidays mandatory is the only way to go. If it’s enforceable, that is: you’ll have to be brave enough to take it up with the Labor Standards Bureau if your employer won’t play ball (given how many people already work on national holidays anyway, employers don’t). So this development is good news for everyone, except that it’s not really asking for more than what the average person takes off anyway. Not until people demand Western-European standards of vacationing culture will things change.  Clearly even Japan’s worker-representative labor unions are not about to do that (especially given the argument that the United States works even more hours).

I think Japanese corporate culture has immense trouble understanding that working longer does not equal working harder. Being able to take proper vacations is important in understanding how to work smarter — in order to increase worker productivity during the actual hours worked.  By being able to duck out for a vacation recharge when necessary without the stress of guilt interfering, I think the Americans have a bit more leeway to do that.

Labor productivity studies is not exactly my field, and I’m sure plenty of Debito.org Readers have their own opinions and experiences about the work ethic in Japan.  Opening this topic up for discussion.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Workaholic Japan considers making it compulsory to take vacation days
Japan Times/AFP-JIJI, FEB 4, 2015
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/04/business/workaholic-japan-considers-making-it-compulsory-to-take-vacation-days/

Who wouldn’t want a holiday?

In Japan, plenty of workers fail to take their paid vacation allowance. The Abe administration is now considering making it compulsory for workers to take at least five days of paid holiday a year, in a bid to lessen the toll on mental and physical health.

Workers typically use less than half their annual leave, according to a survey by the labor ministry that found employees in 2013 took only nine of their 18.5 days average entitlement.

A separate poll showed that one in six workers took no paid holidays at all that year.

The administration wants to boost the amount of paid leave used to 70 percent by 2020 and is planning to submit legislation in the current Diet session mandating holidays.

In early discussions, employers’ groups have proposed limiting the number of compulsory paid holidays to three days, while unions have called for eight.

The culture of long working hours and unpaid overtime is regularly criticized as a leading cause of mental and physical illness among employees.

The term “karoshi,” which means “death by overwork,” entered the lexicon a few years ago amid a surge in the number of people dying because of stress-related problems or taking their own lives.

According to a poll by the Japanese unit of Expedia, a U.S.-based online travel agency, workers in France enjoyed 37 paid holiday days in 2010 and used 93 percent of them.

Spain had 32 paid vacation days and Denmark 29, with the average employee using up more than 90 percent.

As well as the health benefits, days off encourage workers to spend money on leisure activities, thereby boosting the economy.

Japan has a relatively high 15 statutory holidays annually. In recent years there has been a move to shift the days so that they fall adjacent to the weekend, making domestic holidays more of a possibility.

This year for the first time there will be a five-day weekend in May and in September, to which it is expected some employees will add a few days’ leave to make their vacations longer.
ENDS

Japan Today: Gov’t to tighten controls on foreign trainee program, by creating another special overseeing agency

mytest

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This was in my “drafts” folder for years.  Archiving it for the record without commentary from me.  Debito (April 2021).

//////////////////////////////////

Gov’t to tighten controls on foreign trainee program
Japan Today NATIONAL JAN. 31, 2015 – TOKYO — Courtesy of CB
http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/govt-to-tighten-controls-on-foreign-trainee-program

The government has announced plans to create a special agency to oversee the foreign trainee program which has come in for criticism for exploiting foreign workers.

According to the government, the agency—which will have legal authority—will re-evaluate the purpose of the Technical Intern Training Program to provide interns with a wider variety of occupations as well as the possibility of extending their work period, Sankei Shimbun reported Friday.

More specifically, the training program will be extended from 3 years to 5 years. Some occupations related to nursing and care-giving will be added to the current 69 categories.

In response to increasing concerns over human rights violation, there will be more measures to protect employees, a government spokesman said.

The most common complaints include employers delaying payments, taking workers’ passports, pressuring trainees to work long hours and not letting them leave their dormitories overnight, Sankei reported.

To deal with such cases, the agency will examine contracts between employers and agencies that arrange for foreign trainees to come to Japan. If violations are found, the agency will face the loss of its license.

The Japan International Training Occupation Organization will also be given more authority to supervise companies that accept trainees.

The government plans to submit a bill to create the supervisory agency to the Diet this spring.

ENDS

//////////////////////////////////////////////

Poignant commentary from Japan Today readers:

SumoBoy:  So in other words, very little will be done. First off, we have yet another new government agency that will “oversee” this problem. In other words, some ex-MITI bureaucrat will get himself a nice cushy amakudari job. The number of companies that can exploit these workers will increase from previously and contracts will be extended, which will benefit the employer more than the employee.

Finally we have this:

To deal with cases of abuse, the agency will examine contracts between employers and agencies that arrange for foreign trainees to come to Japan. If violations are found, the agency will face the loss of its license.

So this new agency will examine the “contract” of a worker complaining of doing 40 hours over the extra overtime a week. But as everyone can see, the “contract” clearly states the worker shall only work a maximum of 35 hours a week. So since the “contract” is within legal guidelines it’s “Nothing to see here, move along.”

===================================

M3M3M3:  Maybe I’m just cynical but creating a ‘special agency’ is also a way to insulate the government from criticism. If we hear more horror stories, the Minister of Labour will now be able to point fingers at the agency and say ‘I had no idea, but it’s very regrettable that they didn’t do their job properly’. I don’t understand why the Ministry of Labour can’t take direct responsibility for oversight of this.

ENDS

Yomiuri: GOJ sky-pie policy proposes to deal with rural population decrease with resettlement info websites, and robots!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Getting back to issues of Japan’s future, here is the GOJ once again last August offering another trial-balloon half-measure to reverse Japan’s population decline (especially in its rural areas):  A database!  And robots!

Of course, the Yomiuri diligently types it down and offers it up uncritically, with the typical pride of showing off “Japan’s stuff”.  The policy assumption is that if you offer people information, they’ll magically want to move out to the countryside — up to now they were just chary because they didn’t know where they could get an onigiri in Nakamura-son, Inaka-Ken.

That’s unrealistic.  It’s not a matter of lack of information.  It’s a matter of lack of economic opportunity for Japan’s largely white-collar labor force (the “potential migrants” being mentioned, of course, are Japanese) being offered out in The Boonies.  Hasn’t the GOJ gotten the memo yet after more than a quarter century of Japanese turning their noses away from 3K blue-collar work?  Not to mention the inevitable “Taro-come-lately” outsider treatment from the locals that greets many Japanese urbanites deciding to move out of the cities?  Fact is, Japan’s ruralities are even giving their land away for free, and it’s not stemming the exodus from.

No matter:  Just build it and they’ll come.  Hasn’t the GOJ learned anything from the Bubble Era?

Moreover, how about that other proposal below of introducing more robots in service areas to produce the 3K stuff?

Laced within that Industrial Policy is an appeal to national pride, as in Japan’s future as a world leader in robot use (without the actual substance of practicality behind it).  Ooh, our robots can produce bentos?  Can yours, France?  Then what: build robots to consume what robots produce?  No matter what, offering robots as replacements for humans in the labor market inevitably overlooks how this does nothing to revitalize Japan’s taxpayer base, because ROBOTS DO NOT PAY TAXES.

There is another option, the unmentionable:  Immigrants assuming the mantle of Japan’s farming economy and rural maintenance.  No, you see, that would be a security risk.  Too high a local foreign population would mean those areas might secede from Japan!  (Seriously, that is the argument made.)

Anyway, another pavement stone in the road to policy failure.  As we start a new year, I’d just mention it for the record.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////

Japan in Depth / Govt tackles population decline
The Yomiuri Shimbun
August 26, 2014, courtesy of Peach
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001522944

Migration info database eyed

In an effort to address population declines in provincial areas, the government plans to create a database to provide people thinking of moving from urban to regional areas with information about potential destinations, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The government hopes to encourage more urbanites to move to regional areas by making it possible for them to extensively search for information on such issues as residency and welfare services anywhere in the country, according to informed sources.

Expenses to set up the database reportedly will be included in the fiscal 2015 budgetary request.

Using the database, potential migrants would be able to quickly obtain information on workplaces and job offers; schools and education; medical institutions and social welfare services; and shopping, the sources said.

Information provided directly from regional areas will be input into the database by Hello Work job placement offices and other entities, as well as by municipal governments trying to encourage urbanites to take up residency in their cities.

Municipalities facing serious population declines have individually offered information about job offers as well as available accommodation. The planned database will enable people thinking about moving to regional areas to view this information collectively, the sources said.

For example, if a resident of an urban community is considering a move to a prefecture in the Tohoku region, the database could be used to find areas meeting their needs by comparing information, such as what kind of jobs are available or the locations of schools.

Along with the database, the central government reportedly plans to establish offices to help people living in large cities move to provincial areas. The government hopes potential migrants will consult with counselors or obtain more detailed information at the offices, the sources said.

Among people interested in moving to regional areas, some are believed to be hesitant about making the move because of a lack of information about life outside major urban areas. The database is aimed at addressing that concern, they said.

More robots in service industry planned

The government plans to promote the development of robots for use in the service industry, such as at hotels and pubs, to cope with the industry’s worsening problems of labor shortages and heavy workloads, according to sources.

In September, the government is expected to establish a panel dubbed the “committee for the realization of the robot revolution,” which will comprise manufacturers and users of robots, and plans to subsidize programs judged to have bright prospects.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry intends to include ¥5 billion in its budgetary requests for fiscal 2015 for robot development and related projects.

The government envisages robots for such jobs as cleaning the stairs and bathrooms of hotels and changing bed sheets. It is also considering developing robots for use at factories, such as robots that pack bento boxes. The plan is to have such robots on the market within three years, the sources said.

The utilization of robots in the service industry has been lagging behind the manufacturing industry, as robot makers have made development for the manufacturing industry a higher priority because of higher prices.

Even so, some robots are already in use in the service industry. For example, some Japanese-style inns have introduced a robot capable of automatically delivering a large amount of meals near guestrooms, which has helped improve the efficiency of the inns’ services.

The government believes the widespread use of robots could dramatically reduce the burden of service industry workers.

It has set a goal of expanding the market size of robots for the nonmanufacturing sector, such as the service industry, to ¥1.2 trillion in 2020—about 20 times larger than that in 2012. The development of robots in nursing care and agriculture is progressing, so the government is aiming to expand robot development to other industries so Japan can lead the world in the utilization of robots.

ENDS

My Japan Times JBC 83 Jan 1, 2015: “Hate, Muzzle and Poll”: Debito’s Annual Top Ten List of Human Rights News Events for 2014

mytest

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JUST BE CAUSE
justbecauseicon.jpg

A TOP TEN FOR 2014
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE Column 83 for the Japan Times Community Page
Published January 1, 2015 (version with links to sources)

Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/01/01/issues/hate-muzzle-poll-top-10-issues-2014/

 | 

Hate, muzzle and poll: a top 10 of issues for 2014

BY DEBITO ARUDOU, The Japan Times, January 1, 2015

As is tradition for JBC, it’s time to recap the top 10 human rights news events affecting non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan last year. In ascending order:

10) Warmonger Ishihara loses seat

This newspaper has talked about Shintaro Ishihara’s unsubtle bigotry (particularly towards Japan’s NJ residents) numerous times (e.g. “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2012). All the while, we gritted our teeth as he won re-election repeatedly to the National Diet and the Tokyo governorship.

However, in a move that can only be put down to hubris, Ishihara resigned his gubernatorial bully pulpit in 2012 to shepherd a lunatic-right fringe party into the Diet. But in December he was voted out, drawing the curtain on nearly five decades of political theater.

About time. He admitted last month that he wanted “to fight a war with China and win” by attempting to buy three of the disputed Senkaku islets (and entangling the previous left-leaning government in the imbroglio). Fortunately the conflict hasn’t come to blows, but Ishihara has done more than anyone over the past 15 years to embolden Japan’s xenophobic right (by fashioning foreigner-bashing into viable political capital) and undo Japan’s postwar liberalism and pacifism.

Good riddance. May we never see your like again. Unfortunately, I doubt that.

9) Mori bashes Japan’s athletes

Japan apparently underperformed at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (no wonder, given the unnecessary pressure Japanese society puts on its athletes) and somebody just had to grumble about it — only this time in a racialized way.

Chair of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics committee Yoshiro Mori (himself remembered for his abysmal performance as prime minister from 2000 to 2001) criticized the performance of Japanese figure skaters Chris and Cathy Reed: “They live in America. Because they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.” This was factually wrong to begin with, since through their Japanese mother, the Reeds have always had Japanese citizenship. But the insinuation that they weren’t good enough because they weren’t Japanese enough is dreadfully unsportsmanlike, and contravenes the Olympic charter on racism.

Mori incurred significant international criticism for this, but there were no retractions or resignations. And it isn’t the first time the stigmatization of foreignness has surfaced in Mori’s milieu. Since 2005 he has headed the Japan Rugby Football Union, which after the 2011 Rugby World Cup criticized the underperforming Japan team for having “too many foreign-born players” (including naturalized Japanese citizens). The 2012 roster was then purged of most “foreigners.” Yet despite these shenanigans, Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup right before the Tokyo Olympics.

8) ‘Points system’ visa revamp

In a delicious example of JBC SITYS (“see, I told you so”), Japan’s meritocratic Points-based Preferential Treatment for Highly Skilled Foreigners visa failed miserably in 2013, with only 700 people having even applied for the available 2,000 slots six months into the program.

JBC said its requirements were far too strict when it was first announced, predicting it would fail (see last year’s top 10, and “Japan’s revolving door immigration policy hard-wired to fail,” JBC, March 6, 2012). Policymakers arrogantly presumed that NJ are beating down the door to work in Japan under any circumstances (not likely, after Japan’s two economic “lost decades”), and gave few “points” to those who learned Japanese or attended Japanese universities. Fact is, they never really wanted people who “knew” Japan all that well.

But by now even those who do cursory research know greater opportunities lie elsewhere: Japan is a land of deflation and real falling wages, with little protection against discrimination, and real structural impediments to settling permanently and prospering in Japanese society.

So did the government learn from this policy failure? Yes, some points requirements were revamped, but the most significant change was cosmetic: The online info site contains an illustration depicting potential applicants as predominantly white Westerners. So much for the meritocracy: The melanin-rich need not apply.

Good luck with the reboot, but Japan is becoming an even harder sell due to the higher-ranking issues on our countdown.

7) Ruling in Suraj death case

This is the third time the case of Ghanaian national Abubakar Awadu Suraj has made this top 10, because it demonstrates how NJ can be brutally killed in police custody without anyone taking responsibility.

After Suraj was asphyxiated while physically restrained during deportation in 2010, for years his kin unsuccessfully sought criminal prosecutions. Last March, however, the Tokyo District Court ruled that immigration officials were responsible for using “illegal” excessive force, and ordered the government to pay ¥5 million to Suraj’s widow and mother.

The case is currently being appealed to the Tokyo High Court. But the lesson remains that in Japan, due to insufficient oversight over Immigration Bureau officials (as reported in United Nations and Amnesty International reports; four NJ have died in Immigration custody since October 2013), an overstayed visa can become a capital offense.

6) Muslims compensated for leak

In another landmark move by the Tokyo District Court, last January the National Police Agency was ordered to compensate several Muslim residents and their Japanese families, whom they had spied upon as suspected terrorists. Although this is good news (clearly noncitizens are entitled to the same right to privacy as citizens), the act of spying in itself was not penalized, but rather the police’s inability to manage their intelligence properly, letting the information leak to the public.

Also not ruled upon was the illegality of the investigation itself, and the latent discrimination behind it. Instead, the court called the spying unavoidable considering the need to prevent international terrorism — thus giving carte blanche to the police to engage in racial profiling.

5) ‘Japanese only’ saga

If this were my own personal top 10, this would top the list, as it marks a major shift in Japan’s narrative on racial discrimination (the subject of my Ph.D. last year). As described elsewhere (“J.League and media must show red card to racism,” JBC, March 12, 2014), the Japanese government and media seem to have an allergy when it comes to calling discrimination due to physical appearance “discrimination by race” (jinshu sabetsu), depicting it instead as discrimination by nationality, ethnicity, “descent,” etc. Racism happens in other countries, not here, the narrative goes, because Japan is so homogeneous that it has no race issues.

But when Urawa Reds soccer fans last March put up a “Japanese only” banner at an entrance to the stands at its stadium, the debate turned out differently. Despite some initial media prevarication about whether or not this banner was “racist,” J.League chair Mitsuru Murai quickly called it out as racial discrimination and took punitive action against both the fans and the team.

More importantly, Murai said that victims’ perception of the banner was more important than the perpetrators’ intent behind it. This opened the doors for debate about jinshu sabetsu more effectively than the entire decade of proceedings in the “Japanese only” Otaru onsen case that I was involved in (where behavior was ruled as “racial discrimination” by the judiciary as far back as 2002). All of this means that well into the 21st century, Japan finally has a precedent of domestic discourse on racism that cannot be ignored.

4) Signs Japan may enforce Hague

Last year’s top 10 noted that Japan would join an international pact that says international children abducted by a family member from their habitual country of residence after divorce should be repatriated. However, JBC doubted it would be properly enforced, in light of a propagandist Foreign Ministry pamphlet arguing that signing the Hague Convention was Japan’s means to force foreigners to send more Japanese children home (“Biased pamphlet bodes ill for left-behind parents,” JBC, Oct. 8). Furthermore, with divorces between Japanese citizens commonly resulting in one parent losing all access to the children, what hope would foreigners have?

Fortunately, last year there were some positive steps, with some children abducted to Japan being returned overseas. Government-sponsored mediation resulted in a voluntary return, and a court ruling ordered a repatriation (the case is on appeal).

However, the Hague treaty requires involuntary court-ordered returns, and while Japan has received children under its new signatory status, it has not as yet sent any back. Further, filing for return and/or access in Japan under the Hague is arduous, with processes not required in other signatory countries.

Nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction, and JBC hopes that respect for habitual residence continues even after international media attention on Japan has waned.

3) Ruling on welfare confuses

Last July another court case mentioned in previous top 10s concluded, with an 82-year-old Zainichi Chinese who has spent her whole life in Japan being denied social-welfare benefits for low-income residents (seikatsu hogo). The Supreme Court overturned a Fukuoka High Court ruling that NJ had “quasi-rights” to assistance, saying that only nationals had a “guaranteed right” (kenri).

People were confused. Although the media portrayed this as a denial of welfare to NJ, labor union activist Louis Carlet called it a reaffirmation of the status quo — meaning there was no NJ ineligibility, just no automatic eligibility. Also, several bureaucratic agencies stated that NJ would qualify for assistance as before.

It didn’t matter. Japan’s xenophobic right soon capitalized on this phraseology, with Ishihara’s Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations) in August announcing policies “based on the ruling” that explicitly denied welfare to NJ. In December, in another act of outright meanness, Jisedai made NJ welfare issues one of their party platforms. One of their advertisements featured an animated pig, representing the allegedly “taboo topic” of NJ (somehow) receiving “eight times the benefits of Japanese citizens,” being grotesquely sliced in half.

You read that right. But it makes sense when you consider how normalized hate speech has become in Japan.

2) The rise and rise of hate speech

Last year’s list noted how Japan’s hate speech had turned murderous, with some even advocating the killing of Koreans in Japan. In 2014, Japanese rightists celebrated Hitler’s 125th birthday in Tokyo by parading swastika banners next to the Rising Sun flag. Media reported hate speech protests spreading to smaller cities around Japan, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered little more than lukewarm condemnations of what is essentially his xenophobic power base. Even opportunistic foreigners joined the chorus, with Henry Scott Stokes and Tony “Texas Daddy” Marano (neither of whom can read the Japanese articles written under their name) topping up their retirement bank accounts with revisionist writings.

That said, last year also saw rising counterprotests. Ordinary people began showing up at hate rallies waving “No to racism” banners and shouting the haters down. The United Nations issued very strong condemnations and called for a law against hate speech. Even Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto confronted Makoto Sakurai, the then-leader of hate group Zaitokukai (which, despite Japan’s top cop feigning ignorance of the group, was added to a National Police Agency watch list as a threat to law and order last year).

Unfortunately, most protesters have taken the tack of crying “Don’t shame us Japanese” rather than the more empowering “NJ are our neighbors who have equal rights with us.” Sadly, the possibility of equality ever becoming a reality looked even further away as 2014 drew to a close:

1) Abe re-election and secrets law

With his third electoral victory in December, Abe got a renewed mandate to carry out his policies. These are ostensibly to revitalize the economy, but more importantly to enforce patriotism, revive Japan’s mysticism, sanitize Japan’s history and undo its peace Constitution to allow for remilitarization (“Japan brings out big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.,” JBC, Nov. 6, 2013).

Most sinister of all his policies is the state secrets law, which took effect last month, with harsh criminal penalties in place for anyone “leaking” any of 460,000 potential state secrets. Given that the process for deciding what’s a secret is itself secret, this law will further intimidate a self-censoring Japanese media into double-guessing itself into even deeper silence.

These misgivings have been covered extensively elsewhere. But particularly germane for JBC is how, according to Kyodo (Dec. 8), the Abe Cabinet has warned government offices that Japanese who have studied or worked abroad are a higher leak risk. That means the government can now justifiably purge all “foreign” intellectual or social influences from the upper echelons of power.

How will this state-sponsored xenophobia, which now views anything “foreign” as a security threat, affect Japan’s policymakers, especially when so many Japanese bureaucrats and politicians (even Abe himself) have studied abroad? Dunno. But the state secrets law will certainly undermine Japan’s decades of “internationalization,” globalization and participation in the world community — in ways never seen in postwar Japan.


Bubbling under:

a) Jisedai no To’s xenophobic platform fails to inspire, and the party loses most of its seats in December’s election.

b) Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Japan’s biggest drugmaker, appoints Christophe Weber as president despite the Takeda family’s xenophobic objections.

c) Media pressure forces Konsho Gakuen cooking college to (officially) repeal its “Japanese only” admissions process (despite it being in place since 1976, and Saitama Prefecture knowing about it since 2012).

d) All Nippon Airways (ANA) uses racist “big-nosed white guy” advertisement to promote “Japan’s new image” as Haneda airport vies to be a hub for Asian traffic (“Don’t let ANA off the hook for that offensive ad,” JBC, Jan. 24, 2014).

e) Despite NJ being listed on resident registries (jūmin kihon daichō) since 2012, media reports continue to avoid counting NJ as part of Japan’s official population.

ENDS

My Japan Times JBC Column 82: “Time to Burst your Bubble and Face Reality”, December 4, 2014

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Hi Blog. I want to say thank you to everyone who read this and made it the the #1 most-read article at the JT Online for two days, and again for a number of days later!  Dr ARUDOU, Debito:

justbecauseicon.jpg
TIME TO BURST YOUR BUBBLE AND FACE REALITY

By Debito Arudou
JBC 82 for the Japan Times Community Page
December 4, 2014

Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/12/03/issues/time-burst-bubble-face-reality/

I want to open by saying: Look, I get it.

I get why many people (particularly the native speakers of English, who are probably the majority of readers here) come to Japan and stay on.

After all, the incentives are so clear at the beginning. Right away, you were bedazzled by all the novelty, the differences, the services, the cleanliness, the safety and relative calm of a society so predicated on order. You might even have believed that people are governed by quaint and long-lamented things like “honor” and “duty.”

Not that the duties and sacrifices necessary to maintain this order necessarily applied to you as a non-Japanese (NJ). As an honored guest, you were excepted. If you went through the motions at work like everyone else, and clowned around for bonus points (after all, injecting genki into stuffy surroundings often seemed to be expected of you), you got paid enough to make rent plus party hearty (not to mention find many curious groupies to bed — if you happened to be male, that is).

Admit it: The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.

But these incentives are front-loaded. For as a young, genki, even geeky person finding more fun here than anywhere ever, you basked in the flattery. For example, you only needed to say a few words in Japanese to be bathed in praise for your astounding language abilities! People treated you like some kind of celebrity, and you got away with so much.

Mind you, this does not last forever. Japan is a land of bubbles, be it the famous economic one that burst back in 1991 and led two generations into disillusionment, or the bubble world that you eventually constructed to delude yourself that you control your life in Japan.

You don’t. Unless you marry an elite whose family funds your whims, you’ll discover that as you get older, opportunities narrow and doors close.

The first major life stage might be getting married — so easy to do here. Then you’d better lose the Peter Pan lifestyle and find a way to support your sudden kids. Or you’ll never see them again after the divorce.

Then you finally land that steady job that might lead to a career. But it’s hard enough nowadays for Japanese in their 20s and 30s to land secure employment (let alone climb the corporate ladder), so why should Johnny Foreigner cut in? Even if you manage to, people often assume tokenism and don’t take you seriously. The bamboo ceiling is pretty impenetrable.

But what about your trusty Genki Gaijin shtick? You’ll look jolly silly doing it as a geriatric, playing the perpetual dancing monkey, never the organ grinder.

Finally, as is true for everyone in Japan, the older you get, the less wriggle room you have in your career. Good luck comfortably changing jobs in your 40s or 50s. Most of the influential and reasonably self-actualized people in Japan are elites who spent their lives marrying into connections and cultivating Old-Boy networks, awaiting the right time to be catapulted into the next generation of leaders. NJ OBs in powerful positions? Unlikely.

Part of that is by design: Enough NJ live the life of Riley and assume the future will take care of itself. After all, for their fellow unambitious and unobtrusive Japanese corporate drones, it will; except that they will likely live a pre-designed, boring and “normal” workaday life taken care of by the state.

But for NJ, given the recent court decision about their welfare benefits, the perpetual weakness of their contract employment, and employers not paying into their pension systems with impunity, a “normal” career is not at all guaranteed. NJ have to be vigilant at an age when everyone else seems to be partying.

Another part is the shocking realization in many NJ (especially in those brought over during the 1980s Golden Age of Kokusaika (“internationalization”) who are now reaching late middle age and retirement) that they were working under a delusion: They were never seen as a colleague in the workplace. More as a pet.

This became evident as younger Japanese co-workers, who had less qualifications, time or experience in the company, got promoted over them. After all, what self-respecting Japanese wants some NJ as their senpai (senior) in the workplace? Suddenly, despite following all the rules, NJ didn’t get the same rewards.

So, after a quarter-century in Japan, I get it. And here’s what you oughta get by now:

If NJ don’t do something outside the bubble they’ve lived in so far, they might end up as some anonymous dead gaijin on a gurney, unremembered and unmourned, merely cremated and disposed of by authorities unsure of your next of kin. I’ve seen it happen — an accelerating number of times.

Why? Parables such as the one about “boiled frogs” come to mind (i.e., the frog who never noticed the temperature of the water around him rising until it was too late to jump out), but more insightful is what Pierre Bourdieu called the “illusio,” i.e., the belief that the great lifetime “game” we all agree to play is worth playing, and the fiction we collectively choose to follow is reality.

The fiction we have been accepting as reality is: Japan will treat NJ equally as long as they play the game by Japanese rules. This shows a sore lack of self-reflection about the NJ’s place in Japanese society, where those rules are stacked against them properly assimilating. It’s not because NJ always elect to be treated like guests. Guest treatment is in fact the default.

For example, have you ever noticed how difficult it is for NJ to become established in Japan’s essential, respected and licensed jobs — e.g., as doctors (and nurses), lawyers, engineers, administrative-level bureaucrats, etc.? Instead, where are they consigned? Factories, education, tenuous entrepreneurship, contracted tech, as nonadministrative corporate drones, and in entertainment. These jobs are basically fungible and expendable. And they are the default.

That’s why NJ must learn how to become “hosts.” By this I mean that they must offer Japan something that cannot be dismissed as a mere trifle or token effort.

That skill must be precious enough that NJ residents can choose to deny it to Japan, should they ever want to reclaim their power, self-respect and dignity. The NJ who exclusively do what Japan needs, and who cannot be replaced with a Japanese substitute (for example, people acting as indisposable ambassadors of Japanese knowledge — e.g., Ed Reischauer, Donald Richie or Donald Keene), can hold their skills hostage and become secure, respected, even immortal.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but face reality: What do you have to offer Japan? I’m not asking if there is something you do well; I’m asking: After all these years, is there something that you can do that Japan positively cannot live without? If not, then Japan can easily live without you, and you could be headed for the gurney.

No doubt people will decry this column. Look, I “get” that too, for it’s a natural part of illusio maintenance. People trapped in their bubbles will fight to their last breath to avoid having them burst. Facing the reality of their perpetual second-class caste status would force them to admit that they made a mistake by submitting to Japan’s default subordination processes — that they traded their entire life for something that they ultimately found no stake in.

Criticize away if that makes you feel better. It’s more comforting to play the game and party on. For now. But as your twilight years approach, you’ll look back in anger and wish you’d created a different bubble. Japan as an entire society does too, what with all this wasted human potential, as it fades into international irrelevance.

Debito Arudou’s “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan” is available on Amazon. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

=================================

Read the rest in the Japan Times at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/12/03/issues/time-burst-bubble-face-reality/. And this will be the anchor site for the article, so comment both below and at the JT if you like. As always, thanks for reading! Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Asahi’s AERA Mag July 14, 2014: Special on NJ in J globalized companies, says “Offices without NJ will not succeed”. Yet again panders to stereotypes

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Hi Blog. On the heels of our prior discussion about the Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s “scandal” about having the audacity to put a NJ as CEO of the company (shock horror! Think of how much the company will be compromised!, was the narrative), here’s a special issue by left-leaning AERA magazine of July 14, put out by the (left-and-right-leaning, depending on the editor) Asahi News Corp, on Japan’s “global companies”.  Its big headline is that offices that are not multinational in terms of staff “will not succeed”. (Somebody tell that to Takeda Pharma’s xenophobes!)

Aera.0714

(Click on image to expand in browser.  Courtesy of MS.)

You might think this is a forward-thinking move, but AERA also resorts to the same old media tropes about NJ.  For example, it puns on the seminal TV show of more than a decade ago called “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo, Nihonjin” with a bit on “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo, Japanese workplaces”.  Not to appear dated, it also refers to Koko Ga Hen’s current incarnation “YOU Wa Nani Shi Ni NIhon E” (What did YOU [sic] come to Japan to do?), with a poll of twenty (a scientifically-significant sample!! /sarcasm) real-live NJ residents of Japan saying what they find unsatisfactory about Japan.  There’s also a discussion between two J pundits on immigration (yep; how about polling an immigrant?), a comparison between NJ transplant schools modeled on the Indian, Chinese, and Canadian education systems (why?  dunno), and the coup de grace — the influential Oguri Saori manga “Darling wa Gaikokujin being riffed on to talk about “Darling wa Damenzu Gaikokujin“.

This is about J women marrying NJ “Wrong men” (from a manga title, a polyglot word of Dame (J)  and Mens (E?)) who are penniless, unfaithful, or violent (and in this case, according to AERA, from less-economically-developed countries, viz. the newly-coined word “kakusa-kon“, or economically-tiered marriages), because the NJ get a visa, and the women get the relief (iyashi) of having less to lose (financially or materially) after the breakup. Whaa….?

Yep, even when we resort to the hackneyed stereotypical tropes (gotta love the swarthy smitten NJ in the illustration; clearly by the skin tone there’s kakusa there), we still have to pander to prejudices by including some nasty ones.

There’s more up there, so other comments?  Mine is that even if J companies take things to heart and hire more NJ employees, I’m worried that 1) like before, it’ll only be on a “contingency” basis (to take the NJ out for a test drive, meaning the hiring process is two-tiered and unequal, with less job security for the NJ), and 2) it’ll just happen because it’s “trendy”.  NJ have been hired as “pet gaijin” (as was common practice during the “Bubble Years”; I know) to show off how “international” the company has become, without ever allowing NJ employees to play any real part in the company’s future.  Just plonking NJ in your office doesn’t necessarily mean much (until NJ become, for example, managers).  And when they do, the Takeda-styled soukaiya mentioned last blog entry will no doubt protest it anyway (if not fire you for doing the right thing about J-boss corruption, a la Olympus).

Sorry to rain on what may be a positive trend (I’d much rather have them acknowledge that J companies cannot remain insular than not, of course), but I’m not sure AERA is encouraging real non-insularity.  Especially when even they can’t keep the discussion serious and refrain from painting NJ with negative stereotypes.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Reuters Special Report on Japan’s “Trainee System” as “Sweatshops in Disguise”: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage

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Hi Blog. Making an enormous impact was this Reuters expose that came out a little over a week ago exposing the corruption and exploitation of Japan’s deadly foreign “Trainee” System, in place since 1993.

Debito.org has talked at length about this deadly system many times before, start here. But Reuters collates the issues in a very accessible manner in its article below. A PDF with even more information and graphics, entitled “Sweatshops in Disguise”, is available at http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/14/06/JAPAN-LABOR.pdf (archived just in case on Debito.org at ReutersTraineesJapansSweatshopsinDisguise061214).

Once comment on the Reuters website that resonated with me was, “Japan is in this regard no more than a clean Third-World country.”  This horrible system should have been the shame of Japan and stopped long ago.  Instead, as it approaches its 25th anniversary, it’s gearing up for an expansion under the Abe Administration.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

 

//////////////////////////////////////////////

Special Report: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage
BY ALEXANDRA HARNEY AND ANTONI SLODKOWSKI
HAKUSAN, Japan/HAIMEN, China, June 12 Thu Jun 12, 2014 
Courtesy: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/06/12/us-japan-labour-special-report-idUKKBN0EN06G20140612

Labor-short Japan expanding foreign trainee program

(Reuters) – Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 was a regular work day at Kameda, a family-owned apparel factory housed in rusting corrugated metal buildings in the western Japanese city of Hakusan. For three Chinese women, it was a day of escape.

At about 6:30 that morning, Ichiro Takahara, a Japanese union organizer, rolled up outside the dormitory where the women lived. Lu Xindi, Qian Juan and Jiang Cheng were waiting – they had been secretly plotting this move for months. Takahara drove them to a convenience store and then to the local labor standards office.

The story behind their flight began three years earlier and more than 900 miles (1,440 km) away in eastern China’s Jiangsu province. There, they signed up with a labor export company to work in Japan’s “foreign technical intern” program, which Tokyo insists is designed to help workers from developing countries learn advanced technical skills.

In a lawsuit filed in a Japanese court, Lu, Qian and Jiang claim that rather than training them, Kameda forced them to work excessive hours at below minimum wage. In 2011, their busiest year, the women were working 16 hours a day, six days a week, with 15 minutes for lunch, according to the lawsuit and work records. For that, they were paid around $4 per hour, according to records reviewed by Reuters.

Other former interns have made similar allegations in dozens of lawsuits filed in Japan. Their case stands out because during the time Lu, Qian and Jiang were working there, Kameda was putting pleats in Burberry BRBY.L clothes.

Japan is a key market for the British luxury brand, generating 12.8 percent of Burberry’s pre-tax profit, or around 55 million pounds ($92.5 million), in the year to March 31, 2013.

The profits came from licensing arrangements, some of which date back decades. Today, Burberry maintains licensing arrangements with four Japanese companies. The largest of these is with apparel manufacturer and retailer Sanyo Shokai, a relationship that began in 1970. Though most of what Burberry produces in Japan is sold there, factories in Japan also supply two stores in Hong Kong that sell the Burberry Blue and Burberry Black lines. Kameda was putting pleats in shirts and skirts sold by Sanyo Shokai under the Burberry Black line.

Burberry declined to allow Reuters to speak to any executives directly about the Kameda case. Through a public relations agency, it issued a statement saying Burberry had asked Sanyo Shokai to terminate its relationship with Kameda in late 2012 because Kameda was not complying with Burberry’s ethical standards.

Among Kameda’s other clients at this time were some of Japan’s largest trading houses: Itochu 8001.T and Mitsui Bussan Inter-Fashion (MIF), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mitsui & Co 8031.T. Mitsui said it was unaware of the lawsuit until Reuters contacted the company for comment; MIF said it would monitor the lawsuit and then decide about the company’s relationship with Kameda. Itochu said it was not aware that Kameda employed foreign technical interns.

Kameda’s website lists department store Isetan 3099.T as a client. A spokesman for the retailer, now known as Mitsukoshi Isetan, said that it has only been buying women’s apparel from Kameda since January.

The most recent government data show there are about 155,000 technical interns in Japan. Nearly 70 percent are from China, where some labor recruiters require payment of bonds worth thousands of dollars to work in Japan. Interns toil in apparel and food factories, on farms and in metal-working shops. In these workplaces, labor abuse is endemic: A 2012 investigation by Japanese labor inspectors found 79 percent of companies that employed interns were violating labor laws. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said it would use strict measures, including prosecution, toward groups that repeatedly violated the laws or failed to follow its guidance in their treatment of technical interns.

Critics say foreign interns have become an exploited source of cheap labor in a country where, despite having the world’s most rapidly ageing population, discussion of increased immigration is taboo. The U.S. State Department, in its 2013 Trafficking in Persons report, criticized the program’s use of “extortionate contracts”, restrictions on interns’ movements, and the imposition of heavy fees if workers leave.

Japan faces a worsening labor shortage, not only in family-run farms and factories such as Kameda but in construction and service industries. It is a major reason that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is planning a further expansion of the trainee program.

TRAINEES, NOT WORKERS

Lu, Qian and Jiang arrived in Osaka by boat on Nov. 19, 2009. Lu was 30, Qian 28, and Jiang just 19.

The women had signed up to work in Japan with a labor export company in the city of Haimen, not far from Shanghai, called Haimen Corporation for Foreign Economic & Technical Cooperation.

A woman at the company’s office who gave her name as Chen confirmed that the company sent workers to Japan to work in apparel factories. But she declined to discuss the Kameda case, or even confirm that the company had sent Lu, Qian and Jiang to Japan.

The Haimen firm then signed an agreement with Shanghai SFECO International Business Service, a subsidiary of state-owned company China SFECO Group, according to Guan Xiaojun, head of the Japan trainee department. Shanghai SFECO signed a contract with the Ishikawa Apparel Association and sent Lu, Qian and Jiang to Japan.

Guan said Lu, Qian and Jiang probably paid about RMB30,000, or more than $4,800, in “service fees”, as well as a separate fee of RMB4,550 that would be returned to the women after three years as long as they did not violate Japanese law. Asked about the accusations in the lawsuit, Guan said her company had only dispatched the workers. “Labor disputes have nothing to do with us,” she said.

The rules of the program specified that Lu, Qian and Jiang’s first year in Japan was to be devoted to training. Japanese law bars employing foreigners as unskilled laborers. But quietly, the country has been bringing in foreigners since at least the 1980s, originally to train staff of companies with operations overseas. The practice was formalized as the technical intern program in 1993.

The women received 18 days of Japanese language training in Osaka. Then, the Ishikawa Apparel Association put them on a bus for the drive to Kameda, said their lawyer, Shingo Moro.

Kameda specializes in making pleats. It had relied on foreign interns for about a decade because it couldn’t find enough workers in Japan, Yoshihiko Kameda, its president, told Reuters.

The conditions the lawsuit describes are a world apart from the clean, efficient image Japan projects to the world, and a far cry from the quintessentially British reputation on which Burberry trades.

Not long after their arrival, the apparel association took the women’s passports and passed them to Kameda in violation of Japanese law protecting interns’ freedom of movement, according to the lawsuit. An Ishikawa Apparel Association spokeswoman, who declined to give her name, said the group does not conduct inappropriate supervision and training, but declined further comment citing the lawsuit.

At the factory, Lu, Qian and Jiang’s overtime stretched to more than 100 hours a month, the lawsuit says. A timesheet prepared with data supplied by Kameda to the Japanese labor standards bureau shows Lu logged an average of 208 hours a month doing overtime and “homework” during her second year in Japan. That is equivalent to almost 16 hours a day, six days a week. Japanese labor policy considers 80 hours of overtime a month the “death by overwork” threshold.

For this, Lu earned about 400 yen, about $4, an hour at Kameda, the timesheet shows. The local minimum wage at the time was 691 yen an hour, and Japanese law requires a premium of as much as 50 percent of the base wage for overtime.

In addition, during lunch breaks and after work, the women were asked to do “homework”. For this, they were paid by the piece, rather than by the hour.

At night, Lu, Qian and Jiang slept in an old factory building, their lawyer says. To catch rats, Kameda brought in a cat, which brought fleas. Lu and Qian suffered so many flea bites they developed skin conditions, the lawsuit says. Evidence compiled for the lawsuit shows the women’s legs covered in bites.

REHEARSING THE INSPECTION

Like Lu, Qian and Jiang, most interns come through a program supported by the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO), a foundation funded by the Japanese government and member groups. JITCO is also tasked with ensuring its members’ internship programs are properly run.

Kameda’s factory is in Hakusan, an industrial town of about 100,000 people on Japan’s west coast, a center for Japan’s once booming apparel industry. That industry has largely been reduced to family-run factories, such as Kameda’s, which mostly do small orders with quick turnarounds at low margins. Around the Kameda factory are several others that employ foreign trainees from China and Southeast Asia.

In November 2011, Kameda told the interns the plant was going to be inspected by JITCO, according to testimony the women gave Takahara’s activist group. The inspection came after four Chinese interns at a nearby apparel factory – also a member of the Ishikawa Apparel Association – fled to Takahara’s shelter and filed a complaint about labor issues.

Kameda, who lives in a large house with a manicured Japanese garden opposite the factory where he used to house the women, tried to hide their working conditions from JITCO inspectors. Kameda threatened to send them back to China if they didn’t do as they were told, according to their testimony.

The day before the inspector arrived, Kameda gave Lu, Qian and Jiang fake payslips, according to their testimony. Together with an interpreter and a representative from the apparel association, Kameda told them how to respond to questions from the inspector. They rehearsed their answers twice. The next day, when the inspector asked them if they still had their passports, the women knew to say that they did.

JITCO declined to comment on the Kameda case.

Asked about alleged abuses in the program, JITCO said in a statement that it will continue to provide legal protection for interns. JITCO will also help supervising organizations adhere to immigration and labor laws and regulations “by providing all kinds of advice, and through public relations such as seminars and teaching materials”.

In the interview with Reuters, Kameda said the interns approached him about how they should respond to the JITCO inspection several times. He denied coaching or threatening to send them home if they did not answer as instructed. But he acknowledged telling Lu, Qian and Jiang that they might be sent home, as workers at the nearby factory had been.

He also recalled telling the workers their overtime – which he said exceeded 100 hours a month at that time – might be a problem for the JITCO inspector. In fact, JITCO even warned him the interns were working too much overtime, Kameda said. Asked about this inspection, JITCO said it would not comment on individual cases.

Kameda acknowledged keeping some of his workers’ passports, but said it was at their request. He said the women sometimes worked 100 hours of overtime a month and may have put in as many as 173 hours.

Kameda also said he initially paid them less than the legal wage. But he insisted the underpayment was the result of an administrative error. The additional hours and homework, he said, were provided at the women’s behest. Kameda warned the workers that the hours they were working were longer than Japanese labor law allowed, but the workers expressed a “strong desire” to continue working long hours, he told Reuters.

No one from the Ishikawa Apparel Association visited Kameda prior to a JITCO inspection, the apparel group’s spokeswoman said. She said she was not aware of any use of falsified payslips, or of any coaching of Kameda interns. She confirmed that the interns had complained to the association about their housing. The association, she said, asked Kameda to respond to the interns’ concerns.

Lu, Qian and Jiang, who have since returned to China, declined requests for an interview. Interns who have sued their former Japanese employers can face difficulties upon returning home, including intimidation, lawsuits and penalties from the Chinese companies who sent them to Japan – and also pressure from family members ashamed of their problems overseas.

THE UNDOING

The women complained several times to Kameda about their living conditions, labor organizer Takahara says, but nothing changed until they complained to the Ishikawa Apparel Association. After the group passed on this complaint, Kameda moved the women into temporary housing while he cleaned the converted factory where they slept. It was two months before they could move back into the factory, according to Takahara.

Around August 2012, the workers reached out to Takahara’s group. Could he help the workers negotiate a settlement like the one the Chinese interns received at the nearby apparel factory? Through a colleague who spoke Chinese, Takahara told them they would not be able to continue to work after they filed their complaint. He advised the interns to keep working and collect evidence. Over the next few months, Takahara and his colleagues worked out a plan with the Kameda interns.

Takahara, now 62, had been involved in brokering settlements for foreign workers for more than a decade in western Japan. Over the years, Takahara, who also works as a gardener, had worked out a script that he followed several times a year with foreign interns with grievances.

Because workers who complain have been forcibly deported, Takahara and other union representatives encourage interns to fulfill their contracts. They are meticulous in their documentation: keeping time cards, sending faxes from convenience stores so there is a dated record of the communication, alerting local labor inspectors before bringing in interns to report alleged violations to make sure staff are on hand.

The morning of their escape, Takahara drove the women from Kameda to a convenience store. There, they sent a fax to the factory requesting paid holiday until Nov. 19, the day their contract expired. Takahara then took them to the local labor standards office to testify about their experience at the factory. The inspectors were expecting them.

In late 2012, Kameda agreed to pay 1.3 million yen each to Lu, Qian and Jiang. In addition, the labor standards bureau ordered Kameda to pay 260,000 yen collectively to the three women for the “homework” they had been required to do on a piece rate. In the end, the women each received about 1.4 million yen, or nearly $14,000 at current exchange rates, Takahara says.

Kameda told Reuters he paid the full amount the labor standards bureau demanded and did everything asked of him. He blames Takahara’s group for stirring up resentment among the workers. “They were completely happy until they left and sued us,” Kameda said.

Moro, the women’s lawyer, says Kameda only paid what he owed the women for the second and third year of their time at his factory, and the homework settlement was not based on an accurate calculation of the hours the women worked.

On October 9, 2013, Moro filed suit on behalf of the three Chinese interns in a court in Kanazawa, naming Kameda and the Ishikawa Apparel Association as defendants. The suit asks for unpaid wages, expenses and damages for pain and suffering amounting to about 11.2 million yen, or about $109,000.

EXPANDING THE PROGRAM

It wasn’t until late 2012, after Lu, Qian and Jiang had left the factory and their complaints reported in the Mainichi newspaper, that a Burberry executive visited Kameda. Burberry asked Sanyo Shokai to terminate the relationship with Kameda “due to non-compliance and a lack of cooperation in the implementation of Burberry’s ethical standards,” Burberry said in its statement.

Burberry’s code of conduct, which covers licensees such as Sanyo Shokai, prohibits homework and bans the use of bonded labor and the payment of “deposits” to employers. It requires factories to pay at least the national legal minimum wage and provide safe, clean accommodation for workers. Workers should not be required to work more than 48 hours a week or 11 hours a day, the code says. Overtime should be both voluntary and no more than 12 hours a week; it should not be demanded on a regular basis. Burberry also requires all factories to make sure workers keep their “passports, ID cards, bank cards and similar documents to facilitate their unhindered freedom of movement”.

The luxury brand only began auditing Japanese suppliers for ethical compliance in 2009, the year Lu, Qian and Jiang arrived. Burberry’s two auditors started, according to a person familiar with the company’s activities, with the largest factories and those that produced finished goods.

Burberry’s current licensing arrangement with Sanyo Shokai and Mitsui will expire in June 2015. Under the terms of a new license agreement, the Burberry Blue and Black labels will continue as Blue Label and Black Label, dropping the Burberry name. Burberry will continue to audit the supply chain.

Today, about 37 of the approximately 270 factories that supply Burberry branded items to licensees in Japan use foreign interns supported by JITCO. These factories employ around 307 JITCO interns. Burberry now offers training and access to a hotline in Chinese.

“Burberry takes the welfare of workers in all areas of its supply chain extremely seriously,” the company said in a statement to Reuters. “In the case of foreign contract workers in particular, we are very focused on ensuring that they operate in conditions that adhere to the Burberry Ethical Trading Code of Conduct.”

Japan strengthened protection for interns in 2010, putting them under Japanese labor laws for all three years of their internship. But the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which represents more than 30,000 attorneys, argues the intern program should be scrapped on human rights grounds.

Kameda says his factory no longer employs foreign interns. He thinks Japan should drop the pretense of internships and allow foreigners to work as laborers. “Regardless of the women’s requests, I regret that I didn’t do things properly,” he wrote in an emailed response to questions from Reuters. He intends to counsel partner factories that employ interns “so what Kameda is experiencing won’t happen again.”

(Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki, James Topham and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo, and the Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Bill Tarrant)
ENDS

My Japan Times JBC column 76: “Humanize the dry debate about immigration”, June 5, 2014, with links to sources

mytest

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Hi Blog. Thanks as always for putting my article in the Top Ten most read on the JT Online once again!
justbecauseicon.jpg
========================================
Humanize the dry debate about immigration
By Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
JUST BE CAUSE COLUMN 76 FOR THE JAPAN TIMES
June 5, 2014, courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/06/04/issues/humanize-dry-debate-immigration/
Version with links to sources.

Japan’s pundits are at it again: debating what to do about the sinking demographic ship. With the low birthrate, aging and shrinking society (we dropped below 127 million this year) and top-heavy social security system, Japan’s structural problems will by many accounts spell national insolvency.

However, we’re hearing the same old sky pies: Proposals to plug the gaps with more Japanese babies, higher retirement ages, more empowered women in the workplace (also here) — even tax money thrown at matchmaking services!

And yet they still won’t work. Policymakers are working backwards from conclusions and not addressing the structural problems, e.g., that people are deserting a depopulating countryside for urban opportunities in an overly centralized governmental system, marrying later (if at all) and finding children too expensive or cumbersome for cramped living spaces, having both spouses work just to stay afloat, and feeling perpetual disappointment over a lack of control over their lives. And all thanks to a sequestered ruling political and bureaucratic elite whose basic training is in status-quo maintenance, not problem-solving for people they share nothing in common with.

Of course, proposals have resurfaced about letting in more non-Japanese (NJ) to work. After all, we have that time-sensitive 2020 Tokyo Olympics infrastructure to build — oh, and a Tohoku to reconstruct someday. And no self-respecting white-collar Taro wants those 3K (kitsui, kitanai and kiken — difficult, dirty and dangerous) jobs. Never mind that policymakers have rarely cared about the NJ already here investing their lives in Japan, long discouraged from settling via revolving-door visa regimes, and even bribed to leave in 2009.

So, come back! All is forgiven!

Predictably, the Shinzo Abe administration recently announced the expansion of the “trainee” program. You know, that exploitative, abusive and unmonitored system that has imported NJ since 1990, free from the protections of labor law? The one that causes dozens of NJ deaths from overwork and other “unknown causes” every year, and keeps many in conditions of virtual slavery? Despite a decade of criticisms from human-rights groups, parliamentarians and the United Nations, these three-year visas have been lengthened by two more so we can exploit them longer.

And then, a previously taboo word entered the discussion: imin (immigration). It made such an impact that prominent debate magazine Sapio made it June’s cover story.

Sapio_June.Cover

Michael Hoffman reviewed this spread in the JT in his Big In Japan column on May 24, “Will Japan be a country that welcomes all?”

Great. But I’ll answer Michael’s question right now: no — and not just for an obvious reason like Japan’s innate mistrust of outsiders. We also have a structural problem with how the concept of imin is being framed. It goes beyond constant othering and alienation: NJ aren’t even being seen as people.

Last time this debate came up, I lambasted the government for shutting NJ long-termers out of the deliberation councils drafting policies affecting them. I also mentioned how policymakers avoided the word imin.

So now imin has been formally broached — albeit while being stigmatized: The person in charge of the Immigration Bureau, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, immediately said NJ would present “adverse effects on security.” (Note to ad agencies: Don’t hire Tanigaki to sell your product.)

But imin has also been dehumanized. Look up “immigrant” in an English-Japanese dictionary and you get words such as ijūmin, ijūsha, imin rōdōsha and, oddly, mitsunyūkokusha and fuhō nyūkokusha (illegal immigrant). But these aren’t immigrants: These are migrants, here temporarily, as properly translated by domestic NGOs looking out for NJ interests, such as the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (Iju Rodosha to Rentai Suru Network).

The word for “immigration,” meaning something permanent, is imin — denoted on the Denshi Jisho dictionary site as a “sensitive” word (of course; that’s why the government avoided using it for so long).

But we still have no word for an immigrant as an individual person, such as iminsha, with its own honorific sha — in the same vein as ijūsha (migrant), rōdōsha (laborer), teijūsha (settler, usually a Nikkei South American), zairyūsha (temporary resident), eijūsha (permanent resident) and even (in a few government documents) kikasha (naturalized citizen).

It’s just the clipped imin. That means nobody gets to claim “I am an immigrant” in Japan. (Try it: “Watashi wa imin desu” sounds funny.) And this in turn means immigration remains a strictly statistical animal. Lost in this narrative is the idea that when we import labor, we import people. With lives. And needs. And voices to be heard.

This kind of framing damages the debate by taking away the immigrant’s voice. Take that Sapio special: From the very cover, you’ll notice that not one visible minority is featured among the talking heads.

Sapio_June.Cover

Almost all those speechifying inside are elite Japanese (including former Tokyo governor and professional bigot Shintaro Ishihara, which already signals where things are headed): the same old pundits defending their ideological camps with no real new ideas.

But more indicative of the framing of the debate is the main photo on Sapio’s cover: a hate-speech rally showing anti-Korean demonstrators vs. anti-racism counterdemonstrators. (A smaller inset photo shows South Americans at a labor-union rally. Their faces are visible, unlike those in the larger photo, which were blurred out to protect people’s privacy. More evidence of powerlessness: Apparently NJ aren’t people with privacy concerns.)

Hang on: An anti-Korean rally is not an issue of immigration; it’s got more to do with Japan’s unresolved historical issues with its neighbors.

If you define “immigrants” as NJ who have moved to Japan and made a life here as long-term residents (if not regular permanent residents, or ippan eijūsha) — i.e., the “Newcomers” — that’s a different group than the one being demonstrated against.

Being targeted instead are the “Oldcomers” — the Zainichi Korean and Chinese special permanent residents (tokubetsu eijūsha), descendants of former citizens of empire who have been living in and contributing to Japan for generations. The Oldcomers are not the “immigrants” in question — and from this blind spot, the debate goes askew.

Sapio’s editorial on discrimination towards NJ (pages 20-21) not only neglects to mention any examples of discrimination against Japan’s Newcomers; it also crosses its analytical wires by citing the Urawa Reds “Japanese only” exclusionary banner at Saitama Stadium last March as hate speech against the Oldcomers.

Hang on again: That “Japanese only” banner would not have affected the Zainichis. “Japanese only” is a narrative targeting Japan’s visible minorities, i.e., those who don’t “look Japanese” enough to pass an exclusionary manager’s scrutiny. Naturally, after several generations here, Zainichi can quietly enter a “Japanese only” zone without drawing hairy eyeballs. And while the historical wrongs done to the Zainichi in Japan are very worthy of discussion, they should not suck the oxygen out of the debate on immigrants.

But I believe this is by design: By entangling the debate in the same old Zainichi issues, the xenophobes can derail it with the same old paranoid fears about granting rights to potentially subversive North Korean and Chinese residents. This makes the true iminsha not only voiceless but invisible.

That’s exactly what the xenophobes want. A common theme in rightist writings is “more foreigners means less Japan,” and admitting more visible minorities (which inevitably happens when you import people) will always bring forth that tension. Best to just argue as if they don’t exist.

So what to do? Be Gandalf and say “That shall not pass!” Just as the Urawa Reds fans’ “Japanese only” banner forced the domestic media in March to finally admit that racial discrimination happens in Japan, we must force the nation’s elites to reframe the concept of immigration and humanize the immigrants behind the statistics. Allow the public to see a way to welcome Newcomers not only as individuals, but also as long-termers, immigrants and, ultimately, as citizens with the same rights and obligations as every other Japanese.

The elites will resist this, because the economic incentives are clear: The more powerless and invisible you keep NJ, the easier it is to exploit them.

So, if you want to finally address one of Japan’s structural problems, start by popularizing the word iminsha. Let regular folk with regular lives attach that term to an NJ neighbor they know. Then give them a voice.

Otherwise, it’s same old debate, same old (and getting older) Japan.
========================================

Debito Arudou received his Ph.D. from Meiji Gakuin University in International Studies in April. Twitter: @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

ENDS

Saitama’s Konsho Gakuen school, “Japanese Only” since 1976, repeals rule only after media pressure, despite prefecture knowing about it since 2012

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Significant news:  In addition to the bars, bathhouses, internet cafes, stores, restaurants, apartment rental agencies, schools, and even hospitals, etc. that have “Japanese Only” policies in Japan, the media has now publicized a longstanding case of a tertiary education institution doing the same.  A place called Konsho Gakuen (aka “Saitama Cooking College”, “Saitama Confectionary College” in brochures featured on NHK) in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, offering instruction in cooking, nutrition, and confections, has since it opened in 1976 never accepted NJ into their student body.  This exclusion was even written in their recruitment material as a “policy” (houshin):

konshogakuenJapaneseOnlyhoushin

People knew about this.  A Peruvian student denied entry complained to the authorities in 2012.  But after some perfunctory scolding from Saitama Prefecture, everyone realized that nothing could be done about it.  Racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan.  Nobody could be penalized, and it was unclear if anyone could lose a license as an educational institution.

So finally it hits the media.  And after some defiance by the school (claiming to NHK below inter alia that they don’t want to be responsible for NJ getting jobs in Japan; how conscientious), they caved in after about a week and said that the policy would be reversed (suck on the excuses they offered the media for why they had been doing it up to now — including the standard, “we didn’t know it was wrong” and “it’s no big deal”).

Debito.org would normally cheer for this.  But the school is just taking their sign down.  Whether they will actually ALLOW foreigners to join their student body is something that remains to be seen (and the J-media is remarkably untenacious when it comes to following up on stories of racial discrimination).  When we see enrollments that are beyond token acceptances (or happen at all, actually) over the course of a few years, then we’ll cheer.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

////////////////////////////////////////////////

‘No foreigners allowed’ cooking school backtracks, will accept foreign applicants
May 23, 2014 Mainichi Japan, Courtesy of JK
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140523p2a00m0na018000c.html

A private vocational school in Saitama Prefecture which had barred foreigners from enrollment has reversed course and will begin allowing foreign applicants for the 2015 academic year, the Mainichi has learned.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported in its May 23 morning edition that the Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture-based Konsho Gakuen states explicitly in its student recruitment material that “foreigners cannot enroll. This is school policy. Please be aware that this school does not accept foreigners.” Konsho Gakuen, established in 1976, operates three schools, one each for cooking, nutrition and confections.

A school representative told the Mainichi that it was “not accepting press inquiries,” and that the school’s policy “is exactly what it says (in the pamphlet). Foreigners had better go somewhere else.” According to a source related to the education sector in the prefecture, the school was “worried there would be trouble if it had many students staying in Japan illegally.”

Meanwhile, the prefectural educational affairs department said that the same “no foreigners” passage was included in Konsho Gakuen’s materials for both academic 2013 and 2014. Furthermore, the prefecture had formally requested in January and August last year that the school “select students for admission fairly, based on ability and aptitude,” but that Konsho Gakuen had not responded.

At about 11 a.m. on May 23, after the story had appeared in that morning’s edition of the Mainichi Shimbun, Konsho Gakuen board chairman Akio Imai called the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare — which overseas cooking schools — to apologize, according to ministry sources.

Imai was quoted as saying, “Starting from this academic year’s entrance exams, we will begin accepting foreign applicants.” He also apparently said the no-foreigners passage in Konsho Gakuen’s student recruitment materials would be deleted.
ENDS

Original Japanese article:

埼玉の専門学校:外国人入学を拒否「開設以来の方針」
毎日新聞 2014年05月23日 07時45分, Courtesy of MS
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20140523k0000m040129000c.html

来年4月の入学者向けに作られた埼玉県製菓専門学校の募集要項
調理師や栄養士を養成する埼玉県熊谷市の私立専門学校が、生徒の募集要項に「外国人の入学は出来ない」と明記していることが分かった。県が公正な選抜をするよう依頼したが、運営法人は「開設以来の学校の方針」として応じなかった。行政側に指導権限がないことから、差別的な取り扱いが是正されない状態が続いている。【奥山はるな】

外国人の受け入れを拒否しているのは、学校法人今昌学園(今井明巨理事長)が運営する埼玉県調理師専門学校と同栄養専門学校、同製菓専門学校の3校。書類選考と面接で入学者を決めているが、来年4月の入学者向け募集要項に「外国人の入学は出来ません。これは本校の方針です」と明記している。

今春や昨春入学分の要項も同様で、連絡を受けた県学事課は昨年1月と8月、法人に「本人の能力や適性をもって公正に選抜してほしい」と依頼したが応じなかった。

取材に対し、今井理事長は「(取材は)受けられない。理由はない」「募集要項にある通りだ。別の学校に行けばよい」と話したが、県内の教育関係者によると「不法滞在の学生が増えたら困る」と理由を説明しているという。

県学事課は「私学なので県が法的根拠をもって指導するのは難しいが、他校でこのような事例は聞いたことがない。誠に遺憾」と法人を非難。調理師などの養成機関として指定している厚生労働省関東信越厚生局は「外国人の入学について法令上の定めはなく、はっきり改善を求められない」とした。

文部科学省専修学校教育振興室は「教育基本法が定める教育の機会均等は外国人にも可能な限り適用されるべきだというのが通説で、不当な差別は望ましくない」とする一方で、「背景や事情があるのかもしれず個別具体的には判断できない」としている。

法人は1976年設立。県によると、3専門学校の在学者(5月1日現在)は調理師156人▽栄養140人▽製菓83人−−の計379人。

国籍による差別を巡っては、試合会場でサポーターが「JAPANESE ONLY」と書いた横断幕を掲げた問題で、3月にサッカーJリーグ1部の浦和レッズがリーグから処分を受けた

/////////////////////////////////////////

THE JAPAN TIMES, MAY 23, 2014, NATIONAL
School axes policy of barring foreigners
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI STAFF WRITER
(excerpt of the bottom half of the article, full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/05/23/national/school-axes-policy-of-barring-foreigners/

[…] When contacted by The Japan Times, Imai said he had decided to ditch the policy and said all three schools would start accepting applications from foreign students from the next academic year.

The decision came only a few months after an incident at a J. League soccer game fueled a nationwide debate about racial discrimination. At the game, fans of the Urawa Reds hung a banner above the stadium entrance declaring, in English, “Japanese Only.” The J. League punished the team for failing to remove the banner by forcing it to play its next home game in an empty stadium.

“I acknowledge that the (‘no-foreigner’ part) of our admission policy was terribly misleading,” Imai said without elaborating.

Imai said the remote location of his cooking schools in Kumagaya kept them somewhat isolated from the trends of globalization, making the mere thought of taking in foreign students “inconceivable.”

“I also acknowledge that we’ve had this fear about what would happen if we accepted foreigners. We’ve been afraid that there will be unpredictable consequence if we do,” Imai said without elaborating.

As for the no-foreigner policy, Imai said he never thought it would be considered discriminatory or xenophobic, despite warnings from the prefectural government, which has no authority to order a change in the private school’s policy.

“I thought other schools were doing the same, too,” he said.

After media pressure built, however, he spoke with the schools’ principals and decided Friday that he should make the admission policy “fairer” and bring it “up to date.”
ENDS

////////////////////////////////////////////////

埼玉の専門学校が外国人の入学拒否
NHK 5月23日 12時14分, Courtesy of MS
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20140523/k10014668071000.html (with video)

埼玉の専門学校が外国人の入学拒否
調理師などを養成する埼玉県熊谷市にある専門学校が生徒の募集要項に、「外国人の入学はできません」と記載して入学を断っていたことが分かり、埼玉県は運営する学校法人に改善を指導しましたが、これまでに応じていないということです。

この専門学校は、埼玉県熊谷市にある学校法人「今昌学園」が運営する調理師や栄養士などの専門学校3校です。

埼玉県によりますと、おととし11月、これらの専門学校の生徒の募集要項に「外国人の入学はできません」と記載されていると外部から指摘があり、県が調べたところ外国人の入学を断っていることが分かりました。

埼玉県は外国人の入学を認めないのは不適切だとして、学校法人に対し、能力や適性に基づいた公正な入学試験を行うよう口頭や文書で繰り返し改善を指導したということです。

これに対し、学校法人は「設立以来の学校の方針だ」として指導に応じていないということです。
「今昌学園」の役員はNHKの取材に対し、「外国人を受け入れないのは就職まで面倒をみることができないためで、昭和47年の設立以来受け入れていない」と話しています。

厚生労働相「調査し適切に対応」

この専門学校を調理師免許を取るための養成施設として指定している田村厚生労働大臣は、「差別的な扱いがあるとすれば望ましくない。どうして拒否しているか背景をしっかり調査したうえで、適切に対応したい」と述べ、学校関係者から聞き取り調査を行い、指導を行うかどうか検討する方針を示しました。

文部科学相「拒否は大変遺憾」

下村文部科学大臣は「外国人であることで差別があってはならない。意欲や能力、志がある人に対しては日本人、外国人を問わずチャンスを提供するべきで外国人という理由で入学を拒否することは大変遺憾だ。埼玉県に適切に指導してもらいたい」と話しました。
ENDS

SAPIO Mag features special on Immigration to Japan: Note odd media narratives microaggressing NJ (particularly the Visible Minorities) into voiceless role

mytest

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Hi Blog. As noted in the Japan Today article cited below, SAPIO debate magazine (June 2014) devoted an issue specifically to the issue of immigration (imin) to Japan (what with the Abe Administration’s renewed plan to import 200,000 NJ per year).

Good. But then it fumbles the issue with all manner of narratives that microaggress the NJ immigrant back into a position of being powerless and voiceless.  First, let’s start with SAPIO’s cover, courtesy of MS:

Sapio_June.Cover

COMMENT:  Notice anything funny?  Start with the sub-headline in yellow talking about having a vigorous debate from “each world” (kyaku kai).  Each?  Look at the debaters being featured in the bubbles.  See any Visible Minorities there?  Nope, they’re left out of the debate once again.  All we get are the typical powerful pundits (probably all Wajin, with “Papa Bear” Wajin Ishihara second in line). , Where is the voice of the immigrant?

And by “immigrant”, I mean people who have immigrated to Japan as NJ and made a life here as long-term resident if not actual Permanent-Residency holder.  The people who have indefinite leave to remain.  The “Newcomers“, who work in Japan and work for Japan.  As depicted in the picture of the labor-union demonstrators in the inset photo in the top right.

Now look at the larger photo.  It’s a xenophobic demo about issues between Japan and Korea (and no doubt China).  That’s not a debate about immigration.  It’s a hate rally airing historical grievances between Japan and it’s neighbors, gussied up as a jerry-rigged issue about “Zainichis having special privileges as NJ” (the very root complaint of the Zaitokukai group, which, even if those “special privileges” were meaningfully true, ought to happen anyway what with all the contributions the Zainichi have made to Japanese society both as prewar citizens of empire and postwar disenfranchised residents for generations; but I digress).  Anyway, the point is that the cover does not convey the issue of “immigration in Japan” accurately.  Zainichi issues dominate.

Finally, note how all the Wajin demonstrators have their faces blocked out in the photo.  Clearly Wajin have privacies to protect.  Not so the NJ protesting in the photo inset.  Hence NJ once again have fewer rights to privacy in the Japanese media.  Just like this photo from the racist Gaijin Hanzai Magazine of yore (remember that?  more information here). Comparative powerlessness in visual form.

gaijinhanzaipg11

Next up, check out the Japan Today writeup on the SAPIO special:

////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Consultant urges ‘one-of-a-kind’ immigration policy for Japan
JAPAN TODAY KUCHIKOMI MAY. 12, 2014 – TOKYO —
http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/consultant-urges-one-of-a-kind-immigration-policy-for-japan, courtesy lots of people

In its cover story for June, Sapio devotes 14 articles—including a contribution by former Tokyo Gov Shintaro Ishihara—and 23 pages to wide-ranging discussions on the subject of immigration. It looks like substantial changes are coming, and coming soon. What form should immigration take? What are the merits and demerits?

Management consultant Kenichi Ohmae is, if anything, a pragmatic person. He also expresses his ideas logically and persuasively, and he has devoted a lot of thinking to the issue of immigration, which he suggests be adopted as a policy in three successive stages.

First of all, the demographics don’t lie: by 2050 the largest age segment in Japan’s population pyramid, both for males and females will be those in their late 70s, with fewer and fewer younger people. If this course is maintained, people in their productive ages will decline rapidly. Ohmae says he pointed this out more than 20 years ago. During his past four decades as a business consultant, he has observed that in general, introduction of foreign workers in Japanese businesses has been carried out in five-year increments, during which time problems and challenges are resolved through a trial-and-error basis.

When one looks back 25 to 30 years, to the economic “bubble,” Japan found itself with a labor shortage, particularly in construction and manufacturing. It began bringing in “Nikkeijin” (people of Japanese ancestry) from Latin America, along with Pakistanis, Iranians and others. Since there was no visa status for manual laborers, they entered on tourist or student visas, and the government feigned disinterest when they took blue-collar jobs.

Then the bubble collapsed, and these workers were summarily dismissed. The number of illegal foreign workers declined, and Japan was soundly criticized for its lack of interest in the workers’ welfare.

The current Abe government appears inclined to issue guidelines that will expand entry by foreign workers in such fields as construction, nursing care, agriculture and household domestics. On the other hand, it’s proceeding with measures to ensure that the entry of such foreigners not be mistakenly construed as “immigration policies.” In other words, time limits will be imposed on those workers’ stays. Inevitably, this will result in a repeat of the mistakes and troubles that happened after the collapse of the bubble.

Considering that the Japanese babies being born now will take from 15 to 30 years before they start contributing to Japan’s economy, it’s clear that immigration offers Japan’s only hope to preserve its economic vitality. And, Ohmae emphasizes, now is probably its last chance to take meaningful action.

The three stages Ohmae proposes are: First, Japan should emulate Silicon Valley in attracting 1,000 skilled people a year from such countries as Israel, India, Taiwan, Russia and East European countries. But these people should not be limited only to the field of Information Technology. They would be concentrated in six “clusters” around the country, mostly in large urban areas where they and their families would be made to feel at home with access to churches, schools and so on.

The second stage is to find a way to attract 100,000 professionals a year in the category of work titles with the “shi” suffix (such as “kangoshi” or nurse), trained care providers, attorneys, firemen, etc), all of which are currently in short supply.

The third stage is to accept blue-collar workers, of whom at least 300,000 per year will be needed to keep Japan’s economic engine purring. Ohmae suggests the Japanese government set up and fund preparatory schools in countries likely to supply labor, where students can learn the basics of the Japanese language, laws, customs, and so on before they arrive. And passing an examination will entitle them to a Japanese-style “green card,” permanent residence and the right to work. Such a system is likely to help avoid concentration of unskilled foreigners who would gravitate to the slums that have created social problems in other countries.

When considering the future of immigration, Ohmae also urges the importance of avoiding its politicization among Japanese, so that when people debate its pros and cons, this can be done dispassionately, without tarring one another with “right wing” or “left wing” labels.

ENDS

////////////////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENT:  Although unusually well-intentioned (check out his paternalistic and misogynistic attitudes about Burmese and Aung San Suu Kyi in 1997’s SAPIO), Ohmae, despite his verbal distancing from Japan’s perpetual “Revolving Door” visa regimes, fundamentally recycles the same old ideas about bringing in brainy NJ (unscientifically linking job skills with thoroughbred nationalities/ethnicities and sequestering them in their own enclaves, once again), with no apparent suggestion about making these immigrants into Japanese citizens.  Well, we don’t want to give them too much power to actually have any say over their own lives here.  NJ can come here to work so that we Wajin can stay economically afloat, but that’s all.  They shouldn’t expect much more than the privilege to work and stay in our rich country for as long as they’re needed.

I’ll leave the readers to parse out all the unconscious “othering NJ” microaggressions for themselves, but, ultimately, the question remains:  Where is the specialist commenting on “immigration” (there are people well-studied in that science; try the United Nations) who will lend a specifically-trained viewpoint to the debate, instead of the same old, hoary Wajin pundits defending their ideologies?

Finally, consider the opening editorial article in SAPIO below, which explores the issue of discrimination in general in Japan.  Despite the title (which rightfully talks about hate speech towards Zainichi Koreans and Chinese as shameful for a first-world country), it opens with some soul-searching about the Urawa Reds fans’ “JAPANESE ONLY” banner in Saitama Stadium as an example of Japan’s discriminatory attitudes.  Fine.  But then the article is hijacked once again by the (very important, but not complete) issues of domestic discrimination towards the Zainichi.

Remember, this is an issue also devoted to IMMIGRATION.   The numbers of the Zainichi Koreans and Chinese (i.e., the “Oldcomers”) have been dropping for many years now.  They are not the immigrants of note.  The immigrants, as I defined above, are the NEWCOMERS.  And once again, their voice is not represented within the debate on discrimination or assimilation in Japan.  Those minorities, particularly the Visible Minorities, are silenced.

What’s particularly ironic in the citation of the Urawa Reds’ “Japanese Only” banner is that IT WOULD NOT HAVE AFFECTED THE ZAINICHIS.  “Japanese Only” as a narrative very specifically affects those who do not “look Japanese“.  Thus any Zainichi in Saitama Stadium that day would have “passed” as “Japanese” on sight identification, and could have chosen to sit in those exclusionary stands.  Thus SAPIO, like just about all Japanese media I’ve ever seen, once again crosses its analytical wires, and with these narratives riddled with blind spots and microaggressions, Japan’s “immigration” issue will not be resolved.

That said, I think PM Abe knows this.  That’s why his administration is going back to bribing Wajin to have more babies.  More on that here courtesy of JK.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Sapio_June1 Sapio_June2

 

ENDS

 

Reuters: Abe Admin seeks to expand, not contract, the deadly exploitative NJ “Trainee” program

mytest

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Hi Blog.  When Debito.org last seriously talked about the issue of Japan’s foreign “Trainees” (i.e. NJ brought over by the GOJ who are allegedly “in occupational training”, therefore not qualifying as “workers” entitled to labor law protections), it was back in July 2010, when news broke about the death of 27 of them in 2009.  The news to me was that it was only the SECOND worst casualty rate on record. Even more scandalous was that about a third of the total dead NJ (as in eight) had died of, quote, “unknown causes” (as if that’s a sufficient explanation; don’t they have autopsies in Japan to fix that? Oh wait, not always.). Kyodo News back then lazily (or rather, ignorantly) observed how problematic the system has been, stating that “a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages”. Hardly “recent” even back then:  Despite years of calls to fix or abolish the program entirely, with official condemnations in 2006 of it as “a swindle“, and the UN in 2010 essentially calling it slavery (see below), it was still causing deaths at the rate of two or three NJ a month.  (The irony was that karoushi (death from overwork) was a big media event when Japanese were dying of it. Clearly less so when NJ die.)

Now sit down for this news:  The GOJ is seeking not to reform the “Trainee” system, but rather to EXPAND it.  As the article indicates below, we’ve gotta get more cheap, disposable, and ultimately expendable foreigners to build our Tokyo Olympics in time for 2020.  And then we can round them up once their visas expire and deport them (that is, if they’re still alive), like we did back in Nagano for the 1998 Olympics.

This is precisely the type of exploitative capitalism that creates Marxists.   But again, who in Japan empathizes with NJ workers?  They’re only here to earn money and then go home, right?  So they deserve to be exploited, runs the common national narrative.  And under that discourse, no matter how bad it gets for them (and so far it really, really has), no amount of domestic or international condemnation will stop it.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Japan moves to expand controversial foreign worker scheme
BY ANTONI SLODKOWSKI
REUTERSAPR 2, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/02/national/japan-moves-to-expand-controversial-foreign-worker-scheme/

Japan is considering expanding a controversial program that now offers workers from China and elsewhere permits to work for up to three years, as the world’s fastest-aging nation scrambles to plug gaps in a rapidly shrinking workforce.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday submitted a proposal to let workers to stay for up to five years, relax hiring rules for employers and boost the number of jobs open to them.

“We will strengthen the governance of the program,” LDP lawmaker Yasuhisa Shiozaki, who authored the proposal, told reporters. “We are aware of the concerns and we allowed people who had objections to voice their objections.”

Shiozaki said the LDP wanted to see harsher penalties for companies that abused foreign workers and would use external inspectors and local governments to monitor compliance.

The program, started in 1993, sponsors around 150,000 workers, mostly Chinese, for jobs in areas such as the garment industry and farms.

In theory, the foreign workers come to Japan as trainees to acquire technical expertise, but lawyers and labor activists say many face abuse, from illegally low wages to the confiscation of their passports.

Such conditions “may well amount to slavery,” the United Nations said in 2010, and called on Tokyo to scrap the program.

But Japan is desperate for more workers, especially in industries such as construction and farming. With just under half its population expected to be aged 65 or older by 2060, Japan faces a severe labor shortage that promises to hamper Abe’s ambitious economic revival plans.

Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer who has represented foreign workers based in Tokyo, said the proposed safeguards would not go far enough and urged the government to abolish, rather than expand, the program.

“The workers can’t freely choose their workplace after coming to Japan. They are refused the right to sign and cancel contracts, so they have no freedom as laborers,” said Ibusuki.

“If you don’t fix this structural problem, it doesn’t matter how much you tighten regulations, it won’t go away,” he said.

Nearly 200 companies were found to have mistreated trainees in 2012, a jump of 21 percent from two years earlier, government data show. There were 90 cases of failure to pay legal wages and more than 170 cases of violations of labor regulations.

The shortage of workers is most acute in the construction industry, whose workforce has shrunk by a third from 1997, when public works peaked. By 2010, about a fifth of all construction workers were older than 60.

The lack of workers has left construction companies struggling to meet demand for new projects tied to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and reconstruction work in areas destroyed by the 2011 tsunami.

Shiozaki said two government panels reporting to Abe will discuss the proposal and consider it as part of a growth strategy to be announced in June.

Foreign-born workers make up less than 1.3 percent of the workforce, according to the 2010 census.

ENDS

SITYS: Japan Times: “Points System” visa of 2012 being overhauled for being too strict; only 700 applicants for 2000 slots

mytest

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Hi Blog. When looking through my “Draft” posts (i.e., the ones I put on hold for publication later), I noticed that I forgot to blog this one when it came out. It’s another instance where Debito.org got it right (filed under the category of SITYS, or “See I Told You So”).

When the GOJ came out with its “Points System” in 2012, we said that it would be a failure (actually even before that — in its embryonic stage Debito.org still doomsaid, see here and here), because, as the previous links discuss, a) its standards are awry and too high (even giving no real weight to the NJ who took the trouble to learn Japanese), and b) it is underpinned with an elite arrogance that NJ are beating down the doors to enter rich and safe Japan no matter what (without paving the way for them to be treated equally with Japanese in terms of employment or civil rights). Japan isn’t as attractive a labor market as Japan’s bureaucrats might think, for structural and systemic reasons that Debito.org has been substantiating for decades.  And yes, as the article below substantiates, the “Points System” has failed — less than half the number of people the GOJ was aiming for bothered to apply.

Sorry for the delay in postings these days (I have a monster project that I have to finish up, so blogging has to go on the back burner). Let me just put this post up as a matter of record (I already incorporated the information into my January Japan Times JBC column; see Item 4), and I’ll put something different up tomorrow for discussion. ARUDOU, Debito

////////////////////////////////////
NATIONAL
Initiative fails to lure high-skilled foreigners
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI
The Japan Times, DEC 24, 2013
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/12/24/national/initiative-fails-to-lure-high-skilled-foreigners/

After drawing too few applicants, a government-led initiative to attract “highly skilled foreigners” was overhauled Tuesday by the Justice Ministry.

Started in May 2012, the program is designed to shore up the thinning domestic labor force. Statistics from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research show the population will plunge to about 90 million by 2050 from 127 million at present.

Foreign applicants receive “points” based on such criteria as academic achievement, career background and annual income. More than 70 points earns access to a raft of visa perks, such as the right to work no matter the visa status, visas for parents and housekeepers to care for children, and a fast track to permanent residence. Examples of highly skilled professionals include researchers, university professors, corporate executives and engineers.

While the ministry believed 2,000 foreign residents in Japan a year would qualify, only 700 had applied as of September, immigration bureau official Nobuko Fukuhara said.

The system has been criticized as setting too high a bar for applicants. For example, those under 30 years of age had to earn at least ¥3.4 million annually to qualify, while those over 40 needed to exceed ¥6 million.

With the changes Tuesday, anyone earning over ¥3 million is eligible. The minimum income requirement will be scrapped altogether for academics, who are at a disadvantage due to their relatively lower income.

In another move to help academics, their scholarly achievements will be given more points.

Bonus points will also be added for applicants’ Japanese language skills and experience studying at Japanese schools.

“We’re fully aware just giving foreigners visa perks wouldn’t be such a big incentive for them to come to Japan,” said Fukuhara, who noted Japan needs to adopt more fundamental reforms, such as raising salaries.
ENDS

=============================

ONE MORE COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  The Coda is maintained at the very end of the article, reinforcing the stereotype that NJ only alight in Japan for money…

Weird stats from Jiji Press citing MHLW’s “record number of NJ laborers” in Japan. Yet Ekonomisuto shows much higher in 2008!

mytest

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Hi Blog. Just got this interesting note from Debito.org Reader JDG:

============================

Food for thought…

///////////////////////////////////////////////

NATIONAL
Foreign workers in Japan hit record 717,504
JIJI, JAN 31, 2014, reprinted in The Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/01/31/national/foreign-workers-in-japan-hit-record-717504/

The number of foreign workers in Japan stood at 717,504 at the end of last October, up 5.1 percent from a year before, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday.

The figure was the highest since it became mandatory for employers to submit reports on foreign employees to the ministry in 2007.

The increase reflected an improvement in the employment situation amid the economic recovery and Japanese companies’ growing moves to hire foreigners with special skills, according to the ministry.

The number of Chinese workers was the highest, at 303,886, or 42.4 percent of the total, followed by Brazilians at 95,505, or 13.3 percent, Filipinos at 80,170, or 11.2 percent, and Vietnamese at 37,537, or 5.2 percent.

The number of Chinese workers rose 2.5 percent. Filipino and Vietnamese workers increased 10.0 percent and 39.9 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the number of Brazilian workers fell 6.3 percent.

Of all foreign workers, 27.3 percent were in Tokyo, followed by 10.9 percent in Aichi Prefecture, 5.9 percent in Kanagawa Prefecture, 5.3 percent in Osaka Prefecture and 5.2 percent in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The government is considering accepting more foreign workers under its growth strategy and reviewing on-the-job training programs for foreigners.
ENDS
///////////////////////////////////////////////

JDG comments: The number of NJ workers in Japan has hit record levels, apparently.

Now, when I saw this, I expected to read lots of stern warnings about the danger of NJ *infiltration* into Japan, but the article claims that this increase is due to the J-gov’s amazing efforts to attract NJ with ‘special skills’ (and, of course, because *our great leader’s* economic policy is a godsend).

But hang on! I thought that the scheme to attract 2000 ‘elite gaijin’ a year was pronounced a failure?

Upon further reading it seems that most of these ‘gaijin with special skills’ are from asia (mainly China) leading me to suspect that their ‘special skill’ is their preparedness to work for minimum wage. Also,the biggest number is in Tokyo. So I suspect that rather than Tokyo being over-run with Chinese millionaire stock-brokers, it could be more accurate to deduce that these Nj are doing all the KKK jobs that the Japanese think they are too good for- combini’s and waitressing.

Interestingly, because this is being touted as a symptom (sorry, I meant ‘result’) of Abe’s economic policy, it will now be difficult for the NPA to announce the next ‘gaijin crime-wave’. I predict that when Abe throws a sickie, such an announcement will come. JDG
==========================

COMMENT FROM DEBITO: Okay, there’s something fishy going on here. Check out this cover from Ekonomisuto of January 15, 2008, now more than six years ago, which puts the figure of NJ working in Japan at more than 930,000 (the すでに93万人 in the subtitle after the yellow kanji) — a helluva lot more than the allegedly record-breaking 717,504 quoted in the article above.

ekonomisuto011508cover

I have the feeling that statistics somewhere are being kneaded for political ends (unsurprisingly), as JDG notes. We must show a recovery of sorts no matter what (ironically now pinning part of it on NJ workers in Japan), making Abenomics a bubble in thought as well as in economic stats. What a shame that JIJI seems to be parroting the ministerial line of calling it record-breaking without any research or critical thinking.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the more standardized statistics from the Ministry of Justice (not MHLW) which shows how many NJ are registered as LIVING in Japan. NJ do a lot more in Japan than just work, and the figure given for Brazilians in Japan (95,505) seems remarkably small compared to the hundreds of thousands that lived (or used to live) in Japan in previous years. If those new MOJ stats are out, somebody please feel free to track them down and repost (awfully busy at the moment). Thanks. ARUDOU, Debito

ENDS

My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column January 7, 2014: “The empire strikes back: The top issues for NJ in 2013”, with links to sources

mytest

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Happy New Year to all Debito.org Readers.  Thank you as always for reading and commenting.  2014 has a few things looming that will affect life for everyone (not just NJ) in Japan, as I allude to in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (came out a few days later than usual, since there was no paper on January 2, on January 7, 2014).

Thanks to everyone once again for putting it in the most-read article for the day, once again. Here’s a version with links to sources. Arudou Debito
justbecauseicon.jpg

THE JAPAN TIMES ISSUES | JUST BE CAUSE
The empire strikes back: the top issues for non-Japanese in 2013
BY ARUDOU Debito
JANUARY 7, 2014
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/01/06/issues/the-empire-strikes-back-the-top-issues-for-non-japanese-in-2013/

Welcome to JBC’s annual countdown of 2013’s top human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan. This year was more complex, as issues that once targeted NJ in specific now affect everyone in general. But here are six major events and five “bubble-unders” for your consideration:

11. Marutei Tsurunen, Japan’s first foreign-born Diet member of European descent, loses his seat (see “Ol’ blue eyes isn’t back: Tsurunen’s tale offers lessons in microcosm for DPJ,” JBC, Aug. 5).

10. Donald Richie, one of the last of the first postwar generation of NJ commentators on Japan, dies aged 88.

9. Beate Sirota Gordon, one of the last living architects of the liberalizing reforms within the postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89.

8. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes a revisionist stance on Japanese history regarding the wartime sex-slave issue and reveals his camp’s political vulnerability (“By opening up the debate to the real experts, Hashimoto did history a favor,” JBC, June 4).

7. Tokyo wins the 2020 Olympics, strengthening the mandate of Japan’s ruling class and vested construction interests (see “Triumph of Tokyo Olympic bid sends wrong signal to Japan’s resurgent right,” JBC, Sept. 1).

6. Xenophobia taints No. 1 cleanup

The Fukushima debacle has been covered better elsewhere, and assessments of its dangers and probable outcomes are for others to debate. Incontrovertible, however, is that international assistance and expertise (despite this being an international problem) have been rejected due to official xenophobia.

Last January, The New York Times quoted Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director of the Environment Ministry and the man in charge of the cleanup, as saying that foreign technologies were somehow not applicable to Japan (“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example”), and that foreigners themselves were menacing (“If we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there”). Nishiyama resigned several months later, but Fukushima’s ongoing crisis continues to be divisively toxic both in fact and thought.

5. Japan to adopt Hague treaty

As the last holdout in the Group of Eight (G-8) nations yet to sign this important treaty governing the treatment of children after divorces, both houses of the Diet took the positive step in May and June (after years of formal nudging by a dozen countries, and a probable shove from U.S. President Barack Obama last February) of unanimously endorsing the convention, with ratification now possible in 2014.

As reported on previous Community pages, Japanese society condones (both in practice and by dint of its legal registration systems) single-parent families severing all contact with one parent after divorce. In the case of international divorces, add on linguistic and visa hurdles, as well as an unsympathetic family court system and a hostile domestic media (which frequently portrays abducting Japanese mothers as liberating themselves from violent foreign fathers).

The Hague treaty seeks to codify and level the playing field for negotiation, settlement and visitation. However, Japanese legal scholars and grass-roots organizations are trying to un-level things by, among other things, fiddling with definitions of “domestic violence” to include acts that don’t involve physical contact, such as heated arguments (bōgen, or violent language) and even glaring at your partner (nirami). Put simply: Lose your temper (or not; just seethe) and you lose your kids. Thus, the treaty will probably end up as yet another international agreement caveated until it is unenforceable in Japan.

4. Visa regimes get a rethink

Two years ago, domestic bureaucrats and experts held a summit to hammer out some policies towards foreign labor. JBC pointed out flaws in their mindsets then (see “In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for non-Japanese,” July 3, 2012), and last year they ate some crow for getting it wrong.

First, a highly touted “points system” for attracting highly skilled workers with visa perks (which JBC argued was unrealistically strict; see “Japan’s revolving-door immigration policy hard-wired to fail,” March 6, 2012) had as of September only had 700 applicants; the government had hoped for 2,000. Last month, the Justice Ministry announced it would relax some requirements. It added, though, that more fundamental reforms, such as raising salaries, were also necessary — once again falling for the stereotype that NJ only alight in Japan for money.

In an even bigger U-turn, in October the government lifted its ban on South American NJ of Japanese descent “returning” to Japan. Those who had taken the repatriation bribes of 2009 (see “Golden parachutes for Nikkei mark failure of race-based policy,” JBC, April 7, 2009), giving up their accumulated welfare benefits and Japanese pensions for an airfare home, were now welcome to return to work — as long as they secured stable employment (as in, a one-year contract) before arrival. Good luck with that.

Again, what’s missing in all this is, for example, any guarantee of a) equal protection under labor and civil law against discrimination, b) equal educational opportunities for their children, and c) an integration and settlement program ensuring that revolving-door visas and tenuous jobs do not continue forever. But the Abe administration has never made a formal immigration plan one of its policy “arrows”; and, with the bigger political priorities discussed below, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

3. Hate speech turns murderous

This was also the year that the genteel mask of “polite, peace-loving Japan” slipped a bit, with a number of demonstrations across the nation advocating outright hatred and violence towards NJ. “Good Koreans or bad, kill them all,” proclaimed one placard, while another speaker was recorded on video encouraging a “massacre” in a Korean neighborhood of Osaka. An Asahi Shimbun reporter tweeted that anti-Korean goods were being sold on Diet grounds, while xenophobic invective (even rumors of war with China) became normalized within Japan’s salacious tabloids (see here and here).

It got so bad that the otherwise languid silent majority — who generally respond to xenophobia by ignoring it — started attending counterdemonstrations. Even Japan’s courts, loath to take strong stands on issues that might “curb freedom of speech,” formally recognized “hate speech” as an illegal form of racial discrimination in October, and ordered restitution for victims in one case (a Zainichi Korean school) and a year of actual jail time in another (for harassing a company that had used a Korean actress in its advertising).

However, leading politicians offered only lukewarm condemnations of the hatred (Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it “dishonorable,” months after the fact) and no countermeasures. In fact, in April, Tokyo’s then-governor, Naoki Inose, slagged off fellow Olympic candidate city Istanbul by denigrating Islam — yet Tokyo still got the games.

Meanwhile, people who discussed issues of discrimination in Japan constructively (such as American teacher Miki Dezaki, whose viral YouTube video on the subject cost him his job and resulted in him retreating to a Buddhist monastery for a year) were bullied and sent death threats, courtesy of Japan’s newly labeled legion of anonymous netto uyoku (Internet rightists).

This political camp, as JBC has argued in the past two annual Top 10 lists, is ascendant in Japan as the country swings further to the right. With impressive victories:

2. LDP holds both Diet chambers

In July, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party accomplished its primary goal by chalking up a landslide victory in the Upper House to complement its equally decisive win in the Lower House in December 2012. Then, with virtually no opposition from the left, it got cocky in its deceptiveness.

Shortly after the election, Deputy PM Taro Aso enthused aloud about Nazi Germany’s policymaking tactics, advocating similar stealth for radical constitutional reforms before Japan’s public realizes it. Later it became clear that LDP reform proposals (excising, for example, “Western” conceits of individuality, human rights and a demystified head of state, and replacing them with the duty to “respect” national symbols, the “public interest” and “public order”) might be too difficult to accomplish if laws were actually followed. So off went Abe’s gaijin-handlers on overseas missions (see “Japan brings out the big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.,” JBC, Nov. 6) to announce that reinterpretations of the Constitution’s current wording would resolve pesky postwar restrictions.

Meanwhile, Abe was being rebranded for foreign consumption as a peace-loving “ethnic nationalist” instead of (in JBC’s view) a radical historical revisionist and regional destabilizing force. Not only was his recent visit to controversial Yasukuni Shrine repackaged as a mere pilgrimage to Japan’s version of Arlington National Cemetery, but Japan’s remilitarization was also portrayed as a means to assist America and the world in more effective peacekeeping operations, as seen in Abe’s “human security” and “proactive peace policy” neologisms.

As always, a liberal slathering of “peace” talk helps the munitions go down. Just pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. For curtains are precisely what are being drawn with the passage of:

1. The state secrets law

In a country where most reforms proceed at a glacial pace, the Act on Protection of Specified Secrets took everyone by surprise, moving from the public-debate back burner to established law in mere weeks. We still don’t know what will be designated as a “secret,” although official statements have made it clear it would include information about Fukushima, and could be used to curtail “loud” public rallies by protesters LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba likened to “terrorists.”

We do know that the punishments for leakers, including journalists, will be severe: up to 10 years’ jail for leaking something the government says it doesn’t want leaked, and five for “conspiracy” for attempting to get information even if the investigating party didn’t know it was “secret.” It’s so vague that you can get punished for allegedly “planning” the leak — even before the leak has happened or concrete plans have been made to leak. Although resoundingly condemned by Japan’s media, grass roots and the United Nations, it was too little, too late: Stealth won.

The state secrets law is an unfolding issue, but JBC shares the doomsayers’ view: It will underpin the effort to roll back Japan’s postwar democratic reforms and resurrect a prewar-style society governed by perpetual fear of reprisal, where people even in privileged positions will be forced to double-guess themselves into silence regarding substantiated criticism of The State (see the JT’s best article of the year, “The secret of keeping official secrets secret,” by Noriko Hama, Japanese Perspectives, Nov. 30).

After all, information is power, and whoever controls it can profoundly influence social outcomes. Moreover, this law expands “conspiracy” beyond act and into thought. Japan has a history of “thought police” (tokubetsu kōtō keisatsu) very effectively controlling the public in the name of “maintaining order.” This tradition will be resuscitated when the law comes into force in 2014.

In sum, 2013 saw the enfranchised elite consolidating their power further than has ever been seen in the postwar era, while Japan’s disenfranchised peoples, especially its NJ residents, slipped ever lower down the totem pole, becoming targets of suspicion, fear and loathing.

May this year be a healthy one for you and yours. ARUDOU, Debito

Tokyo Metro Govt issues manual for J employers hiring NJ employees: Lose the “Staring Big Brother” stickers, please!

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org Reader JF found this sticker up in Ikebukuro a few weeks ago:

NJstarephoto

Issued by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Youth and Safety Policy Division, it says that the employer of this establishment will not hire illegal foreign workers.  The slogan rimming above says, “Office declaring its promotion of the proper employment of foreigners”, complete with The Staring Eyes of Big Brother that probe all souls for criminal intent, sorta thing.  Like this one, snapped in Tamagawa last September:

TheEyeNPAstarephoto
(which says, “We won’t overlook crime!  If you see anyone suspicious, call the cops!”)

JF comments:  “I sort of see what they are trying to say with it, but I still think this sticker is bad style and puts all of us in a bad light. Suggesting yet again that many foreigners work illegally, while the actual percentage is probably tiny.”

It is, the number of so-called “illegal foreigners” long since peaking in 1993 and continuing to drop, despite police propaganda notices claiming the contrary (see for example here and here).

JF did a bit more searching about the origin of the stickers, and discovered a downloadable manual directed at employers about how to hire foreign workers legally:
http://www.seisyounen-chian.metro.tokyo.jp/chian/gaikokujin/24manual.pdf

Here’s the cover:

gaikokujinhiringmanualcover

Entitled “Gaikokujin Roudousha Koyou Manyuaru” (Hiring Manual for Foreign Workers), you can download it from Debito.org at https://www.debito.org/TokyotoGaikokujinHiringManual2013.pdf.

It opens reasonably well, with the first sentence in the preface (page 1) stating that illegal overstaying foreign workers aren’t just a cause of the worsening of public safety (yes, that old chestnut again), but they also have human rights, and influence the economic competitiveness of Japan.  It talks about the five-year goal of halving the number of illegal overstayers starting from 2003, and how that did indeed succeed, but there are still about 70,000 illegal foreigners still extant, with about 70% of them entering the country with the goal of working illegally (I don’t know how they determined that without installing a “mental goal detector” at the airport, but anyway…).  It also talks about the change in policy sloganing away from “strengthening policy against illegal foreign labor” in 2003 to the promotion of “proper employment of foreign workers” in 2009 and 2010; okay, that’s a bit better.

The manual defines “illegal labor” on page 3, and the new immigration procedures of 2012 on page 2 — with very clear outlines of what employers should check to make sure everything is legal (the Zairyuu Kaado (ZRK), the replacement for the old Gaitousho), and what criminal fines and penalties might happen if they don’t.  Page 4 describes what is on the ZRK, who gets it and who doesn’t, and what types of visas in particular should be checked for work status.  Page 5 tells the employer how to read official documents and stamps, and page 6 elaborates on how to spot forgeries.  There’s even a GOJ website the employer can use to verify details on said NJ employee, with a surprising amount of technical detail on how the ZRK is coded (see here and here) discussed on page 7.  The manual continues on in that vein for a couple more pages, essentially telling the employer how to read a ZRK (or old remaining Gaitousho) and visa stamps like an Immigration official.  Pages 12 and 13 talk about visa regimes and what times of work fall into each, and 14-15 offer more warnings to employers about not following the rules.  The book concludes with how to treat longer-term NJ, and offers contact numbers for questions.

COMMENT:  I welcome more thoughtful comments from other Debito.org Readers, but I think this manual (overlooking the “Staring Big Brother” stickers; albeit that may just be a cultural conceit of mine) is a good thing.  For one reason, it’s inevitable:  Employers have to be told the rules clearly and the punishments for not following them (as opposed to the NJ alone getting punished for overstaying, with little to no penalty for the employer — who often wants or forces NJ to overstay in order to put them in a weaker wage bargaining position); let’s hope employer punishments are “properly” enforced in future.  For another, the illustrations are less racialized than usual, to the point where it is unclear who is “Japanese” and who is “foreign” on page 16.  Good.  Definitely progress, compared to this.

My only misgiving is that this feels like a training manual for how to operate a complicated piece of consumer electronics, and for that reason is dehumanizing.  It also might deter people from hiring NJ if things are this potentially mendoukusai.   That said, I’m not sure in what other way that information could have been transmitted; links to better-executed foreign employment manuals for other countries welcome in the Comment Section.  What do others think?  Arudou Debito

Come back Brazilian Nikkei, all is forgiven!, in a policy U-turn after GOJ Repatriation Bribes of 2009

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Hi Blog.  In an apparent policy U-turn, the GOJ decided last week to lift the ban on certain South Americans of Japanese descent (Nikkei) from re-entering Japan.  This after bribing them to leave in 2009 so that they would not become an inconvenient unemployment statistic (not to mention that it was cheaper to pay their airfare than to pay them their social welfare that they had invested in over the decades, or pay them their pensions in future when reaching retirement age).

The reasons for this U-turn are being discussed in a recent Japan Times article, excerpted below.  The article speculates that a couple of embarrassing lawsuits and visa-denials might have tipped the GOJ’s hand (I for one doubt it; Japan’s visa regimes, as can be seen for example in its perennial stance towards refugees, are generally impervious to public exposure and international pressure).  I believe it was more an issue of the GOJ facing reality (as happened more than one year ago at the highest policymaking levels, where even the GOJ still maintained the stance that if immigration was an inevitability, they had better bring back people with Japanese blood; after all, the only ones in attendance were all Wajin and one token Nikkei).

Debito.org has spoken out quite hot-tonguedly about how ludicrous the Nikkei Repatriation Bribe was, not the least because of its inherently racialized paradigms (because they only applied to Nikkei — people who were also in even more dire financial straits due to the economic downturn, such as the Chinese and Muslim factory workers laboring in conditions of indentured servitude, were left to fend for themselves because they lacked the requisite Japanese blood).

So as a matter of course Debito.org cheers for the lifting of the ban.  But the Bribe and the Ban should never have happened in the first place.  So the GOJ can also take its lumps even if they are ultimately making the right decision.

Does this mean that the numbers of registered NJ residents of Japan will start to increase again?  I will say it could happen.  I stress: could, not will happen.  But if it did, that statistic, not any asset bubbles and transient stock-market numbers that people keep championing as the putative fruits of “Abenomics”, will be the real indicator of Japan’s recovery.   That is to say, if Japan ever regains its sheen as an attractive place to work for international labor, then an increase in Japan’s NJ population will cause and signal a true leavening of Japan’s economic clout and prowess.  But I remain skeptical at this juncture — as I’ve said before, the jig is up, and outsiders generally know that Japan has no intention or enforceable laws to treat immigrants as equals, no matter how much of their lives and taxes they invest.

At this time, I believe international migrant labor will continue to vote with their feet and work elsewhere.  So good luck with significant numbers coming to Japan even with this ban lifted.  Arudou Debito

==========================
Referential article:

Ban lifted on ‘nikkei’ who got axed, airfare
But Japanese-Brazilians must have work contract before coming back
BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI, The Japan Times OCT 15, 2013
EXCERPT:
In what could be a significant change in policy affecting “nikkei” migrant workers from Brazil, the government Tuesday lifted a ban on the return of Japanese-Brazilians who received financial help in 2009 to fly home when they were thrown out of work during the global financial crisis.

Ostensibly an attempt to help the unemployed and cash-strapped Latin American migrants of Japanese ethnic origin escape the economic woes here, the 2009 initiative offered each an average of ¥300,000 to be used as airfare. It eventually resulted in an exodus of around 20,000 people, including 5,805 from Aichi Prefecture and 4,641 from Shizuoka Prefecture.

Although some of the migrants were genuinely thankful for the chance to get out of struggling Japan and find jobs back home, others were insulted because accepting the deal also meant they couldn’t come back to Japan at least “for the next three years” under “the same legal status.” This was seen as an outrageous move by the government to “get rid of” foreign workers as demand for their services fizzled out.

The migrants were initially banned from re-entering Japan for an unspecified period of time, but after a storm of both domestic and international condemnation, the government eventually said it might green-light their return after three years, depending on the economy.

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/15/national/ban-lifted-on-nikkei-who-got-axed-airfare/
ENDS

Good news: Japan Times Community Pages expanding from two-page Tuesdays to four days a week

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Hi Blog.  Good news.  With an imminent tie-up between The Japan Times and The New York Times, the Community Pages (which I have written for since 2002) will expand from its present two pages on Tuesday to four days a week.  The JT explains in more detail below.  Proud to be part of this writing crew.  We are the only English-language newspaper that is covering issues in this degree of depth in ways that matter to the English-reading NJ communities, and now we’re getting even more space.  Bravo.  Thank you to everyone for reading and encouraging this to happen.  — Arudou Debito, JUST BE CAUSE Columnist, The Japan Times

communityauthorsOct2013

justbecauseicon.jpg

 

Growing Community: the JT’s most talked-about section is about to get larger

From Thursday, Oct. 17, the Community pages will be expanding to four days a week from the present double-page spread on Tuesday and single Saturday page in the print edition. Here’s a taste of what to expect from mid-October:

Monday

Recognizing that a huge number of our readers work in the education sector, Monday’s main feature, Learning Curve, will focus on aspects of the teaching profession in Japan, from eikaiwa to JET and higher education.

Louise George Kittaka will continue to answer readers’ questions for Lifelines, with lawyers from the Tokyo Public Law Office’s Foreigners and International Service Section addressing legal issues on the second Monday of the month.

Learning-related listings and letters will also run Mondays.

Tuesday

Writers including David McNeill, Jon Mitchell and Simon Scott will continue to tackle the big issues for The Foreign Element.

Opinion pieces that in the past would have been published here will shift to Thursday’s page.

Views From The Street will be staying put, tapping the views of people around the country about everything under the rising sun.

Free listings related to causes and campaigns will feature on Tuesdays, as will feedback about the previous week’s columns.

Thursday

Debito Arudou’s Just Be Cause will appear on the first Thursday of the month, with Hifumi Okunuki’s Labor Pains on week two.

Oct. 17 will see the debut of Law Of The Land, a new column by legal expert Colin P.A. Jones.

Fourth (and fifth) Thursdays will offer an open space for opinion, to be called Foreign Agenda.

Readers will still have a forum to vent in Hotline to Nagata-cho.

Listings related to shared pursuits — from discussion groups to sports clubs — will run on Thursdays.

Saturday

Japan Times stalwarts Amy Chavez (Japan Lite) and Thomas Dillon (When East Marries West) will alternate week by week, offering their wry observations about life in Japan from the wilds of the Seto Inland Sea and Tokyo, respectively.

Saturday will continue to be the place to find out more about the diverse range of individuals that make up the foreign community of Japan, with personality profiles, reports on events and organizations, and the occasional embassy profile in Our Man/Woman In Tokyo.

Mixed Matches will focus on multicultural relationships, while Saturday’s listings will cover social and religious events.

ENDS

Yomiuri on “Points System” visa: “Too strict”, few takers, under review by Justice Ministry (which institutionally will never be able to fix it)

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Hi Blog.  An attempted panacea to Japan’s lack of formal immigration policy floated many moons ago (and discussed here and here) was a “Points System” visa, here to bring “higher-skilled” workers (koudo jinzai).  I critiqued it for its probable failure in the Japan Times here.

The failure has officially happened.  Even the Justice Ministry admits below that the visa regime has attracted few people, and that, as Debito.org has reported before, is because its requirements are too strict.

But to me it’s no wonder it failed.  It’s not merely (as alluded below) an issue of criteria, but rather institutionalized treatment of immigrants.  We saw attitudes towards immigration last summer when ministries debated how immigrants should be treated, and cross-ministerial officials only weakly offered the same old hackneyed conclusions and lessons unlearned:  Privilege granted to Nikkei with the right bloodlines, more attention devoted to how to police NJ than how to make them into Japanese citizens (with their civil and human rights protected), insufficient concern given for assimilation and assistance once NJ come to Japan, and almost no consultation with the NJ who are already in Japan making a life as to what assistance they might need.

This is what happens when you put a people-handling policy solely in the hands of a policing agency (i.e., the Justice Ministry):  Those people being perpetually treated as potential criminals.  There is automatically less focus on what good these people will do and latent suspicion about what harm they might.  It doesn’t help when you also have an administrative regime trying to find any excuse possible to shorten visas and trip immigrants up to “reset the visa clock” for Permanent Residency, through minor administrative infractions (not to mention the fact that changing from your current visa to this “Points System” visa resets your “visa clock” once again).  It’s official ijiwaru, and without a separate ministry (i.e., an Imincho) specifically dedicated configuring immigration or integration into Japanese society, things will not be fixed.  Arudou Debito

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Few foreigners tempted by points system
August 7, 2013. The Yomiuri Shimbun, courtesy of JK
http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000435956

A points-based preferential immigration system expected to attract 2,000 highly skilled foreign professionals to Japan annually accepted only 17 foreigners in its first 11 months, a dismal result that has prompted the government to review the criteria experts have blamed for the low number, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The system was adopted by the government last May to encourage skilled foreigners to take up residence in Japan and help boost Japanese economic growth. It gives these specialists privileges such as a shorter minimum-required period of stay for obtaining permanent residence.

Foreigners doing research at universities and other institutions, those with professional skills and corporate managers are eligible to use the system. They are given points in accordance with such criteria as academic credentials, professional and scholastic achievements and promised annual income.

For instance, a researcher with a doctorate who will work at an academic institution is awarded 30 points, while one with a master’s degree gets 20 points. Applicants who get at least 70 points in total are recognized as “highly skilled professionals” and can receive preferential immigration treatment including the right to acquire permanent residence within five years instead of the normal 10; permission for a spouse to work here; and permission to bring a parent to Japan to help look after the professional’s children.

However, only 17 foreigners were admitted to Japan under the point system between May 2012 and early April this year. This number rose to 434 when foreigners who were already in Japan and successfully applied for the system are added. The total includes 246 from China, 32 from the United States, 19 from India and 16 from South Korea.

In April and May, an expert panel at the Justice Ministry discussed reports that the current criteria were too strict.

One criticism was that the yearly income guideline was based on the salary of company workers, making it difficult for researchers at universities with lower yearly incomes to gain high points. Another was that only applicants with a yearly income of at least 10 million yen are allowed to have a parent accompany them to Japan.

After hearing these reports, the goverment began considering the easing of the criteria. Some possibilities include raising the points given for research papers submitted or patents obtained from the current ceiling of 15 points, shortening the minimum-required period of stay from five years to three for applying for permanent residence, and allowing foreigners on lower yearly incomes to bring an accompanying parent.

These issues will be worked out among the Justice, Foreign and Health, Labor and Welfare ministries, with the government planning to amend the system by year-end.

The government’s policy of increasing the number of foreigners to be admitted into Japan via the points system was specified in its growth strategy compiled in June.

“To help our country win in the global competition for excellent manpower, we’ll review the system and call on universities and companies to make better use of it,” said a senior official at the Justice Ministry, which is in charge of immigration control.

ENDS

WSJ: Abenomics’ Missing “Third Arrow: The absence of immigration reform from Abenomics bespeaks a deeper problem”

mytest

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As I will be discussing in my next Japan Times column due out next week, one of the things that the LDP has been good at during this election cycle has been controlling the agenda.  By diverting attention away from contentious constitutional reform by talking about economic reform (or at least the promise of it), Abe and Co. have used imagery of loosing “three arrows” (monetary easing and fiscal stimulus, then eventually structural reforms).  The Economist (London) on June 15 wondered if “Abenomics” had “failed before it even properly began“.

As Debito.org and others have been saying for years now, you can’t have sustained growth without a healthy and energetic workforce, especially as society ages, pensioners crowd out taxpayers, and public works continue to fill in the gaps and crowd out entrepreneurship.  And if you want youth, energy, and entrepreneurialism, you cannot beat immigration and the Can-Do Make-Do Spirit of the Immigrant.

But the strong xenophobic tendencies of the LDP and the dominant fringes within the ruling side of Japan’s politics have made this currently politically untenable.  And here’s the Wall Street Journal giving us their take on why a serious immigration policy should have been one of the GOJ’s “arrows”.  Arudou Debito

//////////////////////////////////////////////

Mr. Abe’s Missing Arrow
The absence of immigration reform from Abenomics bespeaks a deeper problem.
By JOSEPH STERNBERG
Tokyo
WSJ BUSINESS ASIA June 26, 2013
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324637504578568613127577972.html

If there’s one reform that’s symbolic of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s eponymous program to rejuvenate the Japanese economy, it’s immigration.

By importing new consumers and workers, immigration is crucial to stimulating domestic capital investment by companies. By expanding the taxpaying population base, it improves the government’s fiscal position. Immigration will facilitate foreign direct investment, boosting productivity.

All of that makes immigration reform precisely the kind of bold and deep change Mr. Abe promises. But the thing that makes immigration reform most emblematic of Abenomics is that despite its importance to Japan’s future, it is almost entirely absent from the agenda.

No one should underestimate the economic damage done by the country’s demographic emergency. Deaths have outnumbered births since 2005, and now that the inflow of expatriates is slowing, the net population has contracted for two years in a row. The age distribution skews ever older. As of 2010, Japan already had the lowest proportions of its population in the 0-14 years and working-age 15-64 years brackets of any developed economy, at 13.2% and 63.8% respectively. By 2050, those age cohorts will have shrunk further, to 9.7% and 51.5%, according to Statistics Bureau estimates.

Fewer people means fewer consumers. This is one of several interconnected explanations for why Japanese companies are so reluctant to invest at home. It also means fewer workers. One implication is that unless Japan could radically increase productivity per worker—by as much as 3% or 4% per year, an unusual level for a fully developed economy—it will be impossible to deliver the sustained 2% GDP growth Mr. Abe has promised.

IMAGE: Softbank Corp President—and third-generation immigrant— Masayoshi Son.

Yet Abenomics only hints at these realities, never quite facing them head-on. Mr. Abe’s emphasis on boosting the embarrassingly low female labor force participation rate is an acknowledgment that Japan needs more workers. But that is only a temporary measure in light of inexorable demographic change, which policy makers seem to forget affects women as much as men.

Japan needs as many as 10 million immigrants by 2050 to offset natural population decline, according to Hidenori Sakanaka of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute. Many of Mr. Abe’s other goals ultimately depend on immigration. For instance, unanswered in Mr. Abe’s plan to open thousands of new child-care centers so that mothers can return to their careers is the question of who will staff them. Immigrants are the most plausible solution.

Abenomics is not entirely silent on immigration. Mr. Abe proposes revising the points system used to evaluate the visa applications of high-skilled immigrants to make it easier for them to enter, and also to reduce to three years from five the amount of time a foreigner must live in Japan before qualifying for permanent residency.

Both of these would be useful changes, but don’t represent the bigger conceptual leap Japan needs to make. Tokyo can’t afford human resources “winner picking” any more than it can afford to continue the industrial winner picking of yore. Since immigration imports entrepreneurial talent, immigrants also will be vital to achieving the productivity growth Japan needs.

Successful entrepreneurs, like successful business ideas, pop up where and when a bureaucrat least expects them. Masayoshi Son, founder of SoftBank and one of Japan’s most successful living entrepreneurs, is the grandson of otherwise unremarkable pig-farming illegal immigrants from Korea. Japan needs to cast as wide a net as possible for more families like that.

***
The problem, of course, is that immigration will be hugely disruptive to Japan’s way of life, which is undeniably comfortable. Per capita GDP, especially when adjusted for falling prices, is healthy, thank you very much, despite anemic growth in the economy overall. Unemployment is low, even if an inefficient labor market and low productivity suppress wages. Crime is practically unheard of.

The social stability Japanese prize is not noticeable in high-immigration developed economies such as the U.S. or Western Europe. Hearing a foreigner from a place where Latin American drug cartels are active or unassimilated Muslim immigrants burn cars in the suburbs argue for more immigration, the Japanese not unreasonably say, “You must be kidding.” In theory, Japan may have no alternative to immigration if it wants to return to sustained growth. In reality, you’re asking people to upend their society in pursuit of an abstract economic goal.

Investors have lately panned Abenomics, rightly, for its lack of daring. Optimists hope this is a political calculation that a month before a major election is no time to introduce bold reforms, and that more and better is on the way later. But reflection on the immigration problem raises a different prospect. Any meaningful reform will be deeply disruptive—whether in terms of new immigrants let in, small farms consolidated and old farmers retired, new businesses started and old firms bankrupted. In all the hubbub about Abenomics, everyone forgot to ask whether Japan really wants the upheaval needed to restart growth. Unless and until Japanese are willing to tolerate such changes, Abenomics will be more wish than reality.

Mr. Sternberg edits the Business Asia column.
ENDS

FGU on how Japan’s employers are circumventing new contract law protections: poison pills in contracts

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Hi Blog.  We’ve talked about Japan’s Academic Apartheid at the university level (i.e., NJ on perpetual contracts, J on permanent tenure) for decades now on Debito.org (especially since employment standards of NJ in academia set precedents for employment everywhere).  And thanks to decades of pressure, as of April 2013 the GOJ built in safeguards to stop perpetual contracting — where working five years continuously on fixed-term contracts now gives the contractee the option for more stable contract work.  But employers are now getting around that by capping their contracts at five years with a “non-renewal clause”, building in a poison pill for employees no matter how hard they work or contribute to the company.  It’s one more reason to reconsider ever working in Japan.

Keep an eye out for it in your next contract, and don’t sign one that has it. Text, translation, and commentary courtesy of CF at the Fukuoka General Union. Arudou Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////

CF at PALE: There was an article in today’s Nishinippon Shinbun which stated that many of the “main” universities in Kyushu (most of the national universities) have changed their work rules to make all fixed term contracts (ie non-tenured) limited to only 5 years. This means that they can sack you (non renew you) just before you become eligible for non-fixed term contracts after 5 years of continuous employment.

This will drastically affect all non-tenured teachers, while tenured teachers are not affected. The new contract law which gives more security to those on fixed term contracts will be circumvented by this movement. I think there will definitely be a flow on effect to private universities in the “National universities are doing it so we have to too” approach.

==============================
Universities to non-renew after 5 years
“Goes against the purpose of the law” say experts
Avoiding Permanent Employment of Educational and Administrative staff
A Number of Major Universities in Kyushu Countering the New Law
By Taketsugu Minoru, Nishinippon Shinbun 23 June 2013
Courtesy http://fukuoka.generalunion.org/news/limit.htm
Original Japanese scanned at http://fukuoka.generalunion.org/news/LIM-CONTRACTS..pdf

With the amendment of the Labour Contract Law which came into effect on April first this year which stipulates that those who have worked for more than 5 years continuously on fixed term contracts may request to change their status to a contract with no fixed term (no-limit status transfer), a number of major universities in Kyushu are amending their work rules to insert a “non-renewal” clause. With government subsidies to universities are decreasing, the aim is to avoid locking in permanent personnel costs. Experts have criticized the move saying it “Goes against the purpose of the amendment of the law which is to provide stable employment to workers on fixed-term employment contracts”.

The amendment to the law does not apply to any specific industry, but to all workers. These countermeasures may have a flow on effect to other industries. Whereas the reason that universities have taken such protective measures in advance is that that already have a large number of teachers on fixed-term contracts who will be subject to the amendment to the law. Work rules (amendments) have been drafted for such teaching and administrative staff.

The Nishinippon Shimbun interviewed private and 7 National universities Kyushu, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki and Kagoshima. Of these all except Kumamoto said that they had taken measures to deal with the amendment that came into force in April. Kyushu University has amended related regulations to state, “Employees on fixed term contracts cannot be employed for a period that exceeds 5 years”. Previously, the rules stated “Limited to 3 years and 5 years with the possibility of renewal”, with continuous work over 5 years possible.

Saga University has followed Kyushu University in amending their work rules relating to fixed-term contracts in April. The University explained “We understand that the purpose of the law is to improve working conditions for workers, but with the limited amount of government funding, managing human resources costs is our top priority”.

However, each faculty in the University of Kagoshima held discussions and in the faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Science etc. have abolished the upper limit on fixed term contracts, leaving the possibility of transfer to no-limit status. Nagoya University has taken a similar line, but on a national scale it seems to be the exception. The Ministry of Education said they do not have a grasp of the actual situation.

With the amendment to the law, even a person on a 1 year fixed contract, which is renewed, in the 6th year the employee can demand non-fixed term status, which comes into effect in the beginning of the 7th year.

However, the Labour Contract Law, different to the enforceable Labour Standards Law, has no penalties or ability to issue breach notices like the Labour Standards Law. The Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare has stated that “It is not illegal for a company to set a limit on the number of years a worker can continuously work, but I really hope that if at all possible this it would be avoided.” The Vice Minister made this statement in the Diet last year.

According to labour law specialist lawyer Natsume Ichiro (Tokyo), “If you don’t make an issue of this clause now you won’t be able to fight it in court. I think teacher’s unions should make more of an issue of it.”

ENDS

//////////////////////////////////////////////////

XY at PALE: Teachers at Waseda University are suing over this, according to this Mainichi Shinbun article from a few days ago.

早大:非常勤講師15人が刑事告訴 就業規則巡り
毎日新聞 2013年06月21日 20時54分(最終更新 06月21日 23時50分)
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20130622k0000m040066000c.html

早稲田大学が今春から非常勤講師に適用している就業規則を巡り、早大の非常勤講師15人が21日、鎌田薫総長や同大理事ら18人を労働基準法違反で東京労働局に刑事告訴した。既に首都圏大学非常勤講師組合の松村比奈子委員長らが告発状を提出している。

松村委員長によると、非常勤講師には今年3月25日以降に契約更新の上限を5年とする新しい就業規則が郵送された。大学側は労基法に基づき、過半数代表を選出して意見を聞いたとしているが、講師らは自分たちが大学に立ち入れない入試期間中に代表を選出したことになっていることなどから、正当な手続きを経ていないと主張している。松村委員長は「契約に上限をつけ不安定にする制度を作るなら、少なくとも本人たちの意見は聞くべきだ」と話している。

早稲田大学広報課は「詳細が不明なのでコメントを差し控えたい」としている。【東海林智】

//////////////////////////////////////////////////

CF REPLIES: Ah yes, this is sneaky, changing the work rules by nominating a company brown-noser to sign off on behalf of all employers. Also it is the tenured teachers protecting their territory and throwing the contracted teachers to the wolves. Everyone should be careful when work rules (shugyo kisoku 就業規則 are changed and find out what the changes are.

ENDS

NPA “Crime Infrastructure Countermeasures” campaign also targets “foreign crime” anew. Justifies more anonymous anti-NJ signs

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Hi Blog.  Last blog entry we talked about how the National Police Agency exaggerates and falsifies data to whip up media panic about “foreign crime”.  We’ve also talked for many years on Debito.org about how the NPA has been putting out racist public notices about NJ criminals (including, in my opinion, assisting the seedier J-media to publish some examples of hate speech).  Well, anonymous postermakers are now getting into the act, what with the NPA’s most recent anti-crime campaign:

First, check these out (courtesy of Welp):

gizokekkonjune2013gaikokujinhanzaitsuihouJune2013

http://image.blog.livedoor.jp/kankyotoshisetsu/imgs/c/9/c9eaf02e-s.jpg
http://image.blog.livedoor.jp/kankyotoshisetsu/imgs/3/1/318b27b8-s.jpg

The poster at right calls upon Tokyo Immigration Bureau to do something about fake international marriages, claiming they’re “rising rapidly” (kyuuzouchuu), and says (with the obligatory plural exclamation points that are characteristic of the alarmist far-right) that we cannot permit illegal foreign labor or overstayers!!

The poster at left calls for the “expulsion of foreign crime” (!!), with murder, mugging, arson, rape, and theft listed at 25,730 cases! (Again, no comparison with Japanese crime, which is far, far higher — especially if you look at theft.) The bottom boxes are not to me fully legible, but the blue one asks the authorities not to give up in the face of fake applications for visas, Permanent Residency, and naturalizations!

(I would love to get larger copies of these posters. If anyone sees them on the street (take a photo!) or finds them online with greater resolution, please send to debito@debito.org.  Thanks.)

COMMENT:  Neither of these posters has a source or an organization listed on them, so anonymous vigilante hate groups are getting into the act. I find the first poster in particular unsettling, where brides are portrayed as merely cowls of flags.  You can’t trust NJ women, because under their pretty faces are lurking nationalisms that are not part of “us”.

Back to something more professional.  Again, from Welp:

sonokouihanzaijune2013

Courtesy http://www.police.pref.kanagawa.jp/images/h0/h0001_03.gif

This is from the Kanagawa Prefectural Police site (a proud sponsor of the door-to-door neighborhood resident checks and forked-tongue friendly cops who produce racist posters). It warns people in four languages that what they’re doing is criminal activity, including forgery, “bogus marriage” (wow, the language level is getting better), “false affiliation” (gizou ninchi, meaning a J male falsely acknowledges paternity of an NJ child to get that child Japanese citizenship), and false adoption (I hope this won’t now target Japan’s Douseiaisha).  Although not mentioning NJ in specific, the poster’s multilinguality means it’s meant for an international audience (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, English, and I think either Tagalog or Bahasa Indonesia).

(Again, I would love a larger graphic so we could read it all:  Eyes peeled, Debito.org denizens of Kanagawa!)

COMMENT:  The interesting bit is in the bottom green section, where it talks about the Hanzai Infura [illegible] Taisaku (Crime Infrastructure Countermeasures).

What’s meant by “crime infura”?  It’s a new enough concept to warrant an explanation from the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Site:

hanzaiinfrakanagawakenkeisatsuJune2013

Courtesy http://www.police.pref.kanagawa.jp/images/h0/h0001_04.gif

“Infrastructure” is the things and organizations that are the basic foundation of a society, meaning roads, rails, plumbing, etc.

By “Crime Infrastructure”, this is meant to be the the same thing to undergird crime, such as cellphones under false names, fake websites, false marriages, false adoptions, and false IDs.

The Ibaraki Prefectural Police have a more elaborate explanation, with helpful illustrations of eight cases.  Three talk about the shyster groups and internet sites who offer drugs, fake subscriptions, loans and financing schemes, etc. But five of the eight talk about NJ criminal activity, including money laundering through “illegal overstayers”, employers of the same, underground hospitals that engage in illegal medical activities and drug dispensing (!!), underground taxis, false IDs, and false paternity scams to get Japanese citizenship.  As I said, complete with helpful illustrations (note the absence of hakujin, so the illustrator has to play with noses to gaijinize them properly):

hanzaiinfuraibarakijune2013

Courtesy http://www.pref.ibaraki.jp/kenkei/a01_safety/security/infra.html

In fact, this “foreign crime infrastructure” meme is not new.  The first Debito.org heard about it was in 2009, when the NPA circulated its regular crime reports:  NJ crime was down year on year, so they had to find a way to sex up the numbers.

Hey presto!  Shift the focus from about foreign criminals as INDIVIDUALS, and towards foreign crime in GROUPS:   Then we can talk about NJ crooks targeting Japan and spreading their invisible tentacles nationwide. (Never mind the already well-established tentacles of organized crime in Japan, naturally — as Tokyo Governor Ishihara said, NJ crimes are so heinous in comparison that there are some parts of Japan where allegedly Japanese yakuza fear to tread! (Ishihara, Nihon Yo, 2002: 100))  To raise the fear factor further, we’ll even tell the media that Gaijin groupism means the NPA can’t measure foreign crime statistically!  

By 2010, this is exactly what happened.  And as of 2013, the NPA is now trying to popularize a new concept (since NJ crime still isn’t cooperating by going up anymore) of a “crime infrastructure”, as if it’s now embedded and endemic, invisible and unmeasurable — because it’s connected to NJ.  It’s part of the externality of once-peaceful Japan’s contact with the outside world and internationalization.

This new campaign conveniently occasions those posters made by anonymous vigilantes. Now we have a propaganda infrastructure that normalizes public displays of xenophobia in Japan.  Arudou Debito

Tangent: Julian Ryall on how Japanese employees educated abroad are denied opportunities by Japanese companies

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Hi Blog.  A bit of a tangent this time, but what do you think about this article?  It suggests that diversity in Japan’s corporate culture is being suppressed, and overseas experience is in fact a DEMERIT to placement and advancement.  If true, then how the heck are NJ supposed to get ahead in Japanese companies if even Japanese face the same resistance?  And what does it say about Japan’s future in the global market?  Arudou Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////////

LABOR MARKET
Firms’ conservative hiring holds back Japan
By Julian Ryall, DW.com, May 31, 2013
Courtesy http://www.dw.de/firms-conservative-hiring-holds-back-japan/a-16851451 and MS

Many young Japanese students go abroad to study with high hopes. They return home with foreign degrees and even higher hopes, only to be shot down by conservative company ideals.

On the very first day in her first job after graduation, Tomoko Tanaka says her dominant emotion was of disappointment.

Tanaka, who does not want her real name or the name of her company used in this article because it could affect her career, began work in April of this year and had high hopes that the years she spent studying overseas would make her a popular candidate with Japanese employers.

Instead, it seems, the effort and money that went into perfecting her English skills in the UK may have been wasted as Japanese firms do not always welcome potential recruits who have been exposed to foreign ways of thinking and behaving.

“I did not have a clear dream for my career, but I did want to work for a big and famous company,” 23-year-old Tanaka told DW. “I studied in the UK for one year, I learned about the difficulties of living with people from various countries, from different cultures, and the importance of taking action in order to change something and to make myself understood.

“And I felt more confident after living abroad because I could overcome many difficulties,” she added.

High test scores
Initially, Tanaka was encouraged by her job interviews as employers seemed to value a high score in language assessment tests.

After securing a job that appeared to offer good career prospects, Tanaka learned that she was being sent to a rural part of Japan and would be working in the administration department. Since she started, she has not yet had an opportunity to use her English skills.

“In my opinion, most Japanese companies want young people who have a ‘Japanese background’ and international communication skills, but I think that is global human resources in a very limited sense,” she said.

Graduates from foreign universities find it difficult to get a job

“It seems that Japanese companies want young people to obey their rules, but only to use their skills when the company needs it,” she added.

But this runs counter to what Japan needs in the rapidly evolving world of international trade, commerce and international relations.

In March, Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced that Japan would take part in negotiations to construct the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement and indicated that opening up to the rest of the world offers the best chances of growth for the nation.

Japan has also actively been seeking a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, the government is planning to revise parts of the constitution that will enable Japanese troops to play much larger roles in international peace-keeping operations and companies are being encouraged to go further afield to secure the resources and markets that will provide for the nation’s future.

Companies lagging behind
Many companies here, however, are not keeping up with that vision.

A survey conducted in March 2012 by Disco, a Tokyo-based recruitment company, determined that less than one in four firms planned to hire Japanese applicants who had studied abroad.

Even among major, blue-chip companies, less than 40 percent said they would employ Japanese who had attended a foreign university.

Aware of the problems they face if they have invested their time and funds on an education overseas, more are staying closer to home. In 2004, there were 82,945 Japanese at colleges overseas; in 2010, the figure had contracted to less than 60,000. In the US alone, the number has fallen from a peak of 47,000 in the 1997-’98 academic year to just 19,900 in 2011-’12.

Inevitably, as places are freed up at foreign institutions, they are being snapped up by students from developing nations with a thirst for knowledge, with China and India in the forefront of the surge.

“It seems to me that for the first few years of young Japanese graduates’ careers, they are effectively being ‘trained’ in the corporate culture and requirements of their company,” said Chris Burgess, a lecturer in English and Australian Studies at Tsuda College in Tokyo.

Talent going to waste
“That means that despite all the rhetoric from the government, these companies are wasting so much talent,” he said.

PM Kan indicated that opening up to the rest of the world could help the country’s growth

“They are usually long-standing institutions with structures that are very difficult to reform,” he said. “There is an inbred corporate culture and they are very reluctant to evolve, even when they need to do precisely that to survive in an increasingly competitive business world.”

It is an alarming statistic that fully 25 percent of new employees at Japanese companies resign within the first three years, he said, simply because they are not satisfied with what they are doing.

“I felt confident and really motivated when I started my job interviews,” said 26-year-old Yumi Hara, from Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo.

Two years in London and a degree in East Asian Studies from the University of Virginia that gave her Chinese and Korean on top of her English would make her an attractive option for a Japanese company that had ambitions of expanding its operations overseas.

“But in the interviews, they didn’t really want to know what I thought, but whether I was able to give them the perfect answer, to tell them what they wanted to hear,” she said.

Hara admits she was “devastated” at the constant rejections – particularly when she discovered that friends who had opted to go to Japanese universities and had very limited language abilities were getting the very jobs that she wanted.

She shrugs.

“Today I’m teaching English in a small school and I’m pretty happy doing this as it’s a small company and I have the responsibility to start new things,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll be going to work for a big Japanese company any time soon.”
ENDS

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 13, 2013 PART 2: New eBooks by Debito on sale now

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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAY 13, 2013 PART TWO

Hello Newsletter Readers. This month’s Newsletter is a little late due to a press holiday on May 7, the date my Japan Times column was originally to come out. So this month you get two editions that are chock full of important announcements. As a supplement, here is information about three new books of mine that are now out in downloadable eBook form:

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1) Debito’s eBook “GUIDEBOOK FOR RELOCATION AND ASSIMILATION INTO JAPAN” now available on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $19.99

rsz_finished_book_coverB&N

Following December’s publication of the revised 2nd Edition of long-selling HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS comes a companion eBook for those who want to save paper (and money). A handy reference book for securing stable jobs, visas, and lifestyles in Japan, GUIDEBOOK has been fully revised and is on sale for $19.99 USD (or your currency equivalent, pegged to the USD on Amazons worldwide).

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at https://www.debito.org/handbook.html

========================

2) Debito’s eBook “JAPANESE ONLY: THE OTARU ONSENS CASE AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN JAPAN” now available in a 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $9.99

japaneseonlyebookcovertext

It has been more than ten years since bathhouses in Otaru, Hokkaido, put up “NO FOREIGNERS” signs at their front doors, and a full decade since the critically-acclaimed book about the landmark anti-discrimination lawsuit came out. Now with a new Introduction and Postscript updating what has and hasn’t changed in the interim, JAPANESE ONLY remains the definitive work about how discrimination by race remains a part of the Japanese social landscape.

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at https://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html

========================

3) Debito’s eBook “IN APPROPRIATE: A NOVEL OF CULTURE, KIDNAPPING, AND REVENGE IN MODERN JAPAN” now available on Amazon and NOOK for download. USD $9.99

In Appropriate cover

My first nonfiction novel that came out two years ago, IN APPROPRIATE is the story of a person who emigrates to Japan, finds his niche during the closing days of the Bubble Years, and realizes that he has married into a locally-prominent family whose interests conflict with his. The story is an amalgam of several true stories of divorce and child abduction in Japan, and has received great praise from Left-Behind Parents for its sincerity and authenticity.

See contents, reviews, a sample chapter, and links to online purchasing outlets at https://www.debito.org/inappropriate.html

========================

Thanks for reading and perhaps purchasing!  Arudou Debito

ENDS

New book: “Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight” by Hepburn & Simon (Columbia UP, 2013). Includes Japan.

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Hi Blog.  After using the resources and contacts of Debito.org, the author of the following book, Stephanie Hepburn, contacted me two days ago to say that her research on worldwide human trafficking, including Japan, has just been published by Columbia University Press.  I am pleased to notify Debito.org Readers as follows:

HepburnHumanTraffcover

Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight
By Stephanie Hepburn and Rita J. Simon
Purchase links:

Columbia University Press: http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-16144-2/human-trafficking-around-the-world
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Human-Trafficking-Around-World-Hidden/dp/023116145X
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/human-trafficking-around-the-world-stephanie-hepburn/1113895525

Published by Columbia University Press, this unprecedented study of sex trafficking, forced labor, organ trafficking, and sex tourism across twenty-four nations highlights the experiences of the victims, perpetrators, and anti-traffickers involved in this brutal trade. Combining statistical data with intimate accounts and interviews, journalist Stephanie Hepburn and justice scholar Rita J. Simon create a dynamic volume sure to educate and spur action.

Among the nations examined is Japan, which has not elaborated a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. Although the government took a strong step forward in its 2009 Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons by acknowledging that sex trafficking is not the only form of human trafficking, forced-labor victims continue to be marginalized. As a result of ethnocentric policies, the government prohibits foreign unskilled laborers from working in Japan. But the disparity between the nation’s immigration posture and its labor needs has created a quandary. With a demand for inexpensive labor but without an adequate low wage labor force, Japan uses the government-run Industrial Training Program and Technical Internship Program to create a temporary and low-cost migrant workforce for employers. The stated purpose of the program is to transfer skill, technology, and knowledge to persons of other nations and thereby play a central role in the economic growth of developing nations, specifically those in East Asia. Instead, it has created opportunities for exploitation and human trafficking.

“I recommend this comprehensive study to anyone wanting to understand the fight against the modern day slave-trade. The book stands apart by augmenting nation by nation accounts of trafficking realities with critiques of existing local anti-trafficking measures and consideration of local obstacles. Supported by diverse sources, the authors set forth clear policy recommendations to combat trafficking.”—Lori J. Johnson, staff attorney, Farmworker Unit, Legal Aid of North Carolina

“This volume demonstrates ways that global migration policies and programs facilitate human trafficking by focusing on enforcement rather than promoting uniform labor standards. Its broad focus help readers compare practices between countries and understand the transnational impact of national legislation and policies on human trafficking around the globe.”—Gretchen Kuhner, author of the American Bar Association’s Human Trafficking Assessment Tool Report

“Stephanie Hepburn and Rita J. Simon demonstrate that economics, geography, civil unrest, societal inequality, and gender disparities play a major role in how trafficking manifests itself.”—Christa Stewart, New York State Office of Human Trafficking, Office of Temporary Disability Assistance

“Stephanie Hepburn and Rita J. Simon delve beneath the surface of policies and legislation within the various countries they study by involving those who are involved at a grassroots level and have come up with a fascinating account of these practices.”—Carol Bews, assistant director, Johannesburg Child Welfare Society

Stephanie Hepburn is an independent journalist whose work has been published in Americas Quarterly, USA Today U-Wire, Gender Issues, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Rita J. Simon is a University Professor in the School of Public Affairs and the Washington College of Law at American University in Washington, D.C.

======================

I have not read the book yet, but it looks to be an important work and am pleased to tell you about it.  Arudou Debito

ENDS

New eBook: “JAPANESE ONLY: The Otaru Onsens Case”, 10th Anniv Edition with new Intro and Postscript, now on Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook $9.99

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Hi Blog.  I am pleased to announce the eBook release of my book “JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan” Tenth Anniversary Edition, available for immediate download for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble NOOK.

The definitive book on one of Japan’s most important public debates and lawsuits on racial discrimination, this new edition has a new Introduction and Postscript that updates the reader on what has happened in the decade since JO’s first publication by Akashi Shoten Inc.  A synopsis of the new book is below.

You can read a sample of the first fifteen or so pages (including the new Introduction), and download the ebook at either link:

Price:  $9.99 (a bargain considering JO is currently on sale on Amazon Japan used for 3100 yen, and at Amazon.com used for $390.93!), or the equivalent in local currency on all other Amazons (935 yen on Amazon Japan).

If you haven’t read JO yet (as clearly some media presences, like TV Tarento Daniel Kahl or decrier of “bathhouse fanatics” Gregory Clark, have not; not to mention “My Darling is a Foreigner” manga star Tony Laszlo would rather you didn’t), now is a brand new opportunity with additional context.  Here’s the Synopsis:

SYNOPSIS OF THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY EDITION OF eBOOK “JAPANESE ONLY”

If you saw signs up in public places saying “No Coloreds”, what would you do? See them as relics of a bygone era, a la US Segregation or South African Apartheid? Not in Japan, where even today “Japanese Only” signs, excluding people who look “foreign”, may be found nationwide, thanks to fear and opportunism arising from Japan’s internationalization and economic decline.

JAPANESE ONLY is the definitive account of the Otaru Onsens Case, where public bathhouses in Otaru City, Hokkaido, put up “no foreigners allowed” signs to refuse entry to Russian sailors, and in the process denied service to Japanese. One of Japan’s most studied postwar court cases on racial discrimination, this case went all the way to Japan’s Supreme Court, and called into question the willingness of the Japanese judiciary to enforce Japan’s Constitution.

Written by one of the plaintiffs to the lawsuit, a bilingual naturalized citizen who has lived in Japan for 25 years, this highly-readable first-person account chronologically charts the story behind the case and the surrounding debate in Japanese media between 1999 and 2005. The author uncovers a side of Japanese society that many Japanese and scholars of Japan would rather not discuss: How the social determination of “Japanese” inevitably leads to racism. How Japan, despite international treaties and even its own constitutional provisions, remains the only modern, developed country without any form of a law against racial discrimination, resulting in situations where foreigners and even Japanese are refused service at bathhouses, restaurants, stores, apartments, hotels, schools, even hospitals, simply for looking too “foreign”. How Japan officially denies the existence of racial discrimination in Japan (as its allegedly homogeneous society by definition contains no minorities), until the Sapporo District Court ruled otherwise with Otaru Onsens.

JAPANESE ONLY also charts the arc of a public debate that reached extremes of xenophobia: Where government-sponsored fear campaigns against “foreign crime” and “illegal foreigners” were used to justify exclusionism. Where outright acts of discrimination, once dismissed as mere “cultural misunderstandings”, were then used as a means to “protect Japanese” from “scary, unhygienic, criminal foreigners” and led to the normalization of racialized hate speech. Where even resident foreigners turned on themselves, including Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark’s repeated diatribes against “bathhouse fanatics”, and future “My Darling is a Foreigner” manga star Tony Laszlo’s opportunistic use of activism to promote his own agenda at the expense of the cause. Where the plaintiffs stay the course despite enormous public pressure to drop the lawsuit (including death threats), and do so at great personal risk and sacrifice. Remaining in print since its first publication in 2003, JAPANESE ONLY remains a testament to the dark side of race relations in Japan, and contains a taut story of courage and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Now for the first time in ebook format, this Tenth Anniversary Edition in English offers a new Introduction and Postscript by the author, updating the reader on what has changed, what work remains to be done, and how Japan in fact is reverse-engineering itself to become more insular and xenophobic in the 2010s. Called “a reasoned and spirited denunciation of national prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry” (Donald Richie, legendary Japanologist), “clear, well-paced, balanced and informative” (Tom Baker, The Daily Yomiuri), “a personal and fascinating account of how this movement evolved, its consequences and how it affected those who participated in it” (Jeff Kingston, The Japan Times), and “the book of reference on the subject for decades to come and should be required reading for anyone studying social protest” (Robert Whiting, author of You’ve Gotta Have Wa), JAPANESE ONLY is a must-read for anyone interested in modern Japan’s future direction in the world and its latent attitudes towards outsiders.

More reviews at https://www.debito.org/japaneseonly.html
ends

JT on “Kyakkan Setsu vs. Nibun Setsu”: Grey zones in compensation for “work hours” in Japan

mytest

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Hi Blog.  As our last post talked about labor law issues (and the proposal to abridge Labor Standards in favor of greater “flexibility” to dismiss labor without reasons), here’s an important article that came out in the Japan Times last December that I was waiting to get to, discussing issues once again of employer power over employees:  When is a person under the authority of his or her employer, deserving compensation as “work time”?  Okunuki talks about important cases in a very enlightening article about just how grey “work hours” are, and underscoring how powerless Japanese employees are regarding all that overtime going unpaid — how many people take things to court or to labor unions to fight under this precedent, or are even aware of “kyakkan setsu vs. nibun setsu”?.  And the proposal we discussed last blog entry is to give even more power to employers?  Arudou Debito

////////////////////////////////////////////////

Japan Times Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012
THE COMMUNITY PAGE LIFELINES: LABOR PAINS
When is an hour at work not a work hour?

The Japan Times, December 18, 2012
By HIFUMI OKUNUKI
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121218lp.html

It was 1988, in an ad for Regain energy drink. Actor Saburo Tokito, wearing a suit and carrying an attache case, asked a question that would go down in TV history: “Can I work 24 hours straight?”

Japan was reveling in the go-go years of the bubble economy, its people sacrificing their health, families and private lives in a mad devotion to work, work and more work. But beneath all the bright economic indicators lurked a dark underbelly of millions of hours of unpaid overtime and innumerable cases of karōshi, or death from overwork.

As 2012 winds down, economic and political stagnation drags on, while our society increasingly feels somehow claustrophobic. If we cannot have permanent economic growth, then shouldn’t we at least do away with the 24/7 work ethic? Yet the Japanese disease of “all work and no play” unfortunately seems to be here to stay. With job security fading fast, things are worse than ever.

I’d like to close 2012 with a major labor law theme: work hours. When is an hour a work hour? It’s not as straightforward as it might seem. To ensure that work hours are a pleasant and humane experience, we first need to define them.

The Labor Standards Law sidesteps a proper definition, and labor law scholars fall into two camps over how a work hour should be defined. One subscribes to what is known as kyakkan-setsu, roughly translating as “objective theory.” This camp argues that work hours are the entire time during which the employee can objectively be considered to be under the authority of her or his employer.

The nibun-setsu (two-part theory) camp, on the other hand, splits work hours into “core” and “peripheral” work hours, with the status of the latter gray area between strictly defined work hours and break time to be determined through agreement between the employer and employed.

The gold standard in case law regarding work hours is the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagasaki Shipyard case. The Supreme Court’s Petty Bench on March 9, 2000, rejected outright the nibun-setsu approach and backed the kyakkan-setsu interpretation. Let’s examine the case.

The plaintiffs built and repaired vessels for Mitsubishi Heavy. The shūgyō kisoku (work rules) stipulated work hours and break time, as well as rules regarding changing into work clothes before and after work.

Workers were expected to be on site at the start and end of each shift in proper work clothes and gear. The preparation had to be done in the changing room and failure to do so before the start of each shift could result in disciplinary action, including poor evaluation, pay cuts or suspension.

The plaintiffs sued the plant, claiming that the following periods, numbered 1 through 8, were working hours and therefore should be paid as overtime and at overtime rates.

1) Time in the morning to get from the shipyard gate to the changing room.

2) Time in the changing room to don work clothes and special equipment, then to move to the preshift calisthenics area.

3) Time spent taking out equipment and materials from the warehouse before and after work and hosing down the yard before the shift.

4) Time to get from the shipyard to the cafeteria and then remove some gear and clothing for lunch break.

5) Time to move from the cafeteria to the calisthenics area and then put gear and clothing back on after lunch.

6) Time to get from the work site to the changing room and remove clothing and gear after work.

7) Time spent washing or taking a shower and then changing into ordinary clothes.

8) Time to get from the changing room to the gate of the shipyard at the end of the shift.

Nagasaki District Court in 1989, the Fukuoka High Court in 1995 and the Supreme Court in 2000 all ruled that 2, 3 and 6 constituted work hours that must be paid, while the others did not, for the following reasons: Workers were not under company authority during time periods 1 and 8; workers were free to use their break time as they chose for periods 4 and 5; and period 7 involved actions that were not required of workers and did not interfere unduly with their commute home.

This case was the first to take up the definition of work hours and is thus extremely important. Much attention is paid to the wording in the verdict that “time to do activities that are unavoidable or ordered by the employer constitute work hours.” This applies even if the order is tacit.

This case gives a sense of the courts’ thinking on work hours. If more workers understood this jurisprudence, we would surely see more workplaces that are “healthy in body and mind.”

Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121218lp.html

Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces

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Hi Blog.  Debito.org has previously discussed the curious phenomenon of “Gaijin as Guinea Pig“, where future reforms that put the general public at a disadvantage to the elite are first tested out and normalized through application on Japan’s foreigners.  For example, “Academic Apartheid” (the practice of contracting all NJ educators while granting Japanese educators tenure from day one in Japan’s higher education system) gave way to contract employment for every educator in 1997.  More examples here.

Now according to the Asahi we have the previous legally-enshrined practice of making all workers (roudousha) protected by Japan’s labor laws being chipped away at.  Previously seen in the labor-law exemption given NJ workers under “Trainee” Visas (e.g., foreign factory workers, farm laborers, caregivers), we are now seeing a similar push to exempt all Japanese workers from labor law protections.

Japan hopes to make themselves more attractive to international labor migration when they’re in process of making an exploitative labor market even more so, for everybody?  Again, deserves to be known about.  Arudou Debito

/////////////////////////////////////////

Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification
Asahi Shimbun AJW, March 16, 2013, courtesy of MP
By TAKUFUMI YOSHIDA/ Staff Writer
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201303160063

Business leaders at a government panel have proposed that employers in Japan be allowed to fire workers at their discretion as a way to improve the nation’s economic growth.

Members of the Industrial Competitiveness Council called March 15 for rules that will, in principle, allow employers to dismiss regular employees freely if the workers are compensated with “re-employment support.”

The council is chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The proposal was made by Yasuchika Hasegawa, chairman of Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and president of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., and others.

Article 16 of the Labor Contract Law stipulates that there must be reasonable grounds for a dismissal. Employers are not permitted to sack workers unless they have valid reasons, such as poor performance, disciplinary offenses or reducing the work force as a result of financial trouble.

Hasegawa and other members suggested that the Labor Contract Law should be amended to allow employers to dismiss workers at their discretion.

They also called for the establishment of a system in which employers would be able to fire workers without a valid reason as long as they provide them so-called monetary re-employment support.

In addition, they said the Labor Contract Law should make it clear in what instances dismissals would not be permitted.

In many European countries, if a court determines that a dismissal is unlawful, the employer can still dissolve the employment relationship by paying the fired employee compensation–usually one to two years worth of salary.

But if a similar court decision was made in Japan, workers would have few options other than returning to their former workplaces.

The system the panel in Japan is pushing differs from the European labor practice in that employers would be able to freely sack workers without reasonable grounds as long as they pay compensation.

Panel members said the proposed system would not only increase liquidity in the labor market, but benefit workers, depending on the amount of compensation paid.

The panel includes 10 leaders from the private sector and is expected to come up with a proposed economic growth strategy by June.
ENDS

SITYS: GOJ’s new “Points System” to attract “higher-skilled” NJ being reviewed due to dearth of applications, impossibly high hurdles

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Hi Blog.  We’ve talked about Japan’s “Points System” before on Debito.org, where I took a dim view of it as just another “revolving door” labor visa regime to bring people over, leech off their prime working lives, and then boot them back home without letting them settle and reap the rewards for contributing to Japanese society (cf. the “Trainees”, the “Nikkei Returnees”, and the “foreign caregivers“, all of whom I have written about for the Japan Times).

Well, now, in yet another episode of SITYS (“See I Told You So”), Asahi reports the “Points System” is going through similar “revisions” as the visa scams above due to a dearth of applications.  As I thought would happen — the PS’s qualifying hurdles are simply too high.

Even if one assumes good faith in Japan’s policymakers (some of whom do see the slow-motion demographic disaster in progress due to crushing public debt unsupportable by a society that is shrinking and aging) who might want to treat “foreign laborers” as people, Japan’s bureaucrats are so paranoid about NJ somehow “abusing” the system that they make it practically impossible for anyone to ever “use” the system to their benefit.  Again, the GOJ keep wanting “workers” and discover to their surprise later that they imported “people”, with livelihood needs beyond mere work hours converted into “the privilege of living in Japan”.

These policy failures will keep happening again and again until NJ are treated as “people”, and given a fair chance by the GOJ at becoming “Japanese” (with transfers of political, economic, and social power — and that includes input at the policymaking stage too).  But I still don’t see that happening anytime soon.  Arudou Debito

////////////////////////////////////////

Strict conditions hamper certification system for foreign skilled workers
Asahi Shimbun AJW March 24, 2013, courtesy of JK
By SEINOSUKE IWASAKI/ Staff Writer
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201303240055

A policy initiative designed to encourage highly skilled foreign professionals to come and stay in Japan is not working out as the Justice Ministry had envisioned.

In fact, the point-based system has proved so unpopular that it is being reviewed only a year after it was introduced.

The program covers the following fields: research, engineering and management. Points are awarded on the basis of a person’s experience and capabilities.

An individual who receives a certain number of points can, for example, bring his or her parents to live in Japan or gain permission for a spouse to work, something that few foreign workers had been able to do until a year ago.

According to the Justice Ministry, less than 1,000 will likely be certified in the initial year, compared with 2,000 that officials had expected.

Foreign applicants have complained to immigration offices about the strict conditions, particularly one pertaining to income levels.

Shao Huaiyu, a renewable energy researcher at Kyushu University, applied at the recommendation of school officials soon after the system was introduced last May.

He was certified as highly competent after receiving 100 points out of a maximum 140 in the researcher division based on his doctor’s and patented inventions.

Shao planned to ask his parents to come from China and help raise two daughters, aged 2 and under 1 year old.

But his application was refused because of an additional condition that called for an annual income of 10 million yen ($106,000) or more.

“It is almost impossible for a university researcher in his or her 30s to earn 10 million yen,” Shao said. “By the time I can earn that much, my children will have grown up.”

The Justice Ministry plans to review the system. An Immigration Bureau official said the system has not been widely publicized overseas due to limited budgets.

Junichi Goto, a professor of labor economics at Keio University, is opposed to the planned review, saying looser conditions could jeopardize a ban on unskilled laborers.

He has also expressed concern that some foreigners could abuse the system by bringing their parents over simply to get advanced medical treatment under the nation’s universal health insurance system.

A similar point system has been introduced in Canada, New Zealand and other countries eager to accept skilled immigrants.

According to the Canadian Embassy, 90,000 to 110,000 engineers and their families enter the country each year.

Even among industrialized countries, Japan is regarded as exercising very strict control over immigration.

The Japanese program is intended to attract only those whose skills are needed in Japan, rather than increasing the number of foreign nationals working in this country by loosening the immigration control law.

ENDS

Amazing new Cabinet survey finds “81% welcome ‘foreigners’ of Japanese descent”. Festival of cognitive dissonance!

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Hi Blog.  This has already been discussed better elsewhere, but it would be remiss of Debito.org to not give a bit of space to this amazing Cabinet survey:

From the Japan Times/Kyodo:

//////////////////////////////////
Poll: 81% welcome foreigners of Japanese descent
KYODO MAR 2, 2013

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/03/02/national/80-of-japanese-welcome-foreigners-of-japanese-descent/

More than 80 percent of respondents in a new poll said they are open to foreign nationals of Japanese descent living in the nation, the Cabinet Office reported.

The office’s first survey of its kind, released Thursday, found 80.9 percent of respondents expressed openness to living alongside those with Japanese ancestry, including Brazilian and Peruvian descendents of Japanese immigrants. Only 12.9 percent opposed the idea.

Of the 3,000 citizens canvassed in January for the poll, 59.7 percent were also in favor of the central government and municipalities assisting non-Japanese residents to a greater extent, for instance by providing Japanese-language classes for unemployed young people and recruiting interpreters at Hello Work job-placement offices.

“With more opportunities to interact with foreigners, (Japanese people) are eventually no longer rejecting” the idea of accepting non-Japanese nationals in society, a Cabinet Office official remarked.

As of the end of 2011, there were fewer than 300,000 foreigners of Japanese descent living in the country, of whom 210,000 were Brazilians and another 50,000 Peruvians, the Cabinet Office said.
ENDS
//////////////////////////////////

Now just sit back in your chair and let that sink in for a moment. We have the highest level of government in Japan conducting a slanted survey (available in Japanese here) asking not about public acceptance of NJ, but rather a breed of NJ, specifically “Nikkei Teijuu Gaikokujin” (non-citizen residents of Japan who are of Japanese lineage). Why would that be the question asked? What policy is retroactively being sought to be justified? And why is this angle newsworthy?

Apropos of a few answers, here are some comments garnered from Debito.org and elsewhere:

==============================
AS: “Blood = Japanese v.2?”

JDG: “It’s a brilliantly pointless piece of reporting, for the sake of massaging the egos of the Japanese readers, and assuring them that Japan is a ‘modern’ country… J-public are finally willing to accept foreigners… as long as they are ‘Japanese’ foreigners… I feel like I have gone back in time 5 years. The same politicians are back, the same old economic policies are back, and now Japan wants all those Nikkeijin they paid to go home, to come back too?”

Puddintain: “Imagine a similar poll in a country mostly populated with folks of white European descent that found that 80% percent of them were willing to live with immigrants of white European descent! Wouldn’t that be something amazing?”
==============================

Robert Moorehead’s JAPANsociology blog offers a more in-depth analysis of the Cabinet survey itself, so I won’t repeat. The most poignant parts of it for me was:

==============================
Moorehead: The survey asked respondents if they knew that there were Nikkei living in Japan, and how they knew this. Nearly 53 percent the respondents either knew that Nikkei were living in Japan, or had heard about it. 46 percent answered that they did not know that this group was living in Japan… [!!!]

On the one hand, I’m encouraged by the support for Nikkei in Japan. It’s certainly better than if they had said the opposite. But … I’m skeptical. South Americans in Japan, Nikkei and non-Nikkei alike, have told me very clearly that they do not feel included in Japanese society. Instead, borrowing some phrases from Eli Anderson’s The Cosmopolitan Canopy, they’re perpetually ‘on probation.’ In this provisional status, any misstep can be used against you as a sign of the fact that you’ll never fit in…

Hopefully government officials will use this survey to promote further initiatives to empower the Nikkei (and hopefully other non-Japanese) in Japan. Publicly conducting the survey, posting it on the Cabinet Office website, and releasing it to the press, may indicate that the government is testing public support for such initiatives.

http://japansociology.com/2013/03/02/80-of-japanese-welcome-foreigners-of-japanese-descent/
==============================

COMMENT: Bingo! As has been noted before on Debito.org, the Cabinet, in its sessions last summer on how to “accept” NJ into Japanese society for future economic vitality, only showed interest in the treatment of Nikkei. Nikkei, you see, are somehow part of “us” (due to Wajin blood conceits), and it looks like Japan’s policymakers are going to give the old failed Nikkei worker importation strategy another try, and cite this “shooting fish in a barrel” survey to support it.

Anyway, if the Cabinet is so keen on taking surveys, how about its perpetually embarrassing (and, as I’ve reported in the Japan Times, very flawed) Cabinet Survey on Human Rights that it conducts every four years? I just found the 2012 version here, a year late, clearly made public with significantly less fanfare (I searched for it as late as last October).  Perhaps because the results in the past were far more revealing about Japan’s cognitive dissonance regarding human rights (over the past decade or so, only a bit more than half of respondents answered affirmatively to the survey question, “Should foreigners have the same human rights protections as Japanese?”), meaning a large proportion don’t support granting equal human rights to foreign humans!  You see, human rights for NJ, by the very nature of having to ask this kind of question, are optional in Japan.  Less so, it would seem based upon this new Cabinet survey, for the “foreigners” with the right bloodline.  Which is the conceit that this new Cabinet survey is pandering to.

Ultimately, I believe the GOJ will once again fall into the same old shortsightedness (like so many other societies) of wanting “workers” only to discover later they brought in “people”.  And then, as before, society will seek to denigrate if not get rid of them as soon as they actually have needs (such as health care to provide, children to educate, lifestyles that reflect their backgrounds, retirement pensions to pay, political power to cede) that run counter to the original national plans…  Arudou Debito

=======================

PS:  I will talk about the new 2012 Human Rights Survey shortly, (for the record, it’s archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20130210112833/http://www8.cao.go.jp/survey/h24/h24-jinken/index.html) after my next Japan Times JBC column comes out next Tuesday JST.  Seems like the surveyers read my 2007 JT column criticizing it, and changed the survey questions regarding NJ discrimination this time.

For the record:
〔参考1〕 外国人の人権擁護についての考え方,,,,,
,該当者数,日本国籍を持たない人でも、日本人と同じように人権は守るべきだ,日本国籍を持たない人は日本人と同じような権利を持っていなくても仕方がない,どちらともいえない,わからない
,人,%,%,%,%
平成19年6月調査(注1),”1,766″,59.3,25.1,10.8,4.8
平成15年2月調査(注1),”2,059″,54,21.8,15.7,8.5
平成9年7月調査(注1),”2,148″,65.5,18.5,11.5,4.5
平成5年7月調査(注1),”2,274″,68.3,20.4,8,3.2
昭和63年7月調査(注2),”2,320″,61.8,16.7,12.3,9.2
(注1)平成5年7月調査から平成19年6月調査までは、「日本に居住している外国人は、生活上のいろいろな面で差別されてい,,,,,
ると言われていますが、外国人の人権擁護について、あなたの意見は次のどちらに近いですか。」と聞いている。,,,,,
(注2)昭和63年7月調査では、「生活上のいろいろな面で、外国人は差別されていると言われていますが、外国人の人権擁護に,,,,,
ついてあなたの意見は次のどちらに近いですか。」と聞いている。,,,,,
https://web.archive.org/web/20130220074813/http://www8.cao.go.jp/survey/h24/h24-jinken/zh/h14san1.csv

The 25-year “Special Reconstruction Tax” of Jan 1, 2013 — yet another GOJ leech on the Japan workers’ payroll?

mytest

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Hi Blog.  A couple of weeks ago I received this:

///////////////////////////////////////

January 30, 2013
Dear writers,
Thank you very much for contributing your articles to The Japan Times.
We would like to inform you that the special reconstruction income tax, introduced by the government to secure financial resources for reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, took effect on January 1, 2013. This tax is imposed on individuals and corporations – both Japanese and foreign – at a rate of 2.1 percent over a 25-year period through 2037.

As a result, the total withholding tax rate deducted from the manuscript fee will rise from 10 percent to 10.21 percent for residents in Japan, and from 20 percent to 20.42 percent for overseas residents, starting with the February payment for articles carried in The Japan Times in January.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
Sincerely,
The Japan Times

///////////////////////////////////////

This post is not to criticize The Japan Times (who clearly have no control over this circumstance whatsoever).  But have others also received word of yet another tax on income to go towards “reconstruction”?

We’ve already seen where money earmarked for “disaster relief” has been going — to fund corrupt bureaucratic practices within the GOJ (e.g., “road building in distant Okinawa; prison vocational training in other parts of Japan; subsidies for a contact lens factory in central Japan; renovations of government offices in Tokyo; aircraft and fighter pilot training, research and production of rare earths minerals, a semiconductor research project and even funding to support whaling“).  I’ve also heard of pay cut after pay cut in the academic communities for “reconstruction”, with little to no accountability over the funds afterwards (one case I’ve heard of is where the gakuchou of a major national university has been sequestering monies into an account to earn interest for his own purposes).

What say other readers of Debito.org?  We’ve already discussed extensively how the Post-Fukushima Debacles have laid bare just how irredeemably broken Japan’s system is (see related articles herehere (item #2), hereherehereherehereherehere, and here).  Are you also seeing more skimming, both GOJ and non-GOJ related, from your paychecks for “reconstruction”?  Just how bad do things have to get before people say “enough”?  Arudou Debito

Mainichi: NJ medical intern death from overwork finally officially recognized as karoushi after 2 years

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Hi Blog. In a sad precedent, we have a clear case of death through overwork being officially recognized as such for a NJ doctor.  It’s sadder that it has taken so long (more than two years) for that official recognition to come through.  I’ve long realized that Japan has at times some pretty crazy work ethics (and a peer group atmosphere that encourages people to give their all, even until they die), but it seems even more crazy for NJ to leave their societies to come to a place that will work them to death.  Especially as a NJ “trainee”, where they have even fewer labor-law rights than the locals who are in similar work circumstances.  This situation has to be known about, since Japan’s immigration laws aren’t allowing a labor market where enough doctors (even imported ones) can satiate the perpetual labor shortage being referred to below.  Only when GOJ authorities realize that the jig is up, because the international labor force is avoiding Japan as a harsh labor market to work within, will things change.  Arudou Debito

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Death of Chinese medical intern recognized as work-related
December 26, 2012 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of Yokohama John
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20121226p2a00m0na015000c.html

A regional labor standards inspection office in Aomori Prefecture has recognized that a Chinese trainee doctor who was working at a municipal hospital died from overwork, a lawyer representing the victim has disclosed.

It is reportedly the country’s first case in which a foreign doctor working in Japan has been recognized by a labor standards office as having died from overwork.

The Hirosaki Labor Standards Inspection Office in Aomori Prefecture acknowledged that the 2010 death of Lu Yongfu, a Chinese trainee doctor at a municipal hospital in Hirosaki, was work-related, in a decision on Dec. 20. Lu died at the age of 28 after working up to 121 hours overtime a month.

Ayako Hiramoto, a lawyer representing the victim, revealed the labor office’s decision during a news conference on Dec. 25.

According to the office, Lu had worked between 84 and 121 hours overtime per month before he died of an acute circulatory disorder in November 2010. His average monthly overtime hours surpassed 80 hours — the criteria for certifying death from overwork, or “karoshi” in Japanese.

The trainee was on duty almost all weekends except for the summer break, and had two to four night shifts a month that left him working on day shifts the following day without enough sleep, according to the labor office.

Lu had arrived in Japan in 2002 and graduated from the school of medicine at Hirosaki University in Aomori Prefecture before starting his internship at the hospital in April 2010.

Hiramoto said there were at least six other cases in Japan in which trainee doctors had died from overwork in the past.

“Regional areas are suffering from a serious shortage of doctors, while the management of their work hours is sloppy. Drastic measures need to be taken,” she said.
ENDS

=================================
Original Japanese story

過労死:中国人研修医に初認定、残業最大121時間
毎日新聞 2012年12月25日 19時01分
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20121226k0000m040047000c.html

青森県弘前市の同市立病院で研修医として勤務中の10年11月に急性循環器不全で亡くなった中国人の呂永富さん(当時28歳)について、弘前労働基準監督署が、長時間過重労働が原因だとして労働災害を20日付で認定した。代理人の平本紋子(あやこ)弁護士が25日、記者会見して明らかにしたもので、日本で働く外国人医師の過労死が認められたのは初めてという。

平本弁護士などによると、呂さんは02年に訪日し、弘前大学医学部を卒業。10年4月から同病院で研修医として外科や内科、救急部門の外科で勤務した。労基署の認定によると、この間最も短い月で84時間、最長で121時間の時間外労働をし、平均は過労死認定基準の80時間を超えていた。夏休み以外はほとんどの土日に出勤し、月2〜4回の宿直で十分な睡眠を取れないまま日直勤務についていた。

研修医の過労死は平本弁護士が把握しているだけでも過去6件。同弁護士は「地方の医師不足は深刻な上、研修医の労働時間管理はずさん。抜本的な対策が必要だ」と話している。

弘前市立病院の東野博院長は「労災認定されたことを重く受け止め、労働環境の再点検を行いたい」と話した。【東海林智】
ENDS

Quoted in Die Zeit newspaper: “Japan: Old and Xenophobic” (German with machine translation)

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Sometimes I wish the Star Trek Universal Translators were already here.  But we’re getting closer.  Here’s a Google Translate version of an article that came out in Die Zeit newspaper a couple of months ago that cites me and others about Japan’s political problems with creating an immigration policy.  Not a lot here that frequent readers of Debito.org don’t already know (except for the give-and-take access to export markets for the bilateral nursing agreements between Indonesia and The Philippines), but here’s a German media take on the issue.  There are some bits that are a bit clumsily translated, so corrections welcome.  Arudou Debito

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JAPAN
Old and xenophobic
Japan on the day of elections: the economy is running out of workers. Immigrants may bridge the gap, but locals reject strangers.
DIE ZEIT, December 6, 2012, by Felix Lill
Courtesy of author Felix Lill, OM, and Google Translate (cleaned up a bit, corrections welcome)
Original German at
http://www.zeit.de/2012/50/Japan-Wirtschaft-Arbeitskraefte-Einwanderer

To Ezekiel Ramat would be the Japanese economy actually tear. [??]  The 24 year old geriatric nurse is young, well educated and unmarried. Moreover, the man hails from the Philippines, who for almost two years in Japan, lives for two-thirds of the salary of his Japanese colleagues. But instead of being welcomed with open arms, Ramat needs after-hours cramming. After four years, he must either pass the Japanese nurse exam – or leave the country.

The contents Ramat knows that from his training at home. But the three Japanese alphabets in which the questions are asked, make it almost impossible for foreigners to pass the test. Only one in ten may remain at the end.

“I’m learning every day,” says Ramat. “Maybe I have a 50-50 chance.” He says he’s even hopeful about the December 16th Japanese parliamentary elections: A new government , which will most likely represent to current polls business-oriented Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), must be on the future of Japan. “Japan’s economy still needs foreigners working. It would be unwise to kick us again.”  So gives Ramat courage.

An immigration campaign would be political suicide

For decades, Japan has been in a shaky position. The once-booming industrial nation barely registered economic growth. The national debt – in terms of economic power – is higher than that of Greece.

Even today, every fourth Japanese is over 65 years old . The birth rate is so low that the population will decline by 2050 from 127 million today to below 90 million. Several governments have tried to counter by more kindergartens, child care allowance and the like, but little has borne fruit. In 100 years, there might be only 40 million Japanese.

Now there is a lack of skilled labor, falling tax revenues, and no one knows who is going to pay in the future the growing pension claims. According to calculations by the United Nations, by 2050 only 17 million workers will be found to fund the pensions.

But there is a solution: Immigrants like Ezekiel Ramat. Japan’s foreign population is currently 1.3 percent, extremely low for a highly developed country: Germany has at about 8.5 percent foreigners. In Japan, the number of immigrants in recent years even went down. But strange: no one in politics seems to care about immigration policy. Neither the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) nor the main opposition parties mention the subject at all in their campaigns. When asked, all assert that they want to promote more immigration. But they make no specific proposals.

“In Japan, it would be political suicide to run an immigration campaign,” says Arudou Debito. The author of US-Japanese origin has long been involved with Japan’s foreign policy, and has also just written his doctoral thesis. “Most Japanese can not imagine having to share their country with foreigners.” Opinion polls recorded in recent years paint a foreigner-skeptical picture.

Only half of the Japanese supported the idea of ​​granting foreigners the same fundamental rights as Japanese. A third of the population was against further immigration. Three-quarters think that in ten million immigrants would exceed the limit of what is acceptable.

“Which party is under such circumstances to make active immigration policy?” Asks Debito. He even a few years ago made headlines when he sued a Japanese hot spring, which had denied his two American-looking daughters entry. [Sic:  it was one of my daughters, not both.]  To date, Japan has no law to protect foreigners against [racial] discrimination.

Japan has tried to compensate for an aging society through immigrants. As the dangers of shrinking population became known in the eighties, Japan courted Japanese-born Brazilians for simple tasks. By 2004 this had risen to almost 300,000. But since there was a lack of integration programs, a lot of Brazilians in Japan never felt at home.

In addition, policy making and media sentiment against the newcomers blamed the increasing proportion of foreigners for a rise in crime. With the start of the financial crisis, it was finally opportune to send back the foreigners out of the country. From 2009, each Brazilian has been offered a one-way ticket to South America, on condition they never seek work in Japan [sic: on the same visa status].

In June 2008, the Liberal Democrat Cabinet of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda announced a plan by which within 50 years about ten million immigrants should be admitted. The number of foreign students should rise by 2025 to one million per year. But both Fukuda and his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, who ruled Japan from 2001 to 2006, saw the acceptance by the Japanese the biggest obstacle. At the end of his administration, Koizumi said, “If the number of foreign workers exceeds a certain level, there will be conflict.  It should be prevented. “

To not rely on the consent of the electorate, Japanese bureaucrats concluded their last bilateral contracts through the back door. Agreements with the Philippines and Indonesia that were hardly discussed publicly allowed Japanese companies market access and in turn allowed the posting of caregivers for sick and elderly to Japan.

A sign for a better immigration policy was not there. “The main objective of these agreements was to support our export economy,” says Takahiro Wakabayashi, who is in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in charge of business with Southeast Asia. Wakabayashi does not deny the need for more immigration itself, but on the question of why this insight occasions little action, he gives an answer that is heard again and again: The topic of immigration is controversial. “We should have the economic capacity to take in more people. But the unions fear in such a case falling wages.”

Young foreigners be exploited – and then sent away

The author Debito believed that the current provisions for foreign workers are therefore less restrictive, so they do not remain in the country in the long term. “The examination system at the nurses is intended to take advantage of some of the best years of young foreigners and then return them home. The system works: Theoretically, everyone has the chance to make it to a status of unlimited right of residence [sic:  I did not say anything about Permanent Residency], but almost no one gets it. “

If there are alternatives to more immigration to Japan? One might raise the retirement age, which is 65 years. But that would be very expensive for the company. In Japan, namely, the principle that with increasing seniority and higher salaries are paid. In addition, today many Japanese retirees take new jobs, because their pension is not enough. Women, of which less than two-thirds have a job complain that there was not enough childcare.

In the eyes of the scientist Naohiro Ogawa, it is a matter of time before Japan’s “demographic time bomb” explodes. “Until Japan is willing to open the door to more immigrants, the countries that would like to send today, workers have long since been in the situation of labor shortage. Worldwide, the population growth back already. ” [??]

And the patience of Japanese contractors is limited. For example, Clifford Paragua of the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo. He says: “We could do a lot more than the current 600 workers send to Japan. Japan could use a lot more. “In the Middle East 800,000 Filipinos are working in hospitals, their education will also be recognized, and they came through with English mostly. Why,” asks Paragua, should “young Filipinos choose Japan?”

No matter who wins: Even after the election will probably not change much in the integration policy. Many of the few foreigners who make it to Japan, such as geriatric nurses Ezekiel Ramat, will send half of their income to the family back home – and then leave after a few years the country again.

“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” says Naohiro Ogawa. Because immigrants would not just do the work and pay the pensions, they would not buy the products of Japanese manufacturers and with their own children compensate the lack of Japanese youth.” Ogawa says that his people would only think about it once properly. “Economic understanding would suffice.”
ENDS

Interesting lawsuits: French “Flyjin” sues employer NHK for firing her during Fukushima Crisis, 8 US sailors sue TEPCO for lying about radiation dangers

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a couple of interesting lawsuits in the pipeline:  A French woman being fired from NHK (despite 20 years working there) apparently for leaving Japan during the Fukushima crisis, and eight US Navy sailors suing TEPCO (from overseas) for lying about nuclear fallout dangers and exposing them to radiation.

No matter what you think about the act of litigation (and there are always those, such as House Gaijin Gregory Clark or tarento Daniel Kahl (see Komisarof, “At Home Abroad”, p. 100) who decry anything a NJ does in court, saying “they’re suing at the drop of a hat like the litigious Westerners they are” — even though millions of Japanese in Japan sue every year), these cases have the potential to reveal something interesting:  1) Blowing the lid off the Flyjin Myth of “fickle NJ leaving their work stations” once again, this time in the Japanese judiciary; and 2) showing whether international effects of GOJ negligence (and irradiating the food chain both domestically and internationally counts as such) is something that can be legally actionable from afar.

Anyway, power to them.  I doubt the outcome of these cases will appear much in the J media, so keep an eye out for their potential appearance in the English-language media when the decisions get handed down within the next year or two.  Arudou Debito

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French woman who fled during nuclear crisis sues NHK for firing her
January 16, 2013 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130116p2g00m0dm023000c.html

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A French woman on Tuesday sued public broadcaster Japan Broadcasting Corp., or NHK, for dismissing her after she left Japan in response to a French government warning issued during the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Emmanuelle Bodin, 55, who had engaged in translation and radio work, said in a complaint filed with the Tokyo District Court that she had told her boss that she would return to work on March 30, 2011, but received a termination letter on March 22.

Two days after the earthquake-tsunami disaster triggered the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant on March 11 that year, the French government advised its citizens to leave the Tokyo area.

Bodin, who is demanding her dismissal be rescinded and damages be paid, had worked at NHK for over 20 years as a contract staffer, renewing her contract every year, according to the complaint. She said in a news conference no other employee in the French language section who left Tokyo at the time was fired.

NHK said the termination of her contract was not made in an unfair manner but refrained from elaborating on reasons for the dismissal.
ENDS

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The Japan Times, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012

Eight U.S. sailors sue Tepco for millions for falsely downplaying Fukushima radiation exposure

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121228a3.html

Bloomberg — Tokyo Electric Power Co. is being sued for tens of millions of dollars by eight U.S. Navy sailors who claim that they were unwittingly exposed to radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdowns and that Tepco lied about the dangers.

The sailors aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan were involved in the Operation Tomodachi disaster relief operations following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region and led to the nuclear catastrophe, according to their complaint filed in U.S. federal court in San Diego on Dec. 21.

Tepco and the Japanese government conspired to create the false impression that radiation leaking from the Fukushima No. 1 plant didn’t pose a threat to the sailors, according to the complaint. As a result, the plaintiffs rushed to areas that were unsafe and too close to the facility, exposing them to radiation, their lawyers said.

The Japanese government was “lying through their teeth about the reactor meltdown” crisis, as it reassured the USS Reagan crew that “everything is under control,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said in the complaint. “The plaintiffs must now endure a lifetime of radiation poisoning and suffering.”

The sailors are each seeking $10 million in damages, $30 million in punitive damages and a judgment requiring the creation of a $100 million fund to pay for their medical monitoring and treatments.

“We can’t comment as we have not received the complaint document yet,” Yusuke Kunikage, a Tepco spokesman, said Thursday. “We will consider a response after examining the claim.”

In July, the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund took control of Tepco in return for a ¥1 trillion capital injection after the disaster left the utility on the brink of bankruptcy. The utility received ¥1.4 trillion in state funds to compensate those affected by the disaster.

ENDS

Call for help from JALT PALE group for Publications Chair

mytest

PUBLICATIONS CHAIR WANTED
HELP KEEP JALT PALE FROM POSSIBLE DECOMMISSIONING

Hey everyone.  Arudou Debito here.  I have been told that one of the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT)’s most important SIG groups, PALE (Professionalism, Administration, and Leadership in Education), is in some difficulty at the moment.

The PALE SIG desperately needs a Publications Chair.  If it does not have one, then someone on the board will have to pick up the load, which has been the case the past year or so with disappointing results.  It is a fact, alas, that PALE is not a popular SIG due to its stands on controversial issues, and it should not be surprising that some would be happy to see it go.  It is still odd, since PALE is all about helping people find job stability and better employment conditions through being informed about labor law etc.  We are the group that acts as a safety net, one that people keep falling upon to when times get tough in the workplace. Decommissioning the group is an option for JALT.  One that we don’t think should happen, for everyone’s sake.

PALE has a long history of activism and assistance.  I was the editor of the PALE Journal for several years.  An archive of PALE activities and publications is available at https://www.debito.org/PALE

So if you a) are a JALT member (or are willing to become one), and b) are willing to join PALE (it costs a mere 1500 yen per year), and c) are willing to become Publications Chair, then please contact Tom Goetz right away at professor_goetz@yahoo.com.

Our latest project is to produce a PALE anthology.  But if our SIG is decommissioned at the next JALT EBM on February 2-3, or a later EBM, then access to PALE’s coffers becomes much more difficult and further subject to outside control.

Also, PALE needs new membership anytime, so please also contact Tom if you would like to become a member.

Please help out.  Thanks for reading.  Arudou Debito

Beate Sirota Gordon, one architect of the Postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89, her goals uncompleted if not currently being undone

mytest

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Hello Blog.  Let me devote this blog entry (one of two, next one in three days) to the passing of a historical figure whose importance within Japanese history cannot be overstated.  Beate Sirota Gordon, a woman in a committee of men drafting the Japanese Postwar Constitution, wrote articles that remain fundamental to the rights Debito.org has devoted decades to upholding:  Article 14, which guarantees that “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”  The other, Article 24, states (excerpt), “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes;” this guarantees fundamental human and civil rights to women that weren’t present under the horrible Prewar Ie Seido (which among other things made people into property).  A hearty Debito.org salute to Gordon for a life well lived and opportunities to improve Japanese society well taken.  NYT obituary enclosed below.

A few Debito.org-esque comments:  One is that the NYT’s claim below of “Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution” is probably erroneous.  That honor probably belongs to an old teacher of mine when I was at Cornell, Milton J. Esman, who was born in 1918 and is apparently still alive (see his resume page two here).  (Wikipedia also notes that Gordon was not the only woman assigned to the group either, as economist Eleanor Hadley was also present.)

Second, reflecting upon Gordon’s life when eulogizing, it is important to note a number of fundamental rights enshrined in the Japanese Constitution that have remained unenforced.  One is of course the lack of a law against racial discrimination (which is unconstitutional under Article 14 but not illegal in the Civil or Criminal Code), meaning racial discrimination can be (and is) “practiced undisturbed”, as the UN has noted in the past, in a “deep and profound” manner (despite Japan effecting the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination in 1996; we’re now approaching seventeen years of unkept promises).  The other I will just mention is the clause of “essential equality of the sexes” mentioned above in Article 24.  Despite the Equal Employment Opportunities Law of 1986, Japan still maintains an immense gender-wage gap:

genderpaygapasia2005
Screen capture courtesy ILO, “Work, Income, and Gender Equality in East Asia“, page 34.

Japan ranks at the very bottom (basically on par with ROK and Malaysia), and although the research notes that comprehensive comparisons cannot be made, the point still remains that women in Japan earn less than half of what men in Japan make for comparative work.  Wage differentials may be true in all societies (I know of no society where gender-pay equality is systemwide), but this egregious a gap is unbecoming of a developed country, and shows the lack of good-faith drafting or enforcement of constitutionally-grounded laws in Japanese society.

Finally, we have seen how much trouble the Japanese elite has gone to circumvent and undermine the Postwar “Peace Constitution”.  We can start with the translation into Japanese (that Gordon’s group missed despite their fluency) that limited Article 14’s interpretation of constitutional protections for “all of the people” to Japanese citizens only.  We can go on to talk about the unconstitutional standing military that is the JSDF and the right of education limited to citizens only in the Fundamental Law of Education.  Plenty more, if people wish to point that out in Comments.  And now, with the new PM Abe government, we can look forward to proposals for constitutional revisions to restore Japan’s military in name and allow for a remilitarization of Japan.

I wonder what Gordon would say now about Japan’s December 2012 rightward swing.  My guess is that she would lament her work remaining unaddressed if not being undone.  Arudou Debito

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Beate Gordon, Long-Unsung Heroine of Japanese Women’s Rights, Dies at 89
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: January 1, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/world/asia/beate-gordon-feminist-heroine-in-japan-dies-at-89.html
Courtesy of lots of people, particularly DY and CRF

Beate Sirota Gordon, the daughter of Russian Jewish parents who at 22 almost single-handedly wrote women’s rights into the Constitution of modern Japan, and then kept silent about it for decades, only to become a feminist heroine there in recent years, died on Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 89.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, her daughter, Nicole Gordon, said.

A civilian attached to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s army of occupation after World War II, Ms. Gordon was the last living member of the American team that wrote Japan’s postwar Constitution.

Her work — drafting language that gave women a set of legal rights pertaining to marriage, divorce, property and inheritance that they had long been without in Japan’s feudal society — had an effect on their status that endures to this day.

“It set a basis for a better, a more equal society,” Carol Gluck, a professor of Japanese history at Columbia University, said Monday in a telephone interview. “By just writing those things into the Constitution — our Constitution doesn’t have any of those things — Beate Gordon intervened at a critical moment. And what kind of 22-year-old gets to write a constitution?”

If Ms. Gordon, neither lawyer nor constitutional scholar, was indeed an unlikely candidate for the task, then it is vital to understand the singular confluence of forces that brought her to it:

Had her father not been a concert pianist of considerable renown; had she not been so skilled at foreign languages; and had she not been desperate to find her parents, from whom she was separated during the war and whose fate she did not know for years, she never would have been thrust into her quiet, improbable role in world history.

Nor would she have been apt to embark on her later career as a prominent cultural impresario, one of the first people to bring traditional Asian performing arts to audiences throughout North America — a job, pursued vigorously until she was nearly 70, that entailed travel to some of Asia’s most remote, inaccessible reaches.

The daughter of Leo Sirota and the former Augustine Horenstein, Beate (pronounced bay-AH-tay) Sirota was born on Oct. 25, 1923, in Vienna, where her parents had settled.

When she was 5, her father was invited to teach at the Imperial Academy of Music in Tokyo, and the family moved there for a planned six-month stay. Mr. Sirota soon became revered in Japan as a performer and teacher, and they wound up living in Tokyo for more than a decade.

Beate was educated at a German school in Tokyo and, from the mid-1930s on, after the school became far too Nazified for her parents’ liking, at the American School in Japan. In 1939, shortly before her 16th birthday, she left for Mills College in Oakland, Calif. Her parents remained in Japan.

In December 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it became impossible to contact Japan. Beate had no word from her parents, and no money.

She put her foreign language prowess to work: by this time, she was fluent in English, Japanese, German, French, Spanish and Russian.

Obtaining permission from Mills to take examinations without having to attend classes, she took a job at a United States government listening post in San Francisco, monitoring radio broadcasts from Tokyo. She later worked in San Francisco for the United States Office of War Information, writing radio scripts urging Japan to surrender.

Beate Sirota received her bachelor’s degree in modern languages from Mills in 1943 and became a United States citizen in January 1945. At war’s end, she still did not know whether her parents were alive or dead.

For American civilians, travel to Japan was all but impossible. She went to Washington, where she secured a job as an interpreter on General MacArthur’s staff. Arriving in a devastated Tokyo on Christmas Eve 1945, she went immediately to her family’s house. Where it had stood was only a single charred pillar.

She eventually found her parents, who had been interned in the countryside and were malnourished. She took them to Tokyo, where she nursed them while continuing her work for General MacArthur.

One of MacArthur’s first priorities was drafting a constitution for postwar Japan, a top-secret assignment, begun in February 1946, that had to be finished in just seven days. As the only woman assigned to his constitutional committee, along with two dozen men, young Beate Sirota was deputized to compose the section on women’s rights.

She had seen women’s lives firsthand during the 10 years she lived in Japan, and urgently wanted to improve their status.

“Japanese women were historically treated like chattel; they were property to be bought and sold on a whim,” Ms. Gordon told The Dallas Morning News in 1999. “Women had no rights whatsoever.”

Commandeering a jeep at the start of that week in February, she visited the libraries in Tokyo that were still standing, borrowing copies of as many different countries’ constitutions as she could. She steeped herself in them and, after seven days of little sleep, wound up drafting two articles of the proposed Japanese Constitution.

One, Article 14, said in part, “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”

The other, Article 24, gave women protections in areas including “choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters.”

The new Constitution took effect in 1947; the next year, Beate Sirota married Joseph Gordon, who had been the chief interpreter for American military intelligence in postwar Japan.

In the 1950s, Ms. Gordon joined the staff of the Japan Society in New York, becoming its director of performing arts. In that capacity, she introduced many Japanese artists to the West, including masters of traditional music, dance, woodblock printing and the tea ceremony.

In 1970, she became director of performing arts at the Asia Society in New York. She scoured Asia for talent, bringing Balinese gamelan ensembles, Vietnamese puppeteers, Mongolian dancers and many others to stages throughout the United States and Canada. She retired in 1991 as the society’s director of performances, films and lectures.

Ms. Gordon’s husband, who became a real estate developer, died last August. Besides her daughter, she is survived by a son, Geoffrey, and three grandchildren.

For decades, Ms. Gordon said nothing about her role in postwar Japan, at first because the work was secret and later because she did not want her youth — and the fact that she was an American — to become ammunition for the Japanese conservatives who have long clamored for constitutional revision.

But in the mid-1980s, she began to speak of it publicly. The release of her memoir, “The Only Woman in the Room,” published in Japanese in 1995 and in English two years later, made her a celebrity in Japan, where she lectured widely, appeared on television and was the subject of a stage play and a documentary film, “The Gift From Beate.”

In recent years, amid renewed attacks on the Constitution by Japanese conservatives, Ms. Gordon spoke out ardently in its defense.

Ms. Gordon was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, a high honor bestowed by the Japanese government, in 1998. But perhaps the greatest accolade she received came from Japanese women themselves.

“They always want their picture taken with me,” Ms. Gordon told ABC News in 1999. “They always want to shake my hand. They always tell me how grateful they are.”
ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 59: The year for NJ in 2012: a Top 10

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Hi Blog. Thanks everyone for putting this article in the Top Ten Most Read once again for most of New Year’s Day (and to the JT for distinguishing this with another “Editor’s Pick”). Great illustrations as always by Chris Mackenzie.  Here’s hoping I have more positive things to say in next year’s roundup… This version with links to sources. Enjoy. And Happy New Year 2013.  Arudou Debito

=================================

The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013

The year for non-Japanese in ’12: a top 10

By ARUDOU DEBITO

Back by popular demand, here is JBC’s roundup of the top 10 human rights events that most affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan in 2012, in ascending order.

10. Keene’s naturalization (March 7)
News photo

This should have occasioned great celebration in Japan’s era of crisis, but instead, scholar Donald Keene’s anointment as a Japanese citizen became a cautionary tale, for two reasons. One was his very public denigration of other NJ (despite their contributions as full-time Japan residents, taxpayers and family creators) as alleged criminals and “flyjin” deserters (JBC, Apr. 3), demonstrating how Old Japan Hands eat their young. The other was the lengths one apparently must go for acceptance: If you spend the better part of a century promoting Japanese literature to the world, then if you live to, oh, the age of 90, you might be considered “one of us.”

It seems Japan would rather celebrate a pensioner salving a wounded Japan than young multiethnic Japanese workers potentially saving it.

9. Liberty Osaka defunded (June 2)
News photo

Liberty Osaka (www.liberty.or.jp), Japan’s only human rights museum archiving the historical grass-roots struggles of disenfranchised minorities, faces probable closure because its government funding is being cut off. Mayor Toru Hashimoto, of hard-right Japan Restoration Party fame (and from a disenfranchised minority himself), explicitly said the divestment is due to the museum’s displays being “limited to discrimination and human rights,” thereby failing to present Japan’s children with a future of “hopes and dreams.”

In a country with the most peace museums in the world, this politically motivated ethnic cleansing of the past augurs ill for cultural heterogeneity under Japan’s right-wing swing (see below).

Sources:  https://www.debito.org/?p=10619 http://japanfocus.org/-Tessa-Morris_Suzuki/3818

8. Nationality Law ruling (March 23)
News photo

In a throwback to prewar eugenics, Tokyo District Court ruled constitutional a section of the Nationality Law’s Article 12 stating that a) if a man sires a child with a foreigner b) overseas, and c) does not file for the child’s Japanese citizenship within three months of birth, then citizenship may legally be denied.

Not only did this decision erode the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that granted citizenship to international children born out of wedlock, but it also made clear that having “foreign blood” (in a country where citizenship is blood-based) penalizes Japanese children — because if two Japanese nationals have a child overseas, or if the child is born to a Japanese woman, Article 12 does not apply. The ruling thus reinforced a legal loophole helping Japanese men evade responsibility if they fool around with foreign women.

Sources:  https://www.debito.org/?p=10060 https://www.debito.org/?p=1715

7. No Hague signing (September 8)
News photo

Japan’s endorsement of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction became a casualty of months of political gridlock, as the opposition Liberal Democratic Party blocked about a third of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s bills.

The treaty outlines protocol for how children of broken marriages can avoid international tugs of war. As the Community Pages have reported umpteen times, Japan, one of the few developed countries that is not a signatory, remains a haven for postdivorce parental alienation and child abductions.

Since joint custody does not legally exist and visitation rights are not guaranteed, after a Japanese divorce one parent (regardless of nationality) is generally expected to disappear from their child’s life. Former Diet member Masae Ido (a parental child abductor herself) glibly called this “a Japanese custom.” If so, it is one of the most psychologically damaging customs possible for a child, and despite years of international pressure on Japan to join the Hague, there is now little hope of that changing.

Sources:  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120908a2.html
https://www.debito.org/?p=10548

6. Immigration talks (May 24-August 27)
News photo

In one of the few potentially bright spots for NJ in Japan this year, the Yoshihiko Noda Cabinet convened several meetings on how Japan might go about creating a “coexistence society” that could “accept” NJ (JBC, July 3). A well-intentioned start, the talks included leaders of activist groups, local governments and one nikkei academic.

Sadly, it fell into old ideological traps: 1) Participants were mostly older male Japanese bureaucrats; 2) those bureaucrats were more interested in policing NJ than in making them more comfortable and offering them a stake in society; 3) no NJ leader was consulted about what NJ themselves might want; and 4) the Cabinet itself confined its concerns to the welfare of nikkei residents, reflecting the decades-old (but by now obviously erroneous) presumption that only people with “Japanese bloodlines” could “become Japanese.”

In sum, even though the government explicitly stated in its goals that NJ immigration (without using the word, imin) would revitalize our economy, it still has no clue how to make NJ into “New Japanese.”

Source:  https://www.debito.org/?p=10396

5. Mainali, Suraj cases (June 7, July 3)
News photo

2012 saw the first time an NJ serving a life sentence in Japan was declared wrongfully convicted, in the case of Govinda Prasad Mainali. The last time that happened (Toshikazu Sugaya in 2009), the victim was released with a very public apology from public prosecutors. Mainali, however, despite 15 years in the clink, was transferred to an immigration cell and deported. At least both are now free men.

On the other hand, the case of Abubakar Awudu Suraj (from last year’s top 10), who died after brutal handling by Japanese immigration officers during his deportation on March 22, 2010, was dropped by public prosecutors who found “no causal relationship” between the treatment and his death.

Thus, given the “hostage justice” (hitojichi shihō) within the Japanese criminal prosecution system, and the closed-circuit investigation system that protects its own, the Japanese police can incarcerate you indefinitely and even get away with murder — particularly if you are an NJ facing Japan’s double standards of jurisprudence (Zeit Gist, Mar. 24, 2009).

Sources: https://www.debito.org/?p=9265
https://www.debito.org/?p=10407
“Hostage justice”: https://www.debito.org/?p=1426

4. Visa regimes close loop (August)
News photo

Over the past two decades, we have seen Japan’s visa regimes favoring immigration through blood ties — offering limited-term work visas with no labor law rights to Chinese “trainees” while giving quasi-permanent-residency “returnee” visas to nikkei South Americans, for example.

However, after 2007’s economic downturn, blood was judged to be thinner than unemployment statistics, and the government offered the nikkei (and the nikkei only) bribes of free airfares home if they forfeited their visa status (JBC, Apr. 7, 2009). They left in droves, and down went Japan’s registered NJ population for the first time in nearly a half-century — and in 2012 the Brazilian population probably dropped to fourth place behind Filipinos.

But last year was also when the cynical machinations of Japan’s “revolving door” labor market became apparent to the world (JBC, March 6) as applications for Japan’s latest exploitative visa wheeze, “trainee” nurses from Indonesia and the Philippines, declined — and even some of the tiny number of NJ nurses who did pass the arduous qualifying exam left. Naturally, Japan’s media (e.g., Kyodo, June 20; Aug. 4) sought to portray NJ as ungrateful and fickle deserters, but nevertheless doubts remain as to whether the nursing program will continue. The point remains that Japan is increasingly seen as a place to avoid in the world’s unprecedented movement of international labor.

Sources: https://www.debito.org/?p=10010
https://www.debito.org/?p=10497
https://www.debito.org/?p=10340
International labor migration stats http://www.oecd.org/els/internationalmigrationpoliciesanddata/internationalmigrationoutlook2012.htm

3. New NJ registry system (July 5)
News photo

One of the most stupefying things about postwar Japan has been how NJ could not be registered with their Japanese families on the local residency registry system (jūmin kihon daichō) — meaning NJ often went uncounted in local population tallies despite being taxpaying residents! In 2012, this exclusionary system was finally abolished along with the Foreign Registry Law.

Unfortunately, this good news was offset by a) NJ still not being properly registered on family registries (koseki), b) NJ still having to carry gaijin cards at all times (except now with potentially remotely readable computer chips), and c) NJ still being singled out for racial profiling in spot ID checks by Japanese police (even though the remaining applicable law requires probable cause). It seems that old habits die hard, or else just get rejiggered with loopholes.

Sources:  https://www.debito.org/?p=10414
https://www.debito.org/?p=9718
Remotely readable computer chips https://www.debito.org/?p=10750

2. Post-Fukushima Japan is bust
News photo

After the multiple disasters of March 11, 2011, there was wan hope that Japan’s electorate would be energized enough to demand better governance. Nope. And this despite the revelations in December 2011 that the fund for tsunami victims was diverted to whaling “research.” And the confusing and suppressed official reports about radioactive contamination of the ecosystem. And the tsunami victims who still live in temporary housing. And the independent parliamentary report that vaguely blamed “Japanese culture” for the disaster (and, moreover, offered different interpretations for English- and Japanese-reading audiences). And the reports in October that even more rescue money had been “slush-funded” to unrelated projects, including road building in Okinawa, a contact lens factory in central Japan and renovations of Tokyo government offices.

Voters had ample reason for outrage, yet they responded (see below) by reinstating the original architects of this system, the LDP.

For everyone living in Japan (not just NJ), 2012 demonstrated that the Japanese system is beyond repair or reform.

Sources:  https://www.debito.org/?p=9745
https://www.debito.org/?p=9756
https://www.debito.org/?p=10706
https://www.debito.org/?p=10428
https://www.debito.org/?p=9698
http://japanfocus.org/-Iwata-Wataru/3841

1. Japan swings right (December)
News photo

Two columns ago (JBC, Nov. 6), I challenged former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara (whose rabble-rousing bigotry has caused innumerable headaches for disenfranchised people in Japan, particularly NJ) to “bring it on” and show Japan’s true colors to the world in political debates. Well, he did. After a full decade of successfully encouraging Japanese society to see NJ (particularly Chinese) as innately criminal, Ishihara ratcheted things up by threatening to buy three of the privately-owned Senkaku islets (which forced the Noda administration to purchase them instead, fanning international tensions). Then Ishihara resigned his governorship, formed a “restorationist” party and rode the wave of xenophobia caused by the territorial disputes into the Diet’s Lower House (along with 53 other party members) in December’s general election.

Also benefiting from Ishihara’s ruses was the LDP, who with political ally New Komeito swept back into power with 325 seats. As this is more than the 320 necessary to override Upper House vetoes, Japan’s bicameral legislature is now effectively unicameral. I anticipate policy proposals (such as constitutional revisions to allow for a genuine military, fueling an accelerated arms race in Asia) reflecting the same corporatist rot that created the corrupt system we saw malfunctioning after the Fukushima disaster. (Note that if these crises had happened on the LDP’s watch, I bet the DPJ would have enjoyed the crushing victory instead — tough luck.)

In regards to NJ, since Japan’s left is now decimated and three-quarters of the 480-seat Lower House is in the hands of conservatives, I foresee a chauvinistic movement enforcing bloodline-based patriotism (never mind the multiculturalism created by decades of labor influx and international marriage), love of a “beautiful Japan” as defined by the elites, and more officially sanctioned history that downplays, ignores and overwrites the contributions of NJ and minorities to Japanese society.

In sum, if 2011 exposed a Japan in decline, 2012 showed a Japan closing.

Sources: https://www.debito.org/?p=10854
New arms race:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20302604 (Watch the video from minute 5.30:  the Hyuuga, Postwar Japan’s first new aircraft carrier is now in commission, two new big aircraft carriers are in production.)

Bubbling under (in descending order):

• China’s anti-Japan riots (September) and Senkaku-area maneuvers (October to now).

• North Korea’s missile test timed for Japan’s elections (December 12).

• NJ workers’ right to strike reaffirmed in court defeat of Berlitz (February 27).

• NJ on welfare deprived of waiver of public pension payments (August 10), later reinstated after public outcry (October 21).

• Statistics show 2011’s postdisaster exodus of NJ “flyjin” to be a myth (see JBC, Apr. 3).

Sources: https://www.debito.org/?p=10055
https://www.debito.org/?p=10081

Debito Arudou and Akira Higuchi’s bilingual 2nd Edition of “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants,” with updates for 2012’s changes to immigration laws, is now on sale. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp.
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013
ENDS

Japan now a place to avoid for international labor migration? NHK: Even Burmese refugees refusing GOJ invitations, electing to stay in Thai refugee camp!

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Hi Blog.  In this time of unprecedented migration of labor across borders (click to see some international labor migration stats from the ILO and the OECD), I think increasingly one can make a strong case that Japan is being seen as a place to avoid.  As I will be mentioning in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column (out January 1, 2013), as part of my annual countdown of the Top Ten most influential human rights issues in 2012 affecting NJ in Japan, Japan’s “revolving-door” visa regimes (which suck the most productive work years out of NJ while giving them fewer (or no) labor law protections, and no stake in Japanese society — see here and here), people who are even guaranteed a slot in Japan’s most difficult visa status — refugees (see also here) — are turning the GOJ down!  They’d rather stay in a Thai refugee camp than emigrate to Japan.  And for reasons that are based upon word-of-mouth.

That’s what I mean — word is getting around, and no amount of faffing about with meetings on “let’s figure out how We Japanese should ‘co-exist’ with foreigners” at the Cabinet level is going to quickly undo that reputation.

Immediately below is the article I’m referring to.  Below that I offer a tangent, as to why Burmese in particular get such a sweetheart deal of guaranteed GOJ refugee slots.  According to media, “From 1982 to 2004, Japan accepted only 313 refugees, less than 10 per cent of those who applied. Even after its rules were slightly liberalized in 2004, it allowed only 46 refugees in the following year. Last year it accepted only 34 of the 954 applicants.  Those numbers are tiny in comparison with Canada, which accepted more than 42,000 refugees last year, despite having a much smaller population than Japan.  But they are also tiny in comparison to European countries such as France and Italy. On a per capita basis, Japan’s rate of accepting refugees is 139th in the world, according to the United Nations.”  This means that Burmese make up between a third to a half of all refugees accepted!  Why?  As a holiday tangent, consider the elite-level intrigue of a wartime connection between the Japanese Imperial Army and SLORC…  Arudou Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////////////

Japan to receive no Myanmar refugee this year
via NHK
Published on Wednesday, 26 September 2012
http://www.houseofjapan.com/local/japan-to-receive-no-myanmar-refugee-this-year

All 16 people on a list of Myanmar refugees preparing to enter Japan have dropped out of the program. They have decided to remain in a camp in northwestern Thailand.

The 16, from 3 families, said they were worried about life in Japan. They had already quit studying Japanese language and culture.

The Japanese government started the program 2 years ago to help refugees who escaped from conflicts and persecutions in their home countries.

45 people from 9 families have used the program to move to Japan.

One of those leaving the program this year said he wanted his children to study technology in Japan, but was concerned that he had no support network in the country.

He had planned to move to Japan with his wife and 4 children.

Myanmar’s democratization has convinced some refugees to return home.

The Japanese government says it plans to continue the program next year.

ENDS

Now for the political intrigue:

/////////////////////////////////////

JPRI Working Paper No. 60: September 1999
Japan’s “Burma Lovers” and the Military Regime (excerpt)
by Donald M. Seekins
http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp60.html

Japanese people often claim that their nation has a “special relationship” with Burma. Most older Japanese think of Michio Takeyama’s novel Biruma no tategoto (translated by Howard Hibbett as Harp of Burma), the story of Private Mizushima, a good-hearted soldier who is separated from his comrades and dons the robes of a Buddhist monk. When his unit is repatriated to Japan after the war, he refuses to go with them, staying behind to take care of the remains of the Japanese war-dead. As many as 190,000 Japanese soldiers died in Burma in 1941-1945, and groups of veterans regularly visit the country to relive old memories and pray at the graves of fallen comrades.[…]

The most important legacy of the Japanese occupation was the establishment of a powerful national army, Tatmadaw in Burmese, which grew out of the BIA and was largely modeled on Japanese rather than British lines. Many of its officers studied at Japanese military academies during the war. Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, a leading member of the military junta that has ruled Burma since September 1988, commented in November 1988, “We shall never forget the important role played by Japan in our struggle for national independence” and “We will remember that our Tatmadaw [army] was born in Japan.”1 Ethnic minorities like the Karens and Shans who have experienced the Tatmadaw’s counterinsurgency campaigns in the border areas claim that its brutal behavior was inspired by the Imperial Japanese Army.[…]

Postwar Economic Ties

Postwar relations between Japan and Burma were primarily economic in nature. Official ties began in 1954, after Tokyo and the U Nu government signed a peace treaty and a war reparations agreement, which brought the struggling young state some US$250 million in Japanese goods and services, supplemented by “quasi-reparations” amounting to US$132 million between 1965 and 1972. Tokyo allocated these additional “quasi-reparations” (jun baisho) on the grounds that the original funds were insufficient compared to those given other Asian countries.

During this period, many Japanese who went to Burma as diplomats or technical advisers fell in love with the country. Back home, they were called biru-kichi (Biruma-kichigai, “crazy about Burma”), a remarkable attitude given the condescension with which most Japanese officials regarded their poor Asian neighbors. Japanese were impressed by the professionalism and honesty of Burma’s civil servants, who used reparation funds conscientiously, in contrast to some other recipient governments.

Many Japanese also identified with the country because of shared Buddhist values, although the schools of Buddhism (Theravada in Burma, Mahayana in Japan) are different. Their social ethics are similar, however, stressing respect for elders and educated people, strong family ties, and a sense of mutual obligation. But while Japan had rapidly modernized and is losing many of these traditional values, Burma seemed to have preserved them uncorrupted by modernity.

According to the well-known business guru Ken’ichi Ohmae, who visited Burma in 1997 with a Japanese business delegation and was a quick convert to the biru-kichi mindset, “Even I, with much contact with many Asian countries, have seen no other country in Asia whose morality is so firmly grounded in Buddhism.”2 Ohmae compares Burma favorably with China where allegedly “they do everything for money.” Burma also evokes his nostalgia for Japan’s rural past: “Seeing the lives of the people in Myanmar [Burma], I remembered Japan in previous years. I was raised in the countryside in Kyushu, where children always walked around barefoot, the lights were not electric, and the bathrooms had no running water. The current Myanmar mirrors these memories of farming villages in Japan.” While biru-kichi is a refreshing alternative to the insular Japan-is-unique worldview, it is not unmixed with other motives, as the title of Ohmae’s November 26, 1997, article in Sapio (magazine) suggests: “Cheap and Hardworking Laborers: This country Will Be Asia’s Best.” […]

Many inside Japan’s business world–and their supporters in academia and the media–seem to share a common goal with the junta: discrediting Aung San’s daughter. Given her central role in the struggle for democracy, it is not an exaggeration to say that if she could be marginalized and lost the support of the international community, big corporations in Japan and elsewhere would find it easy to get their governments to snuggle closer to the junta. Without Suu Kyi, full economic engagement and recognition would surely follow swiftly.

Kazushige Kaneko, director of an obscure Institute of Asian Ethnoforms and Culture in Tokyo, repeats the junta’s racist charges that Aung San Suu Kyi sold out her country by marrying a foreigner, the late Oxford professor Dr. Michael Aris. He writes, “For example, if Makiko Tanaka [the daughter of former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and today a member of the Diet] stayed in America for thirty years and returned with a blue-eyed American husband and children, do you think we Japanese would make her our prime minister?” (The Asia 21 Magazine, Fall 1996).

Nor is the attack on Aung San Suu Kyi confined to fringe figures. In an April 1995 article published in Bungei Shunju, Yusuke Fukada claims that Burmese are sending out a “love call” (rabu kooru) to Japan for economic assistance and that Suu Kyi is the only real obstacle to better relations. The reason she is so uncompromising with the military regime, Fukada argues, is her marriage to an Englishman. “If she had married a Japanese, she would have made quite different decisions.” In the June 1996 issue of Shokun, Keio University Professor Atsushi Kusano expresses amazement that Suu Kyi has become a figure of international stature, attributing it to a campaign by the mass media.8 […]

Two factors seem to account for Japan’s ambiguous Burma policy. One is the strength of its business interests, counterbalanced by pressure from Japan’s Western trading partners who take a less indulgent stance toward the junta. Some observers cynically suggest that Western governments, especially Washington, act as Tokyo’s “superego” on human rights, inhibiting it from pursuing its usual economics-first policies. But Liberal Democratic Party cabinets cannot ignore business interests, which have been stepping up pressure for full engagement since 1989, using means both fair and foul. The best of both worlds for policymakers in Japan would be a transition to civilian rule, either involving Aung San Suu Kyi or someone else. This could legitimize more active aid policies as well as greater investment by Japanese companies. But given the political situation, this is unlikely to happen soon.

Second, if Tokyo strongly supported the democracy movement in Burma, this would inevitably reflect on its policies toward other countries such as China and Indonesia, where the stakes for Japan are much higher. Some Americans have criticized their own government’s inconsistency on this matter: the Clinton Administration maintains sanctions on little-known Burma but maintains full economic engagement with the regime in Beijing.

Japanese elites are not used to and do not like open debate, especially on foreign policy. Some members of the Diet are interested in Burma, both pro- and anti-junta, but the issues are rarely discussed, even the junta’s misuse of debt relief funds for the procurement of weapons. Bureaucrats and LDP bigwigs keep policy initiatives to themselves, which means that their actions often appear incomprehensible or arbitrary to outsiders, including Japanese citizens. The flap over so-called humanitarian aid for Rangoon’s airport is an example of this. In a way, Tokyo’s Burma policy, deeply influenced by the sentimental Orientalism of the business world and its allies, says as much about the limitations of Japanese-style democracy as it does about the lack of democracy in Burma.

Full article at http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp60.html

ENDS

2nd Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, & IMMIGRANTS to Japan on sale Dec 2012, updated

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Hi Blog. I’m very happy to announce that at long last (it takes a number of months to get things through the publishing pipeline), the Second Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS TO JAPAN goes on sale in December 2012.

This long-selling bilingual guide to life in Japan, co-authored with legal scrivener Akira Higuchi, has assisted thousands of readers and engendered rave reviews. Its goal has been to assist people to live more stable, secure lives in Japan, and walks the reader through the process of securing a better visa, getting a better job (even start one’s own business), troubleshooting through difficult situations both bureaucratically and interpersonally, establishing one’s finances and arrangements for the next of kin, even giving something back to Japanese society. It is a one-stop guide from arrival in Japan through departure from this mortal coil, and now it has been updated to reflect the changes in the Immigration and registry laws that took place in July 2012.

A table of contents, excerpt, and more details on what’s inside and how you can get the book here. Those rave reviews here.

Get ready to get yourself a new copy! Arudou Debito

(Oh, and my Japan Times JBC column has been postponed a week due to a major scoop this week that will fill the Community Page…)

Sakanaka in Japan Times: Japan as we know it is doomed, only immigrants can save it

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Hello Blog. My old friend Sakanaka Hidenori, who has had his writings featured on Debito.org in the past, has bravely spoken out once again to talk about Japan’s inevitable decline into oblivion if present trends continue. He calls for a revolution through immigration and… well, let me excerpt from the Japan Times article on him that came out yesterday.  Says things that have also been said here for a long, long time.  Arudou Debito

/////////////////////////////////////

‘Only immigrants can save Japan’
The Japan Times, October 21, 2012
By MICHAEL HOFFMAN, Special to The Japan Times

PHOTO CAPTION: Face of change: Hidenori Sakanaka, the former Justice Ministry bureaucrat and Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief fears the nation is on the brink of collapse, and says “we must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.”

Japan as we know it is doomed.

Only a revolution can save it.

What kind of revolution?

Japan must become “a nation of immigrants.”

That’s a hard sell in this notoriously closed country. Salesman-in-chief — surprisingly enough — is a retired Justice Ministry bureaucrat named Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the ministry’s Tokyo Immigration Bureau and current executive director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, a private think tank he founded in 2007.

It’s an unlikely resume for a sower of revolution. Sakanaka clearly sees himself as such. His frequent use of the word “revolution” suggests a clear sense of swimming against the current. Other words he favors — “utopia,” “panacea” — suggest the visionary.

“Japan as we know it” is in trouble on many fronts. The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, and the subsequent tsunami and nuclear disasters, struck a nation whose economy had been stagnant for 20 years while politicians fiddled and government floundered. But that’s not Sakanaka’s point. He is focused on demographics. “Japan,” he said in a recent telephone interview, “is on the brink of collapse.” […]

No nation, barring war or plague, has ever shrunk at such a pace, and as for aging, there are no historical precedents of any kind. The nation needs a fountain of youth.

Sakanaka claims to have found one.

Japan, he said, “must welcome 10 million immigrants between now and 2050.” […]

It sounds fantastic, and in fact, Sakanaka acknowledges, would require legislation now lacking — anti-discrimination laws above all.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20121021x3.html
ENDS

Kyodo: NJ on welfare (unlike Japanese on welfare) now need to pay pension premiums, says Japan Pension Service

mytest

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Hi Blog. I know so little about this issue that I post this with hopes that others will do some investigation for us (thanks, research on other things in process). Comment follows too-short article.

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Foreigners on welfare need to pay pension premiums: agency
TOKYO, Oct. 16, 2012, Kyodo News, courtesy of JK
http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2012/10/188282.html

Japan Pension Service has drawn up a guideline that renders foreign residents on welfare no longer eligible for a uniform waiver from premium payments for the public pension, effectively a turnaround from a long-held practice of treating them equally with Japanese, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

Human rights activists said it is tantamount to discrimination based on nationality. In fiscal 2010, roughly 1.41 million households were on public assistance. Around 42,000 were households led by foreign residents.

In a reply dated Aug. 10 to a query from a local pension service office, JPS, a government affiliate commissioned to undertake pension services, said, “Public assistance benefits are provided to foreigners living in poverty as done so for Japanese nationals, but foreigners are not subject to the law on public assistance.”

ENDS

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COMMENT:  It sounds like the same sort of thing that happened when Oita Prefectural bureaucrats unilaterally decided in 2008 that elderly NJ didn’t deserve welfare benefits, despite it being legal by Diet decree since 1981 (see here also item six). It took a very brave and long-lived Zainichi to get that straightened out.

Only this time, it’s not just some local bureaucrats and asinine local courtroom judges. It’s the governing agency on the whole pension scheme, publishing a “guideline” on this. Even though, as the Yomiuri noted in 2011, “The [2011 Fukuoka] high court ruling noted Diet deliberations in 1981 on ratifying the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which stipulates that countries ‘shall accord to refugees within their territories treatment at least as favorable as that accorded to their nationals’.”  One would think that this would apply in this case too.  Thoughts?  Arudou Debito

Kyodo: “Foreign caregiver program faces tightening”: Death knell of program as J media finds ways to blame the gaijin?

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Hi Blog.  Now let’s get back to some of Debito.org’s roasting chestnuts.  Let’s have a look at what’s becoming of Japan’s latest “revolving door” labor visa regime scam (after the “Trainees”, the “Nikkei Returnees”, and the “Points System”):  the “foreign caregivers“, which has ground to a halt due to the (otherwise fully-qualified) NJ health professionals themselves realizing that the systematic barriers were creating an exploitative regime.  So now according to Kyodo News it looks like it’s being scaled back.  But not without kicking someone in the ribs first.  As submitter JDG notes:

=============================

The foreign caregiver program was launched because there was a realization that the looming shortage of caregivers to meet Japan’s aging population had already arrived. However, as you have documented, from it’s inception it has been riddled with unrealistic expectations, low pay, harsh conditions, few incentives, and subject to some strange accounting.

Well, here is the logical conclusion:  foreign caregivers are ‘gaijin criminals taking advantage of the system’. Rather than examining what is wrong with the system, the (of course) natural response by officials is to make the program even tougher to live with for caregivers. Only a Kyoto University Prof. seems to have any sense about him. I would say that this development will mark the end (in real terms) of the program. Of course, it’s all the NJ’s fault…

=============================

Read on.  Arudou Debito

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Foreign caregiver program faces tightening
Kyodo News, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120804f1.html

The program to enable Filipino and Indonesian care workers to work in Japan under free-trade agreements is at crossroads four years after its launch as Tokyo wavers over whether to tighten requirements for candidates in light of unexpected incidents that have run counter to the plan.

In the latest case, a 37-year-old Indonesian candidate was arrested and deported for working illegally at an auto parts plant in Aichi Prefecture instead of at the nursing home in Okinawa to which she had been assigned, apparently because she had difficulty mastering the Japanese language.

This came amid heightened public scrutiny of the program after it was reported that a number of candidate care workers had quit and returned to their home countries despite passing the qualification exam. They had been expected to work in Japan.

“Work at the special nursing home for the elderly was tough,” the Indonesian caretaker was quoted as saying when questioned by immigration officers in Nagoya after her arrest.

The woman came to Japan under the program in August 2010. After undergoing training, she began working at a special nursing home in Okinawa along with four other candidates in December of that year.

Last December she briefly returned to Indonesia, saying she wanted to spend Christmas and New Year’s in her home country.

She later re-entered Japan, but did not return to her workplace in Okinawa. Instead, she started working at the auto parts plant in Aichi in March.

“We had no problem with her working attitude, although it seems she was troubled by the fact that she was lagging behind other candidates in terms of learning Japanese,” a staff member at the nursing home said. “I wish she would have come to us for consultation.”

Caregivers who come to Japan under the program are allowed to stay in Japan for a maximum of four years until they pass the national exam. Before this summer, it was easy for them to apply for re-entry permits prior to making short trips to their home countries or for other travel outside of Japan.

Under the new immigration control system that came into effect in July, foreigners working in the country are now allowed to exit and return within a year without obtaining re-entry permits.

“A blind spot in the system has been taken advantage of,” a government official said on condition of anonymity. “Illegal employment absolutely came out of the blue.”

Similarly, an immigration official in charge lamented that when an application for a re-entry permit is submitted, it is “impossible” to detect whether the applicant is going to engage in activities beyond the scope permitted under the applicant’s visa status.

To remedy the situation, the government is considering revising the program’s prerequisites for entry into Japan, including requiring candidates to have a certain level of Japanese language skill. On the other hand, some are concerned that making the rules too stringent will go against the original aim of opening doors to foreign caregivers.

Commenting on the issue, Wako Asato, a special associate professor at the graduate school of Kyoto University, criticized the government for failing to come up with a consistent policy as it sits on the fence between those supportive of the program and others wary of it.

“How should Japan welcome and make good use of talented care workers from abroad? If the government does not present a clear stance on this, I believe we’ll be seeing more candidates giving up halfway or quitting to return home even after passing the exam,” the expert on migration said.

According to Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services, the program’s intermediate coordinator agency based in Tokyo, a total of 1,562 care workers and nurses have come to Japan under the program. Of them, five became unaccounted for and authorities have not been able to confirm if they left the country.
ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 54 Aug 7, 2012: “For nikkei immigrants in Japan, it doesn’t have to be a bug’s life”

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Hi Blog. My latest, up for comments. Thanks for making it a Top Ten Most Read once again and an Editor’s Pick to boot! Enjoy. Arudou Debito

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The Japan Times, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE
For nikkei immigrants in Japan, it doesn’t have to be a bug’s life
By ARUDOU DEBITO
Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120807ad.html

As Beto awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his futon into a gigantic cockroach.

“What’s happened to me?” he thought. In his native land down south, he had been a person — if at times underprivileged due to his nikkei status. So, years ago, he “repatriated” to Japan, attracted by promises of better milk and honey. Yet now he felt even more marginalized by the locals here, who called themselves “people” yet treated him at times like he was an insect.

Beto scurried off to work, where people shied away and refused to sit by him in the train cars. But as the end of the line approached, the coach filled up with fellow cockroaches, and people stopped paying attention.

The people at his factory also took no notice of his metamorphosis. His supervisors were used to dealing with cockroaches. Bugs seemed an inevitable part of lower-rent circumstances. As in the train, it seemed some people had learned to “co-exist” with them in close quarters.

In public, however, reactions were different. Alone, Beto was often seen as something exotic, maybe even collectable if there was a curious person flitting about who was interested in “speaking bug.” But if seen as part of a swarm, people’s knee-jerk reactions were to take steps against them. Bugs might overrun the place, making it feel less the realm of the masters, more of the roaches.

Speaking of the masters, politicians were calling for strict controls of the cockroach population. For what did the gokiburi (sometimes dissed as “gai-kiburi”) actually do? Nothing visibly important, and they were always found in the dirtiest places. What kind of house were we keeping if cockroaches were around?

Cockroaches, after all, weren’t like other insects. They were compared unfavorably to the skilled worker bees from rich countries, who were overtly adding to the national honey pot. Also, remember, worker bees have a sting. You had to respect that — not rattle the nest if you wanted to keep scraping at the luscious honeycombs they built.

But the politicians warned against wasps. Sure, those yellow jackets served some pollinating function in the wilting countryside, but they should never be allowed to build nests. For they too had stings, and deviously stung in hordes. Approach them carefully, for they were unpredictable, emboldened by the world’s biggest hive just a short flight away.

Even stronger stings were found among the white-faced hornets. Their nests here were very secure, kept because they offered Japan considerable honey. So as long as the hornets mostly policed themselves on some rock far from the mainland, their stings, kept in full public view and sharpened often, managed to scare off the yellow jackets.

In contrast, cockroaches like Beto had no sting. They didn’t even bite. They just scurried about doing their business, quietly collecting crumbs through their allotted niches in society, unrecognized for their long-term contributions to Japan’s food chain.

That’s why cockroaches were so easily kicked around. Few people raised a stink if someone stomped on them, for example, for being grubby while sorting rubbish on garbage day.

Beto recalled how past insects had been kept under control. Remember the stink bugs of yore who sold fake telephone cards? They incurred the vindictive wrath of Japan’s then-largest corporate giant, who convinced the authorities to fumigate — closing off entire parks to any insect, and stamping them out through visa nonrenewal. For good measure, the pheromone of public money was used to attract them into building sports stadiums. Once hastily completed, the stink bugs were bottled up and booted out.

That should have put the insects in their place. But a decade ago, a self-styled Sanitizer-General claimed Japan was breaking out in hives, and campaigned about “cleaning house.” Whole areas of Tokyo were apparently so infested that public stability — even purity — was imperiled. The Sanitizer got all his wishes, including Japan’s first neighborhood security cameras, antiterrorist legislation, and routine public harassment of anyone who bugged him. Plus reelection no matter how old and vitriolic he got.

Fortunately, cockroaches were distant from Tokyo, so they managed to keep their clusters. But their turn came during the economic downturn of 2008, when the government sprinkled pheromones on airplanes and spirited a clutch of them away.

Beto himself stayed on. Factory work was what he did well, and he thrived quietly within his nook. He stayed past 2011 — when the honey turned sour, then salty and hot. He even stayed when all the other insects, so long decried as pests, somehow metamorphosed into rats and then were decried for leaving a sinking ship.

But as of this morning, when he realized that he was just a cockroach, Beto began to wonder if it wasn’t time to claim his place in the food chain.

That would require acting like a person, with a sense of entitlement in Japan. He would have to emerge from his exoskeleton and become more articulate in the language. He would have to start convincing fellow roaches to come out of the cracks. They would have to build more hives in public view — not just cluster around the occasional ethnic restaurant or local samba festival.

They would also have to stop letting the people convince them that, despite decades of contributions to the national honey pot, bugs were here only by the vicissitudes of labor-migration economics and the good graces of an indifferent government.

Beto could — dare he think it out loud? — even refuse to fill the honey pot until they were acknowledged and respected like worker bees. With stings. With the will to unionize, then strike if their nest was rattled enough. Striking was something those in the most secure jobs — the public servants — couldn’t even do.

Still, the public-servant drones didn’t need to. Drones were already people, not insects, even though they had hidden stings of their own. The bugs, on the other hand, would have to swarm upon Tokyo to show off their stings.

Of course, it would be difficult for people to ever see immigrants as anything more than bugs. But it was worth a try. After all, people can only spend so much of their life bottom-feeding, crushable at any time with no reprisal or payback just because they happen to be underfoot. Beto scuttled off to become human again.

============================
With apologies to Franz Kafka. Debito Arudou’s latest publication is the Hokkaido Section of Fodor’s Japan, on sale now. Twitter arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community Page of the month. Send comments on this issue to community@japantimes.co.jp
ENDS

Japan Times on reaffirmed J workers’ “right to strike”, thanks to judicial precedent set by defeated 2012 nuisance lawsuit from eikaiwa Berlitz Inc.

mytest

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Hi Blog. In one important NJ legacy, Japan’s courts have, according to the Japan Times, reaffirmed the right to strike for “laborers” (roudousha) in Japan’s private sector. Note that the right to strike has been denied to public-sector laborers — a legacy of SCAP’s “Reverse Course” of 1947-8 (Akira Suzuki, “The History of Labor in Japan in the Twentieth Century”, in Jan Lucassen, ed. “Global Labour History”, pg. 181), when the American occupiers were worried about Japan “going Red” like China and North Korea; to maintain administrative order, bureaucrats were explicitly denied the right to strike or engage in political activities (fortunately, they retained the right to vote; thanks for small favors). But in the face of eroding labor rights over the past few decades (when, for example, the rights of permanently-contracted workers to not have instant termination without reason, were being abused by unilateral contract terminations of NJ educators), a nuisance lawsuit by Berlitz against its eikaiwa workers fortunately ended up in the reaffirmation of their right to strike last February. Since we have talked about it on Debito.org at great length in the past, I just wanted to note this for the record.  And say thanks, good job, for standing your ground for all of us.  Arudou Debito

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The Japan Times, Tuesday, July 17, 2012
LIFELINES: LABOR PAINS
Courts back workers’ rock-solid right to strike (excerpt)
By HIFUMI OKUNUKI, professor of constitutional and labor law at Daito Bunka University and Jissen Women’s University
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120717lp.html

[…]

One large company recently lost its claim of ¥110 million in damages against its union and union executives (see “Berlitz Loses Suit Over Union Teacher Strikes,” Feb. 28, The Japan Times).

Over 100 Berlitz Japan teachers struck over 3,000 lessons between December 2007 and November 2008 in order to win a 4.6-percent pay hike and one-off one-month bonus.

The language school claimed the strikes were illegal mainly because the union gave little notice of the impending strikes. While case law stipulates that prior notice must be given for a strike, it does not set a minimum time. Berlitz teachers often gave less than five minutes’ notice. This probably created a headache for management, because they had less time to send replacement teachers to cover the struck classes.

The school also claimed that a union executive, Louis Carlet (full disclosure: Carlet is the current president of Tozen Union), had admitted to wanting to damage the company in a Sept. 30, 2008, Zeit Gist column in The Japan Times (“Berlitz Strike Grows Despite Naysayers“).

Tokyo District Court dismissed the entire case in its Feb. 27, 2012, verdict, reaffirming the powerful guarantee of the right to strike in Japan. The court rejected the company’s contention that the union was striking to destroy the company and agreed with the union’s assertion that the only purpose of the strikes was to realize its demands.

Management appealed the verdict and Tokyo High Court is currently overseeing reconciliation talks between the two sides.

Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120717lp.html

===================================

Related sites:

ENDS

Yomiuri: Iwate town sponsors Vietnamese future doctor — and people reportedly react with trepidation

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Hi Blog.  In light of how NJ nurses under a national visa program have been treated in the face of a chronic careworkers shortage, here we have a case where even local sponsorship of a NJ doctor is also viewed (according to the Yomiuri, which may indeed in the interest of “balance” be conjuring up a tempest in a teapot) with suspicion because she is a foreigner.  After all, she might not stay!  Then again, so might not anyone else being trained on that scholarship program regardless of nationality.  Ah, but foreigners are different, you see.  They always represent a flight risk…  Anyhoo, good news tainted with an editorial bias of caution and trepidation just because the subject is NJ.  Arudou Debito

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Town turns to Vietnam for future doctor
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 23, 2012), courtesy of JK
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120622004307.htm

ICHINOHE, Iwate — Facing a serious and chronic shortage of doctors, the town of Ichinohe felt it necessary to look overseas to find medical staff willing to live and work in the rural area.

The town plans to spend more than 10 million yen on school and living expenses for a Vietnamese woman on the condition that she will practice medicine in the town for at least seven years after obtaining her license.

The unusual plan raised eyebrows when the town ran it by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, and some residents have questioned why the town is sponsoring a foreigner.

However, Ichinohe Mayor Akira Inaba believes the unprecedented plan is just what the town needs.

“The scholarship program for Japanese medical students hasn’t attracted enough applicants to meet its quota,” he said. “We have no other choice but to secure our doctors on our own.”

The foreign student the town plans to sponsor is 18-year-old Luu Hong Ngoc, who will graduate this month from Vietnam National University’s High School for the Gifted in Ho Chi Minh City. The school is one of Vietnam’s most prestigious.

Inaba visited Ho Chi Minh City after a local sewing plant began accepting Vietnamese vocational trainees. Ngoc’s grandmother served as the mayor’s interpreter in Ho Chi Minh City, and told him that her granddaughter hoped to become a doctor overseas.

Inaba asked to see Ngoc’s school transcript and requested other information about her. Her records showed her to be a qualified and enthusiastic student, and after receiving a letter of recommendation from Ngoc’s school, the town decided to invite her to Japan.

Municipalities in Iwate Prefecture run a joint scholarship program to support medical students, which Ichinohe participates in. The scholarship provides each student with 200,000 yen a month and pays a lump sum of up to 7.6 million yen when the recipient enters medical school.

However, for several years the scholarship has failed to fill its quota. The program also provides no guarantee the recipient will work in Ichinohe after receiving a medical license.

These difficulties are what pushed the town to decide to independently fund Ngoc’s medical education.

The entire process will take eight to 10 years and cost 10 million yen to 20 million yen. In return, the town will receive a pledge from Ngoc to work for at least seven years at the town’s prefectural hospital.

The town plans to allocate funds for Ngoc’s costs for this fiscal year in a supplementary budget to be submitted in September.

Inaba said Ngoc’s grandmother, who learned Japanese in Moscow, is “Japan’s No. 1 fan in Vietnam.”

The town has heard that Ngoc is telling people she plans to study other subjects besides the specialized course to help her become a better doctor.

Ngoc is scheduled to come to Japan by the end of the year. In the spring, she will begin studying for the medical school entrance exam at a national university while learning Japanese at a vocational school in Morioka.

However, some residents and members of the town assembly have raised concerns about the plan, such as what would happen if Ngoc decided to return to Vietnam before finishing the course, or why the town is sponsoring a Vietnamese person in the first place.

The town government has said it will take steps so the money will have to be returned if Ngoc does not fulfill the work agreement, possibly through a contract.

Ichinohe, population 14,000, has a prefectural hospital and four internal medicine clinics, with a total of 18 full-time doctors.

However, many people must visit hospitals in Morioka, about 100 kilometers away, because local facilities lack obstetrics and outpatient ophthalmology departments.

“I hope what we do will draw attention to the lack of doctors in rural areas,” Inaba said. “We’ll keep looking for more talented young people in Vietnam.”
ENDS

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 July 3, 2012: “In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for NJ”

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Hi Blog. My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 dated July 3, 2012, is on the Japanese Government’s renewed policy debate on creating conditions conducive to immigration (without actually portraying it in any way as “immigration” (imin), just more NJ residents). It’s their attempt to address Japan’s demographic and probable economic nosedive despite their assiduous efforts over the decades to a) exploit NJ as temporary workers on a revolving-door labor visa regime, b) blame NJ for all manner of social ills, including foreign crime and desertion, and in the process c) poison the public debate arena for productive discussion about ever treating NJ well enough that they might want to actually stay (since the past three years have seen the NJ population continuously dropping, after 48 years of unbroken rise). The writing’s on the wall, and the GOJ is finally doing something constructive. But (as usual) the bureaucracy is controlling the agenda, and the typical blind spots are coming into play, so as things stand now I think the policy drive will be ineffective.  Have a read and a think.  Arudou Debito
justbecauseicon.jpg

In formulating immigration policy, no seat at the table for non-Japanese

The Japan Times: Tuesday, July 3, 2012
JUST BE CAUSE Column 53 for the Community Page
By ARUDOU Debito
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120703ad.html

Last month the Japanese government took baby steps toward an official immigration policy. Ten ministries and several specialist “people of awareness” (yūshikisha) held meetings aimed at creating a “coexistence society” (kyōsei shakai) within which non-Japanese (NJ) would be “accepted” (uke ire).

This is a positive change from the past two decades, when Japan cultivated an unofficial unskilled labor visa regime that a) imported NJ as cheap work units to keep Japanese factories from going bankrupt or moving overseas, and then b) saw NJ as an inconvenient unemployment statistic, fixable by canceling visas or buying them tickets home (JBC, Apr. 7, 2009).

Yes, we’ve seen this kyōsei sloganeering before. Remember the empty “kokusaika” internationalization mantra of Japan’s ’80s bubble era?

But this time the government is serious. Sponsored by the Cabinet, these meetings are considering assimilationist ideas suggested by local governments and ignored for a decade.

Why? Attendees acknowledged that Japan needs NJ to revitalize its future economy.

Unusually, their discussions were open to public scrutiny (www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/kyousei/index.html) Thank you. And here scrutiny comes . . .

The good news is that the meetings’ heart is in the right place. A fuller analysis of the materials can be found at www.debito.org/?p=10271, but what they’re getting right includes:

• State-supported Japanese language education for all NJ.

• State-supported education for all NJ children (so they don’t wind up as an illiterate unskilled underclass).

• More multilingual information online and in public access areas.

• Proper enrolment for NJ in Japan’s health, unemployment and social welfare systems.

• More assistance with finding NJ employment and resolving unemployment.

• Some attention to “cultural sensitivity” and “mutual respect” issues (not just the one-way gripe of “how NJ inconvenience us Japanese on garbage day”).

• Better coordination between all levels of government for more comprehensive policies, etc.

Bravo. But there are some shortcomings:

First, definitions. What do “coexistence” and “acceptance” mean? Just letting people across the border? Gated communities? Official recognition of ethnic minorities and domestic “foreign cultures”? Acceptance of ethnic differences as “also Japanese”? Or repressing and overwriting those “foreign cultures” (a la the Ainu, Okinawans, Koreans and Taiwanese in Meiji Japan). Without making the terms of discussion clear, we can’t see ultimate intentions.

Second, hard-wired in the proceedings is a narrative that “offsets” and “others” NJ. We have the standard embedded policy invective of “our country” (wagakuni — but isn’t Japan the country of all its residents?), with the issue couched negatively as “the foreign laborer problem” (gaikokujin rōdōsha mondai). If NJ are not treated as intruders, then they are “guests” (as opposed to just human beings) being indulgently granted something from above.

Third, the ministries are considering vague “environmental preparations” (kankyō seibi) before more NJ get here. (But wait, aren’t NJ already here? Or are we somehow wiping the slate clean?)

OK, fine — semantics. But then you read how each ministry’s proposal further betrays an odd predisposition toward NJ:

The Justice Ministry complained that they can’t “administer” (kanri) NJ properly once they cross the border. But with upcoming reforms to NJ registration systems ferreting out more visa miscreants, that’s fixed, they added. Phew. Not much else was proposed.

The health ministry suggested making some important improvements to welfare and employment systems. But nothing too legalistic — after all, discrimination against NJ as workers is already forbidden (kinshi) by law (as if that’s made much difference so far). They also heralded the preferential treatment for “high-quality” (shitsu no takai) NJ from now on through a new “points system” (critiqued as problematic in my March 6 column).

The Cabinet talked exclusively about assisting nikkei — NJ of Japanese descent. Never mind residents from, say, China or the Philippines; bloodlines take priority.

The education ministry recycled old ideas, saying that we need to teach NJ the Japanese language and, er, not much else — not even any antibullying proposals.

Nothing at all from the attending ministries of foreign affairs, finance, trade and industry, transport and tourism, or forest and fisheries.

The most useless report was from the National Police Agency, who, with a single page of statistics cooking up a NJ crime rise (despite a dramatic fall across the board (JBC, April 3)), advocated more policing, much like the Justice Ministry did. (Funny thing, that: Are the police invited to every policy meeting on the treatment of Japan’s residents, or only for policies concerning those inherently untrustworthy NJ residents?)

The biggest problem was the lack of diversity. As this article went to press, all attendees were older Japanese men (OK, two women), with approximately the same socioeconomic status and life experience. Not one NJ attended.

Thus everyone relied on third-party “reports from the field” (genba de), as if NJ are exotic animals studied from binoculars in their habitat. Not even the token Gregory Clark (who never misses an opportunity within these pages to claim how open-minded the Japanese are because they plonk him on blue-ribbon panels) was shoehorned in.

If the people for whom this policy is being created are not present at the agenda-setting stage, the inevitable happens: blind spots.

Here’s the major one: Where is the legal apparatus (hō seibi) to back up those “environmental preparations”?

For example, where is a proposed amendment to the Basic Education Law (to remove the conceit of kokumin, or Japanese national) to ensure that Japanese schools can no longer refuse NJ children an education?

Where is a proposed punishment for the employer who treats his NJ workers unequally, such as by not coughing up their required half of social insurance payments?

What about that law against racial discrimination? Again, these meetings are a well-intentioned start. But I think the outcome will still be policy failure. For there is still no discussion about making NJ feel like they “belong,” as “members” of Japan.

Academic Yumiko Iida (a Japanese, so no claims of cultural imperialism, please), in her award-winning research about Japanese identity (see www.debito.org/?p=10215), argued that there are four things any viable nation-state must create to make its people feel like “members”:

1) A shared memory of the past (i.e., a national narrative) that links them all.

2) A sense of community, with moral obligations attached to it.

3) A world view that makes sense.

4) Hope for the future that other people share.

Consider how NJ are denied these things:

1) NJ have little presence in Japan’s history (remember the old saw, “Japan merely borrows ‘things’ from overseas and then uniquely ‘Japanizes’ them”) so, as these meetings indicate by their very attendance roster, NJ are forever an exogenous force to Japanese society.

2) As discussed on these pages (JBC, June 5), NJ are systematically othered, if not completely ignored as even a minority community within Japan, and that will naturally discourage a feeling of moral obligation to Japan.

3) A world view that does not acknowledge the existence of entire minority peoples cannot possibly make sense to those peoples.

4) Hope for the future in a Japan in decline is a hard sell even for Japanese these days.

The point is, if this policy discussion is to go beyond political theater, the GOJ must now use the dreaded word “immigration” (imin). It must also prepare the public to see immigrants as members of Japanese society — as minority Japanese.

This committee has not. It had better start.

In this era of unprecedented opportunities for world labor migration, Japan must be more competitive. Above all, it must lose the arrogant assumption that people will want to come to Japan just because it’s Japan.

Japan must seriously think about how to be nice — yes, nice — enough to NJ so that they’ll want to stay. And that means making them feel equal in terms of importance and inclusion — as though they belong — with everyone else.

So you want to create public policy that reflects, not dictates, what NJ need? Then listen to those of us already here. The government has admitted you need us. Treat us as an exogenous force at your peril.

=====================

Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears on the first Community page of the month. Send your comments to community@japantimes.co.jp. For readers’ views on last month’s column, please visit www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120703hs.html
ENDS

Asia Pacific Bulletin: “Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival”

mytest

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Hi Blog.  Here’s some evidence of how the debate regarding Japan’s need for immigration is starting to percolate through USG policy circles — this time the Asia Pacific Bulletin.  It’s another well-intentioned brief article for busy policymakers, but with a couple of mistakes:  1) since the 2011 earthquake the number of foreign residents in Japan has also been on a downward trend” is not quite right since it was on a downward trend before 3/11 too (in fact, when I was debunking the “Flyjin” Myth in my Japan Times column I demonstrated how the decreasing trend in NJ numbers was largely unaffected by the multiple disasters); 2) the “stagnant policy discussion at the national levelhas in fact been restarted and quite actively discussed starting from May onwards (perhaps after Mr. Menju sent the article to press, but the APB website notes their turnaround on articles is mere weeks), as has been discussed here in detail on Debito.org.   But Mr. Menju does get some important things very, very right — as in the other J media-manufactured myth of NJ crime and social disruption (especially the NPA’s involvement in cooking the numbers), how this dynamic forestalls a healthy discussion on immigration policy, and Japan’s overall need for immigration despite all the years of active ignoring of local governments’ advice on tolerance and acceptance.  Decent stuff, and worth a read.  Arudou Debito

///////////////////////////////////////

Analysis:  Accepting Immigrants: Japan’s Last Opportunity for Economic Revival
Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 169
Publisher: Washington, D.C.: East-West Center in Washington
Publication Date: June 27, 2012
By Toshihiro Menju, courtesy VW
http://www.eastwestcenter.org/publications/accepting-immigrants-japan’s-last-opportunity-economic-revival

BIO:  Toshihiro Menju, (Facebook profile here) Managing Director of the Japan Center for International Exchange, explains why “A proactive decision on accepting immigrants could very well be a constructive solution for two of Japan’s most salient problems: a shrinking economy spurred by a declining population.”

Japan is very slowly beginning to recover from the enormous economic and infrastructural setbacks caused by the March 11, 2011, earthquake. One reason for the slow pace of recovery is due to Japan’s shrinking and aging population, a phenomenon that is gradually and detrimentally affecting Japanese society as a whole. As of November 2011, Japan’s population totaled 128 million, ranking it tenth in the world after Russia. Historically, Japan’s large population has contributed to its dynamic economic output, providing a well-educated workforce along with a large domestic consumer market. However, since 2005 the total population has been in decline for the first time since WW II. Indeed, over the next decade it is expected to decrease by 5.3 million people, a significant decline of four percent, more than the entire population of Shikoku, Japan’s fourth largest island.

Unfortunately, Japan, unlike other developed economies, has only experienced two brief baby booms. The first baby boom, which occurred immediately after WWII, lasted just three years, until abortion became legal in 1949. Ironically, concerns over a sudden swell in population resulted in an increase in the number of pregnancy terminations. Furthermore, that post-WWII generation started a national trend where each subsequent generation has had fewer and fewer children, as evidenced by the brief baby boom in the early 1970s. As a result, today, the demographic decrease in Japan of children under the age of 15 is a serious national concern. Since 2003, over 400 public elementary, junior high, and senior high schools have closed every year directly as a result of demographics. It is estimated that between 2005 and 2025 the Japanese labor force–ages 15 to 64–will decrease by approximately 14 million, and at the same time citizens aged 75 and over will increase by 10 million. The economic, civil, and societal implications for such a dramatic and sudden demographic change are unprecedented.

Lack of Political Debate on Immigration
Currently, Japan has strict controls regarding foreign immigration, and there is no coherent national government policy or debate on how to utilize immigration to constructively address the issue of a declining population. Foreigners residing in Japan during 2010 totaled 2.13 million, almost two percent of the population. Currently 690,000 foreign residents are Chinese. Koreans rank second at around 570,000, of which 400,000 are direct descendents of Koreans who immigrated to Japan before WWII. The third largest group, at 230,000, is of Japanese-Brazilian descent, with a sudden increase in the early 1990s due to a relaxation in the immigration law for Japanese descendants living in South America. However, the number of Japanese-Brazilians living in Japan decreased rapidly after the 2008 global economic crisis. In addition, since the 2011 earthquake the number of foreign residents in Japan has also been on a downward trend.

There are three obstacles that hinder acceptance of immigrants or that even prevent starting a discussion at the national level on the subject of immigration. These three impediments are: the fear of social disruption attributed to immigrants as often witnessed in Europe and the United States; an increase in the rate of unemployment for Japanese citizens, especially among the youth; and an increase in the number of crimes committed by immigrants.

The first anxiety is a byproduct of the Japanese media’s coverage of immigrant issues in Europe, as well as in the United States. Japanese media coverage only presents the negative aspects of immigration in these countries; there is very rarely any coverage on the positive attributes of immigrants in these societies. The second apprehension is also unfounded, as Japan can tightly control the number and educational levels of incoming immigrants. The labor deficit within the agricultural, fishery, manufacturing, and service industries is a significant problem, combined with the fact that many Japanese youth refuse to work in these labor intensive and low-paying jobs.

The increase in crimes perpetrated by immigrants is also a misconception. Japan’s National Police Agency has, since 1990, featured a special section on crimes committed by foreigners in the annual Crimes in Japan report, and this has fueled the debate on the possibility of a spike in criminal activity due to an influx of immigrants. However, what is not widely discussed is that the number of crimes committed by foreigners has actually been steadily declining since 2005.

Healthy discussion on immigration is also inhibited by a number of other factors including ultra-nationalistic groups who are very vocal and unduly critical of neighboring countries. Furthermore, the perception in Japan of Imin–immigrants–is generally negative, with the public belief that if the door is opened, a flood of poor people from around the world will suddenly rush in. In reality, Japan is surrounded by a high language barrier that hinders non-serious immigrants.

Local Initiatives
However, in spite of the stagnant policy discussion at the national level, some local governments and grassroots organizations have been very active in accepting foreigners. This trend developed in the 1980s to help increase the number of foreign students in local communities, and the movement was boosted in the 1990s when Japanese-Brazilians suddenly increased from just a few thousand to 300,000 within approximately ten years. Tabunka-Kyosei–living together in a multi-culture–became the buzz word for these local movements. Local governments, including Toyota city (home town of Toyota motors), formed the Coalition of Cities with Foreign Residents in 2001. This coalition has campaigned for broader acceptance of foreigners living in Japan. Initiatives include submitting petitions to the central government for the establishment of a national immigration agency and provisions for the education of immigrant children. More recently, some rural mayors have begun openly discussing the merits of accepting immigrants into their communities, explaining that without these additions their communities will soon become ghost towns due to aging and depopulation.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his ruling Democratic Party of Japan have already used their limited political capital working on controversial legislation to raise domestic tax rates and tackling the thorny issue of restarting Japan’s nuclear power plants. They will not take on another controversial topic such as immigration at this moment in time. However, pro-immigration grassroots movements will continue to grow and eventually their arguments will reach the national level.

But the question is when. If it takes too long, a healthy recovery fueled by new immigrants will be more difficult to achieve, and another opportunity for Japan’s economic revival will have been missed. A proactive decision on accepting immigrants could very well be a constructive solution for two of Japan’s most salient problems: a shrinking economy spurred by a declining population.

========================
About the Author

Toshihiro Menju is Managing Director and Chief Program Officer at the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE). He can be contacted via email at tmenju@jcie.or.jp.

ENDS

GOJ Cabinet “Coexistence with NJ” Pt. 2: Critique of June 15, 2012 meeting — a very positive Third Act to this Political Theatre

mytest

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Hi Blog. Following up on my blog post of June 10: “GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for “co-existence with foreigners”: Some good stuff, but once again, policy about NJ without any input from them“, here is an evaluation of the GOJ’s third meeting of June 15, 2012. It’s taken a while to report on this since The Cabinet took their time putting the meeting’s materials online, but here is the cover page for proceedings, courtesy of http://www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/kyousei/dai3/sidai.html

(click to expand image)

Once again, let’s walk through the materials provided. First up, the people (the yuushikisha “people of awareness” experts, presenting their views to the GOJ.  Here are the links:

1.開会
2.中川大臣挨拶
3.議事
  外国人が生活する「現場」での課題、取組について
  (有識者からのヒアリング)
  • 鈴木康友氏 (静岡県浜松市長)
  • 中山弘子氏 (東京都新宿区長)
  • 田村太郎氏 (多文化共生センター大阪代表)
  • 坂本久海子氏(NPO法人愛伝舎理事長)
4.閉会
【配付資料】
 資料1 鈴木氏提出資料
 資料2 中山氏提出資料
 資料3 田村氏提出資料
 資料4 坂本氏提出資料
 参考資料1 第2回検討会議(6月1日)における主な発言
 参考資料2 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について(要綱)
 参考資料3 当面の検討会議スケジュール
 参考資料4 有識者ヒアリング参集者
 参考資料5 外国人との共生社会の実現に向けた主な論点、検討課題(例)

As noted in my June 10 post, these are the backgrounds of the presenters:

Mr Suzuki Yasutomo is Mayor of Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture (since so many NJ are clustered there working in factories; here’s his “manifesto” linked, with emphases on NJ children’s education, proper communication between Hamamatsu gaikokujin shimin (thank you) and the regular sort, and facilities).  Ms Nakayama Hiroko is the Kuchou of Tokyo Shinjuku-ku (where the famed “a lawless zone of foreign crime” Kabukicho is; however, here’s her very well organized and readable “manifesto” for the next four years, which has decent mentions of, yes, “multicultural coexistence” and some proposals to back them up (see policies 51-53)).  Mr Tamura Taro is representative of the Multicultural Center Osaka (which works a lot with Nikkei Brazilian issues).  Ms Sakamoto Kumiko is head of NPO Aidensha (which works with Portuguese speakers etc. in Mie Prefecture explaining Japan’s rules, helping them get homes and proper insurances, and assisting in translations etc.).  They all seem informed and on the level, albeit there is weighting towards dealing with Nikkeis rather than just NJs.  Now let’s look at what they presented to the GOJ:

ITEM ONE:  Hamamatsu Mayor Suzuki’s powerpoint:

Mayor Suzuki opens with an overview of the major changes in the makeup of NJ since 1990, with the doubling of the NJ population and then the drop after the “Lehman Shock” and Fukushima.  Particularly noted was the drop in their (local) Brazilian population (which makes the GOJ’s focus on Nikkei NJ all that more puzzling, given the absence of the Chinese and Filipinas/nos, as the other top NJ (and growing, unlike the Brazilians) at this forum).  Suzuki makes the salient point that cities around Hamamatsu have been cooperating for more than a decade now to create policies helping their NJ residents (e.g., The Hamamatsu Sengen, up to now studiously ignored by the GOJ).  He gives the demographics of his NJ, particularly how long they’ve been here (nearly half for more than 15 years [!]), and that nearly half of them have Permanent Residency (and 83% have long-term visas).  He talks inter alia about Hamamatsu’s measures taken (e.g., Japanese language teaching, in which 89% of teachers are “volunteers” not assisted by the GOJ), and laments that there is no compulsory education for NJ children guaranteed by law [!!].  He also talks about the “lack” (ketsujo, the same word used when decrying a lack of common sense) of unified policy or promotion on the part of the GOJ (particularly singling out the Cabinet for treating NJ as “a laborer problem” and over-focusing on Nikkei [!!!] concerns), and an overall “lack of aim to accept NJ” (gaikokujin no uke ire houshin no ketsujo).  He proposes a) that a joint integrated social policy be created and promoted at the national level; b) that teijuu (Long-Term Residency, a quasi-PR visa hitherto reserved for the Nikkei Brazilians and Peruvians) policies be expanded to all NJ; c) that a “NJ Bureau” (kyoku) be created in the short term, a “NJ Agency” (gaikokujin chou) be created in the medium term; d) that this “coexistence” series of meetings be made continuous; e) that a research council be established with more yuushikisha and people who have experience in education (gakushoku keikensha), and f) that a non-partisan politician group be created within the Diet to debate more on how to accept (uke ire) NJ. [!!!!]

(COMMENT:  Wow.  Let me just interject bowdlerized Hendrix here:  “Excuse me, while I kiss this guy!”)

ITEM TWO:  Shinjuku-ku Head Nakayama’s powerpoint:

Ms. Nakayama opens with a view “from the field” (genba de) of how NJ live their lives (I guess that’s somehow better than having NJ actually there at the meeting).  Her 14-page but very readable powerpoint goes through the statistics of the NJ under her mandate:  11% of all residents (appropriately now worded as juumin) are NJ, with the top three quarters  (37% each) Koreans and Chinese; fewer PRs than the national average (far more people, particularly close to half of all the Chinese, are there on “student” visas (ryuugaku; shuugaku) due to the local J language schools and Waseda), along with a jump (more than doubling) in the number of PRs; a quarter of all NJs live in the (traditionally Korean district) of Ohkubo, and a fifth are young, in their twenties.  Interesting stats, but….  Just when you think this presentation will end as a show-and-tell, we get a few slides on Shinjuku-ku’s attempts at multicultural coexistence policies:  Japanese language training (taught again by volunteers) at their Tabunka Kyousei Plaza, with a paid course (1500-4000 yen per semester) once or twice a week in ten locations, and a multilingual “consultation corner” in English, Korean, Chinese, Burmese, and Thai.  There is some Japanese language teaching for Grade and Jr. High schoolers both at the Ku-level and at some Ku-ritsu schools.  There some “guidelines” handbooks for life and disaster prevention in Korean, Chinese, English, and Japanese, and finally rah-rah the end of the presentation, where she says that we at the local level are doing lotsa stuff to help people, but there’s a limit to what they can do:  We have to come up with a unified philosophy (ri’nen) for how we’re going to systematize social welfare, employment, education, children’s upbringing, and lifestyles for NJ, etc., etc.  There were no grounded proposals beyond that, making Ms Nakayama’s presentation a definite anticlimax to Mayor Suzuki’s suggestions.  In the end, this felt like a bureaucratic presentation justifying budgets.

ITEM THREE:  Multicultural Center Osaka Head Tamura’s powerpoint:

Tamura also opens with the “genba de” view (sorry, must just be the title they were given by the bureaucrats, but Suzuki above shirked it), first introducing his NPO and what it does (promoting daibaashiti; okay, that sounds better to me than the hackneyed and misunderstandable “coexistence”) though its five centers nationwide.  Tamura was deeply involved in the volunteer efforts for relief and recovery in Tohoku area over the past year.  Comes off as a good egg.  Then he gets to his points about NJ residents:  He pointed out three “weak spots” (3 tsu no zeijaku sei) in how NJ live their lives as J residents:  1) a language and customs barrier (i.e., lack of instruction and access to policy), 2) legal recourse (little to no translation systems or personnel, or guaranteed access to education or boards of education), and 3) misunderstandings and prejudices on the part of Japanese society (e.g., “Hey, they came here of their own accord so they can fend for themselves”, or “the increase in NJ threatens our public safety”).  This results in their being excluded from education, employment, accommodation, and welfare.  NJ should not be seen as “weak” in themselves, but rather as in a weakened position in society.  He advocates inter alia that 1) NJ be seen by society not as “temporary stayers” but as “permanent citizens” (eijuu suru shimin — with an effective chart comparing the rise of PR Newcomers over the PR Oldcomers on page 4); 2) gentle and sophisticated (teinei) policies for coexistence be created reflecting the diversity in NJ based upon their specific areas of residence (with four sophisticated models proposed for a) major cities, b) places with high NJ populations, c) suburbs, and d) provinces, quite specific in detail; page 5); 3) four groupings for dealing with the major parties to this issue — the local governments, the national government, the local Japanese residents and industry, and — yes — the NJ communities (finally, an acknowledgment of a sense of domestic ethnic community without it being construed as a threat to Japan); again, quite detailed on page 6); 4) consider the future Japan with one million NJ PRs (nearly at that point already), and what should be done about it — inter alia:  a) consultations with NPOs and local governments, b) not seeing problems as specifically “foreign problems”, c) public acknowledging the good that NJ do for Japanese society, d) social workers that include NJ residents, and e) laws to back up any policies.  [!!!!!]  Very, very good stuff indeed!

ITEM FOUR:  NPO Aidensha Head Sakamoto’s powerpoint:

Sakamoto gave a very thick and academic series of essays that probably put the bureaucrats to sleep, opening with an organizational chart of how NPOs and NGOs relate to society at large in their activities.  She gave an over-detailed laundry list of the activities her NGO has carried out (including how find free computer courses and how to register e-messages; filter, Ms. Sakamoto!).  Amidst some very meaningful jobs Aidensha does (e.g., assisting people out of DV situations, finding housing, assisting with visa and social insurance issues, etc.) was the overwhelming chaff of giving case studies and telling stories about their hard work, when all the audience merely wanted was conclusions and advice.  Her points, when filtered of chaff, useless stats, and photographs were inter a lot of alia, 1) helping non-native speakers of Japanese get around and fend for themselves, 2) educating NJ children, 3) resolving employment and unemployment problems, 4) finding stable lives and residences, and, er… f) we should be nice and respectful to one another.  When we get into what I call “Kumbaya Territory”, you lose the bureaucrats.  I hope somebody patted her on the back for all her hard work, since that’s what it seemed like she wanted.

The other five items at the links above were recap:  Items 1) and 2) were the Minutes and Attendees from the previous meetings (which I covered in my blog entry here), 3) was the schedule of meetings previous and future (the next one will be July 3, with more yuushikisha, and the fifth one will be at a later date and feature interim thoughts on what concrete policies to pursue).  Item 4 tells us who are the scheduled yuushikisha for the July 3 meeting (including — gasp! — an actual NJ, or rather, former NJ, naturalized former Brazilian Angelo Ishi of Musashi University, along with three other regular Japanese academics from Tsukuba, Keio, and Dokkyou Universities).  The final Item 5 was a summary of the points under consideration so far regarding realizing a “Coexistence Society with Foreigners” all over again.  The problems listed therein were also recaps of ones covered in my previous blog entry.

COMMENT:  Alright, this is a positive series of developments, with inputs much better than the first two meetings (it’s a pity the short-sighted bureaucrats almost always get first dibs on agenda setting, with the people who might offer different opinions, such as Angelo Ishi, thrown in later down the line as an afterthought.  Nevertheless, it’s a good Third Act in this political theatre, where people who contributed to the June 15 Meeting have made their points, two of them saying things I would have said (down to the semantics).  Good.  Still, however, no mention of that law against racial discrimination…

More on the July 3 Meeting when it goes online no doubt in a few weeks.  Thanks for reading.  Arudou Debito

Kyodo: Foreign caregiver exits put program in doubt, complete with editorial slant blaming NJ for being fickle

mytest

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Hi Blog.  The Kyodo article below, on how Indonesian and Filipina nurses and caregivers (even those who have passed the arduous qualifying exam) are leaving Japan anyway, has been featured within the comments section of another Debito.org blog entry (here).  It seems to be gathering steam there, so let me post the article here as a stand-alone, and repost below it the subsequent replies from Debito.org Readers (the really good ones start doing the math, revealing there’s something fishy going on at the administrative level, beyond just blaming the NJ caregivers for not doing what they’re told after all the GOJ bullshit they’ve put up with).

My take on this Kyodo article is about the nasty little editorial slants and needles within.  Particularly nasty is how all otherwise qualified NJ caregivers are suddenly unworthy of emptying Japanese bedpans just because some decide they have a life outside Japan:

Quoth one professor with a PhD in nastiness at Todai (Kiyoshi Kitamura, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s International Research Center for Medical Education): “To what extent would it be considered appropriate for the foreign caregivers’ lives to be bound by the program? We must contemplate this, along with the question of whether the Japanese people are really up for nursing care provided by foreigners.”

Moreover, Kyodo, is this news, or editorializing?  “Yet as of June, five of them had quit and returned to Indonesia ‘for personal reasons,’ bringing great disappointment to the facilities that spent tens of millions of yen training them.”  Awww, diddums!

Submitter DeBourca further comments: Honestly, this article is jaw dropping. Care companies are actually upset that foreigners won’t accept indentured servitude on subsistence level wages? And where’s the balance and context? When you’re up against this kind of mindset, how do you go about dealing with it? Where do you even start?

Okay then without further ado, the Kyodo article, then the subsequent comments.  Thanks for making Debito.org a valuable resource for public critique, everyone.  Arudou Debito

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The Japan Times Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Foreign caregiver exits put program in doubt
So far five Indonesians who qualified have returned home
Kyodo
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120620f1.html

When 35 Indonesian caregivers undergoing on-the-job training passed Japan’s qualification examination this year, it was good news for their hosting facilities, which held high hopes they would continue providing much-needed manpower.

Yet as of June, five of them had quit and returned to Indonesia “for personal reasons,” bringing great disappointment to the facilities that spent tens of millions of yen training them.

Many blame the government for failing to provide a clear and adequate explanation of the program when recruiting candidates under the free-trade agreement with Indonesia.

Tatsumi Nakayama, who runs a nursing home in Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture, recalled being astonished when a female Indonesian caregiver who had been training there and passed the exam suddenly said she wanted to go back to Indonesia because she was getting married.

The nursing home began hosting the Indonesian in 2008 as a prospective caregiver, providing on-the-job training as well as paying for her Japanese-language and test-preparation tutorials with the expectation that she would eventually contribute as a core member of its staff.

The total cost, including her ¥180,000 monthly salary, on par with that of Japanese college graduates, came to ¥30 million over four years, according to Nakayama.

While Nakayama said he had been told the foreign caregiver would be working for the facility once she passed the exam, the woman insisted this had not been explained to her and she took off for Indonesia last month.

An official involved in the program, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted the government “did not do enough” to ensure thorough understanding of the program’s requirements and the obligations it entails.

Applicants are required to attend briefings held by the Indonesian government prior to coming to Japan, but back in 2008 they were not given any clear explanation regarding what they would be required to do after passing the exam.

Even basic rules, including that they could only continue to work in Japan beyond the four-year training period if they passed the test, had not been mentioned, according to the government official.

In view of the problem, the central government began in November to stipulate in briefing information kits for applicants that candidates are expected, in principle, to work in Japan for a prolonged period after passing the qualification exam.

To improve the low pass rate of foreign applicants taking the exams, the government also decided to grant them more time when taking the tests, starting this fiscal year, and to attach hiragana or katakana for all kanji used in questions.

Of the 104 Indonesian caregivers who came to Japan in 2008, 94 took the qualification exams for the first time in January. Among the 35 who passed, five have left Japan and three others have expressed their intention to do so.

While many cited personal reasons, such as returning home to care for ill family members, there was also one who planned all along to return home regardless of the exam result.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has indicated it plans to conduct a followup investigation but has been slow to act. It has been negative from the beginning about accepting foreign caregivers because they could affect the employment of Japanese workers.

The ministry’s attitude has led to distrust and discontent among many in the nursing business, which is suffering from a shortage of skilled and talented caregivers.

“With all the confusion over the latest issue, I’m worried that the countries that have concluded free-trade agreements (with Japan) will lose their eagerness to send prospective caregivers here,” one industry insider said.

“Perhaps we need to establish a new framework to resolve the issue of securing manpower.”

Commenting on the situation, Kiyoshi Kitamura, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s International Research Center for Medical Education, said: “To what extent would it be considered appropriate for the foreign caregivers’ lives to be bound by the program? We must contemplate this, along with the question of whether the Japanese people are really up for nursing care provided by foreigners.”

Under the agreements concluded by Japan with Indonesia and the Philippines, nurses and caregivers from the two countries can undergo on-the-job training in Japan for several years and continue working in the country if they pass the national qualification exams within a designated period.

But the kanji and technical terms employed are believed to pose a considerable hurdle for foreign applicants, whose pass rates remain significantly lower than Japanese applicants.

ENDS

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////

COMMENTS 

Jim Di Griz Says:
June 21st, 2012 at 12:27 pm   edit

@ DeBourca #21

Very interesting article.
It’s the ‘this is Japan’ as veil for culture of abuse syndrome in action again.
They spent all that money training Indonesian nurses, then gave them a (wait for it) 180,000 yen a month salary (wow!), and then complain that the Indonesians ‘didn’t understand their obligation to Japan’ by going home, instead of staying for ‘a prolonged period’.
If they want workers to stay, the have to offer a salary and conditions that are attractive enough. Talking about ‘obligation’ is just empty words to reinforce (as the article comments) that these are non-Japanese nurses and therefore unsuitable in some way. Just excuses for lack of policy.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////

DeBourca Says:
June 21st, 2012 at 4:19 pm   edit
@Jim
Thanks for the comments.What fascinates me is the mindset. Employers all over the world exploit their workers, but in Japan there still seems to be the view that the Victorian industrialists held; By providing employment, employers are providing vital services to society and individuals by keeping them “occupied”; Hell, we should be paying them!
There is a very good article by Philip Brasor (who occasionally posts here?) on the JT about an incidence of suicide-induced “karoshi” (that term is fascinating in itself) at the Watami company. It lifts the lid on policy regarding forcing employees to work inhuman amounts of overtime. The company president basically shrugged his shoulders and blamed the employee. He didn’t even see the need to publicly address the issue; What had he done wrong?
The questions in my previous post were not rhetorical BTW. I’m interested in trying to understand this mentality (pathology?) and why it is so accepted in Japan.
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Ds Says:
June 21st, 2012 at 8:20 pm   edit

Jim;

I think you read the article wrong. The 180,000 salary was paid during their training/studying for 4 years, not the wage offered upon graduation. Plus, as the article said, this was on par with what Japanese were paid for the same job. It seems a reasonable stipend to be paid while studying. Not far under what some eikaiwa teachers/ALTs make actually.

As for the ‘obligation’ to stay, this was poor management on the part of the Japanese trainers. The expectations needed to be written explicitly rather than implied. It’s only natural that a certain number of the caregivers (particularly women) would want to go home regardless of the result of their training and exams.

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Jim Di Griz Says:
June 21st, 2012 at 10:49 pm   edit

@ DeBourca #23

Yes, you are right.
My opinion (very short version) is this;

Meiji-era Japan re-invented itself as a modern industrialized state, and the idea of working yourself to death for the company (and by extension, the country) was a duty to prevent Japan being colonized by the West, and to help Japan catch-up with the West. Patriotic duty. This mentality has left too large a mark on modern Japan. The collapse of Imperialist ideology saw the replacement of ‘catch-up’ with the West recast in terms such as ‘duty to rebuild the nation’ after the war. Why can’t they stop? Because ‘this is Japan!’ The headless chicken marches on…

Western nations (on the other hand) went through the industrialization process hand-in-hand with the democratization process that the oppressed workers demanded and fought for (see; Luddites and The Tollpuddle Matyrs). Any attempt by Meiji-era Japanese workers to protest for rights at work were crushed as being ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘due to traitorous external influences’, and therefore ‘not Japanese qualities’.

Someone wrote a good book about this that I read as an undergrad, if I remember the name, I will post it.

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TJJ Says:
June 21st, 2012 at 11:45 pm   edit

“The total cost, including her ¥180,000 monthly salary, on par with that of Japanese college graduates, came to ¥30 million over four years, according to Nakayama.”

Well, the article fails to mention that that nursing candidate probably (almost certainly) had an Indonesian nursing qualification and experience already. So to compare them to Japanese college graduates in terms of salary is … unfair.

But the numbers are interesting. The total before tax income for the nurse would be 8,640,000 Yen over 4 years (2,160,000 per year). That leaves 21,360,000 of the total expenses, being 30,000,000 according to the article, unaccounted for. So over two thirds of the total cost goes to Japanese companies that ‘train’ etc. Business as usual in Japan.

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Scipio Says:
June 22nd, 2012 at 9:29 am   edit

TJJ Says:
But the numbers are interesting. The total before tax income for the nurse would be 8,640,000 Yen over 4 years (2,160,000 per year). That leaves 21,360,000 of the total expenses, being 30,000,000 according to the article, unaccounted for. So over two thirds of the total cost goes to Japanese companies that ‘train’ etc.

Thanks TJJ, I was doing the math and was thinking that it must be me and my bad math because the figures looked absolutely crazy.

As others have said this mindset of the article was totally jaw dropping. ‘Those third world workers, how ungrateful they are after all we’ve done for them’.
Crazy, totally crazy…The slant in the article borders on the childishly subjective. ‘We Japanese were not the cause of the misunderstanding and we have bent over backwards to accomodate these trainees’ (Note. Most of these trainees were qualified caregivers in their home country before they came here).

I would like someone to interview these non-Japanese caregivers who passed the exam and have chosen to return to home home countries, and ask then for their reasons for returning. Rather than having an article of reported speech journalism in the third person, where others speak for them. Maybe the reason this hasn’t been done is that the Japanese might not like the answers.

As a final point, let’s not forget this is the foreign caregivers, not the foreign nurses, whose exam has a much lower pass rate.

ends

 

GOJ embryonic policymaking reboot for “co-existence with foreigners”: Some good stuff, but once again, policy about NJ without any input from them

mytest

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Hi Blog.  We have an important announcement courtesy of academic listserv H-JAPAN:

======================================

H-JAPAN
May 31, 2012
Date: Thu, 31 May 2012
From: JFMorris
Subject: Multiculturalism in Japan

Dear List members,

A committee has been set up within the Cabinet Office of Japan, composed of the vice-ministers of the Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Ministiry of Law, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Education etc, Health etc, Agricutlure etc, Industry etc, Land etc, Police to investigate and recommend policy on “co-existence with foreigners”. Information on the committee can be found at the following URL.

http://www.cas.go.jp/jp/seisaku/kyousei/index.html

The documentation provided here gives a very succinct summary of what the government (national level bureaucrats?) of Japan think about “foreigners” here, and how they formulate their perceptions of what the “problems” are, and very vaguely hint at where they see future solutions.

John Morris
Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University

======================================

COMMENT:  Many thanks to John Morris for the link.  I wish he would have elaborated on the contents of the summaries, so I will.

As concerns the goals of Debito.org (inter alia the promotion of multiracial/multicultural tolerance and and of diversity in Japanese society), here are some points of note:

=================================

SUMMARY:  This is not the first time the organs of the Japanese government have talked about “coexistence with foreigners” (gaikokujin to no kyousei shakai jitsugen), but more likely than not these happen at the local level (cf. the Hamamatsu Sengen, which happened repeatedly from over a decade ago yet was studiously ignored at the national level).  Now that discussion on this is taking place at the national, Cabinet level, this is a positive development.  However, these meetings (two so far, the first one was less than an hour) at the outset show the hallmarks of so much Japanese policymaking:  a biased agenda (with all the normalized invective of “wagakuni” (our country) semantically offsetting those foreigners (who have to “co-exist” with Japanese, not merge into one polity)) regarding the policy treatment of people without any input from the people being treated.  Inevitable blind spots, such as an overemphasis on Nikkei and children’s education, are already latent in the materials below.  In any case, this is a very interesting and rare view into the dialogs and mindsets behind the creation of public policy re Non-Japanese (NJ) in Japan.  More detailed summaries and analysis follow below.

=================================

Here is the cover of the anchor site for this policy debate (click to enlarge):

The goal written therein is interesting:  “This deliberative meeting on ‘a society coexisting with foreigners’ has been set up so that related government ministries can deliberate comprehensively in close cooperation with one another, regarding the various problems related to environmental preparations (kankyou seibi) for realizing a society where we can coexist with foreigners who have livelihoods in Japan, in order to promote the undertaking of related policies at all levels of government.” (my translation)

Okay, we’re coordinating something regarding “policy issues” (which is good, since in Japan’s tate-wari bureaucracy the ministries don’t coordinate much with each other).  So who’s attending?  According to the attached konkyo kouseiin for the May 24, 2012 meeting (click to enlarge):

It’s all governmental vice ministers (fuku daijin) from The Cabinet, Internal Affairs & Communications (Soumusho), Justice, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Education, Health & Welfare, Agriculture, Forests & Fisheries (how are they related?), METI, Posts and Communications, and the National Police Agency (there as a jichou).  The chair is former Education Minister Nakagawa Masaharu (under the interestingly-named title of “State Minister in Charge of the Foreign Laborer Problem” (gaikokujin roudousha mondai o tantou suru kokumu daijin), meaning semantically we’ve already problematized a latent “problem” of foreigners into foreign laborers). (More on Nakagawa in Japanese at the renewed Noda Cabinet Profiles here)

Note that there is not a single Non-Japanese (NJ) involved anywhere at the agenda-setting stage.  (Not even the token Gregory Clark, who never misses an opportunity to claim how open-minded the Japanese must be because officials insert him on blue-ribbon shingikai deliberation councils and committees.  Maybe that’s for the better this time, since we really don’t need bigoted geriatric liars with an incredible sense of entitlement telling the GOJ what to do about NJ residents who have completely different socioeconomic statuses to his.)  Anyway, it seems the government obviously knows best what to do with the “foreign laborer problem” from the outset.  Who needs foreign residents’ involvement when it’s a Japan issue?

Note how there is some vital lack of definition.  What does “coexistence” mean exactly — tolerance, acceptance, gated communities, patchwork cultural neighborhoods, or complete subsumption of “foreign cultures” in favor of “Japanese culture” (douka)?  Nor is the “kankyou seibi” made all that clear.  For example, does this this include a law (with actual penalties for offenders) against racial discrimination?  People won’t leave home without it.

You can see the materials submitted to participants in the first meeting, including several reference materials from each ministry from the following links (this was clearly a meeting planned well in advance; good):

【配付資料】
 資料1-1 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について
 資料1-2 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について(開催要綱)
 資料1-3 当面の検討会議スケジュール(案)
 資料1-4 有識者ヒアリング候補者(案)
 資料2 外国人との共生社会の実現に向けた主な論点、検討課題(例)
 資料3 法務省提出資料
 資料4 厚生労働省提出資料
 資料5 文部科学省提出資料
 資料6 警察庁提出資料
 資料7 内閣府提出資料

Material 1-1 is interesting in that the main goals are listed as:

  1. What form a society coexisting with foreigners will take
  2. What “environmental preparations” (kankyou seibi) will be undertaken to realize this society
  3. How to enliven (kasseika) the national debate (kokumin teki giron) which will also include the acceptance (uke ire) of foreigners
  4. What other topics and issues of special attention (ryuu i ten) will be involved in realizing this coexistence with foreigners

Those goals are elaborated in greater detail within Material 1-1 (more below).  Prima facie, these are all positive directions, especially the national debate bit to get the public on board to convince them that NJ are also a part of society. However, unclear (as always) is the word “uke ire“, which can run the gamut of meanings from “acceptance and embracement” to “just letting them cross the border into Japan” (as in the yahoo dictionary definition example:  “この国は移民の受け入れに年間2,000人の枠を設けている The quota of immigrants to be received [acceptedinto this country is set at 2,000 per year.”)  Given Japan’s record on immigration policy (and the fact that even the word “imin” (immigrant/immigration) doesn’t seem to be appearing anywhere, this word does not conjure as positive an example of acceptance *as Japanese residents and Japanese citizens* as one would like.

Material 1-1 also mentions in that greater detail the two steps that this plan will take:  1) GOJ deliberations on the kankyou seibi, 2) public debate on how to “accept foreigners”.  However, this will take place ONLY AFTER the kankyou seibi are firmly established.  The policy aim also stresses that it policy is not to be expanded to accept more foreigners (uke ire kakudai), but rather it is important first “to improve the many problems of foreigners who are actually living in our country”, listed as issues of lifestyles, education, labor conditions etc..  Kankyou seibi must be done first, however.  Then, however, if I’m not somehow misunderstanding this, it stresses in the next paragraph how our country must increase its attractiveness and appeal as a place that will “draw foreigners in to revitalize our society” (wagakuni shakai ni katsuryoku o motarasu gaikokujin o hikitsukeru).  Somehow I have the feeling I’ve heard this before.  And again, a “smooth public debate” is fine.  But how about seibi-ing that legal environment to outlaw discrimination?  Not clear.

It’s not any clearer when you read the finer print.  Material 2 above lists these as the problems to be addressed already (paraphrases):

  1. Our country needs high-quality people (koudo jinzai) to keep us vibrant in this era of globalization and aging/falling Japanese population, so for that dynamism we need foreigners.  
  2. There have been “social costs” (shakaiteki kosuto) to bringing foreigners into our country before, particularly in regards to lifestyles, education, and labor, so this should not be broadened due to [and I’m seriously translating this bit:] “being opened up as an international society will probably lead to our country’s reputation being downgraded” (kokusai shakai ni okeru hirakareta kuni to shite no hyouka o teika saseru koto ni mo tsunagaru). [Moodys, are you listening?]
  3. We want to attract “better foreigners” (again, koudo jinzai), given what happened with the Nikkei South Americans and NJ residents living here so far, with more systematic policies to bring them in and maintain our country’s reputation.
  4. We need these plans to be medium- and long-term, given the demographics.
  5. We need to keep our people (kokumin) in the debate loop and build consensus for the future about bringing in foreign labor.

Wow, what paroxysms of grief those lackluster NJ entrants up to now have put Japanese society through!  That said, these are the things (page 3) this panel is thinking about regarding how to treat NJ (in other words, its not just what we can take from NJ, but also what we need to give them):

  1. Policies that will make them functional in Japanese (e.g., promotion of J language learning in local areas, with appraisals, encouragement of teachers, and possible requirement (gimu zukeru koto) [for visa renewals?])
  2. Educating their children (e.g., stopping school absenteeism, putting in qualified J language teachers in public schools, assisting NJ children into higher-quality education, promoting education in NJ schools [!!!], promoting J language education for their parents, offering NJ children other educational opportunities, etc.)
  3. How they will be hired and will work (e.g., not merely treating them as cheap labor but improving their working conditions and social insurance, with job training in sectors such as nursing, agriculture etc., through bringing in higher-skilled workers, and even think about a “foreign employment law” (gaikokujin koyouhou) [!!!]  This would not be limited to the Nikkei South American workers [was it implicitly before?])
  4. How they will have medical treatment and social security (e.g., get them on Social Insurance, get their kids covered, and think about to set up an effective translation system)
  5. Stable places for them to live (e.g., offer basic information about how and where to live, and take measures to alleviate the fears of private-sector landlords afraid of NJ)
  6. How to deal with “public safety” problems (e.g., how to police NJ in this age of globalized crime)
  7. How to make information available in several languages (e.g., multilingual internet sites, more information sent overseas [??], one-stop information and assistance centers, multilingual disaster information, multilingual traffic information and driver license tests)
  8. Mutual respect for each others’ culture and promoting understandings (e.g., multicultural education, and thinking about introducing an integrated program for Japanese studies as soon as people enter Japan)
  9. How to work in coordination with local governments and burden-share (e.g., have local governments understand the needs of their local NJ and offer them concrete and customized service)  Etc.

There are further clarifications for each subject from page 4 onwards (listed in parentheses afterwards).  This is some very heady and prescient stuff (I can see why bureaucrats don’t want sweaty-headed public debate meddling until they get the “environment” set up first), and something which if carried out will be a great improvement over the past.  However, unclear again is how some issues (such as apartment refusals) will be enforced through the existing legal/administrative framework, or how the present system will be changed to make jobs more secure and equal in treatment (such as in Japanese academia (which I happen to know a bit about), which advertises that it wants foreign PhDs but then only offers them limited-term contracts, not tenure or an equal collegial footing).  Nice to have this wish list.  Better to say, however, that we need legal structure (hou seibi) to back it up, even at this drawing-board stage.

The MOJ’s brief (Material 3 above) starts out with bare stats of who and how many NJ are here and what they are up to.  But then on page 7 they get into how NJ should be administered (kanri — natch, that’s their job).  But it uses the hackneyed kokusaika (internationalization) of Japan just in terms of numbers without (as usual) indicating an understanding about what true internationalization really means (as in making NJ into Japanese).  Instead, the MOJ focuses (as usual) on how little control they have over NJ once they pass through Japan’s borders, and advocates the quick implementation of policy carrots and sticks — carrots portrayed as keeping tabs on NJ’s social welfare and children’s education (as if that’s within their mandate), and sticks meaning visa overstayers get rooted out ever more efficiently.  We’ve seen this in action in the upcoming end of the Gaijin Cards (in favor of remotely-trackable Zairyuu Cards (mentioned on page 8 ) that link visa approval to enrollment in Japan’s insolvent pension schemes), and it’s pretty plain to see who’s engineered that future fiasco.  If you’re ready for a giggle, check out the smiling “example NJ” on page 9 being subjected to this proposal, complete with white skin and blue eyes (even though most of the NJ these labor policies will attract are probably not White people — because they never have been).  In sum, the MOJ offers nothing new except more policing.

The Health & Welfare Ministry’s brief (Material 4 above) offers the background information on what NJ are up to again, but has on page 2 a special focus (over half the page) on how to care for Nikkei NJ (displaying once again that GOJ focus on offering more assistance “to the family” linked by Japanese blood).  The measures proposed are decent (mentioned in the Material 2 outline above).  For the the garden-variety NJ, however, it’s not clear what’s to be done as discrimination by nationality in working conditions and in introductions to jobs is already “outlawed” (kinshi) (as if that’s made much difference up to now).  But the Ministry points out (page 3) how there’s no clause in the laws guaranteeing equal treatment regardless of nationality in the social insurance system, and wants improvements made regarding how foreigners are employed.  The solution to this Ministry is the upcoming revisions in the registry rules to make everyone accountable under the pension and social welfare systems.  Not much new here — no mention of how to stop J employers screwing their NJ workers out of social insurance by not paying their half of the required contributions, for example.  A newer idea, however, is on page 4, where they outline the policy for attracting higher-quality NJ (again, koudo jinzai), i.e., a “points system” (itself highly problematic) for which came into effect May 7 of this year; the Ministry wants 300,000 “shitsu no takai” foreign students etc. to be handled under “job matching” systems at Hello Work unemployment agencies nationwide.  It also wants GOJ assistance with post-university job searches and internships, and reformed personnel management with clearer hiring practices for international workers.  Okay, decent stuff, but let’s wait and see if any of this comes to fruition.

The Ministry of Education’s brief (Material 5 above) is brief indeed, with a rehash of what they say they concluded in May 2010:  Deliberation of how to institute Japanese language education environments in Grade School and Junior High, and allowing NJ schools in Japan to become educational foundations [!!!].  More details are on page 2, where details of note include an increase of Japanese-language teachers by 350 souls (to a total of 1385 people nationwide) since 2009, making and distributing educational guidebooks, yada yada.  Also notable is the lumped treatment of J “returnee children” (rendered as kikoku/gaikokujin jidousei) as foreigners.  No mention of reforming the Basic Education Law (kyouiku kihon hou) to also guarantee education to non-citizens (given the restrictive kokumin clauses already within it, which still enables Japanese schools to refuse NJ children).  No anti-bullying discussions, either, or possible sensitivity training workshops for teachers if not students.  MoE’s assumptions within its lackluster proposals seem to be that if you make some motions to teach foreigners (and somehow by extension returnee Japanese) the Japanese language, they’ve done their job and all’s resolved nationwide.

The National Police Agency’s brief (Material 6 above) is even briefer, with one page of crime stats (which has dramatically fallen across the board yet they managed to squeeze in a crime rise somehow — i.e., NJ as collaborators with Japanese in Japanese crimes) with fingers pointed at Chinese, Vietnamese, Peruvians, and Brazilians as inter alia thieves and marriage visa defrauders.

They offer no proposals whatsoever.  Why are they even in on this discussion?  (The MoJ is already offering enough policing.)  Do we get the police involved on every social policy reform council, or is it just because we’re dealing with inherently untrustworthy criminal NJ?

The Cabinet’s brief (Material 7 above) offers a full overview of “our own” — with seven pages concentrating solely on Nikkei NJ.  Aside from this more-than-just-a-little offensive blood-fixation prioritizing of foreigners in Japan, we have observations about how these days Nikkei cannot get jobs or get Japanese language skills, their kids cannot get an education, and how they’ve taken emergency policies since January 2009 (as opposed to the GOJ’s emergency airlift of Nikkei — only — back to South America from April 2009?).  The rest of the proposals are basically as above, in what seems to be a summary of everyone’s positions.

================================

Future discussions (a total of five meetings, through July, according to Material 1-3 above) will involve a hearing with experts in the field on “the shape of the NJ coexistence society” (Meeting 2, June 1, details below); another meeting with those experts “about taking on the issues ‘in the field’ (genba de) where NJ have their livelihoods” (Meeting 3, June 15, preliminary details below); yet another meeting with those experts about accepting those NJ (regarding “views” (shiten) and “issues warranting special attention” (ryuu i ten) in accordance with realizing that co-existence society) (Meeting 4).  And finally, the last scheduled meeting for now will bring the previous meetings’ discussions together to consider a 25-year tentative plan for realizing those concrete policies for kankyou seibi.

It’s a better-formed plan and timetable for discussing these issues than I’ve ever seen before (and it’s also been opened to public scrutiny).  All good, but here’s your scrutiny:

I still have no idea what kankyou seibi is (neither do they, I think; that’s why they’re getting together to discuss it).  But the inputs are as usual limited to people (presumably no women, no young people, and no working-class people) who will never be directly affected by this policy because they have never been foreigners in Japan.  I’m probably reading too much into the following, but semantically, NJ are seen as almost a different breed of animal that needs to be studied in their natural habitat.  Still no sign of any of those NJ animals being let in on any GOJ meetings to speak for themselves.

===================================

Meeting Two was held very promptly afterwards, on June 1, 2012, and for what looks to have been a longer time (two hours on paper).  Here’s the cover page (click to enlarge):

Now involved are three “persons of awareness” (yuushikisha), who are a Mr. Ikegami Shigehiro (a full professor from Shizuoka’s University of Art and Culture, who writes a lot about Indonesian culture and migrant Indonesians; even uses the word “emigrants”), a Mr. Iguchi Yasushi (a former bureaucrat at the Ministry of Labor turned full professor at Kansai Gakuin University, whose specialty is the unemployed and labor migration; here’s his CV in English), and a Mr Satou Gun’ei (Vice Dean at Tokyo Gakugei University’s Center for Research in International Awareness, whose specialty is on transnationals and Japanese language education, particularly Japanese children overseas).

Again, these people are no doubt well-intentioned and well-researched about situations facing NJ in Japan.  But they are not NJ, with “NJ awareness”; there is no substitute for that.

You can see their submitted materials here (along with other materials from that meeting) from these links:

【配付資料】
 資料1 池上氏提出資料
 資料2 井口氏提出資料
 資料3 佐藤氏提出資料
 参考資料1 「外国人との共生社会」実現検討会議の開催について(要綱)
 参考資料2 当面の検討会議スケジュール
 参考資料3 有識者ヒアリング参集者
 参考資料4 外国人との共生社会の実現に向けた主な論点、検討課題(例)

Another brief summary of the materials above:

Mr Ikegami (Material 1) offers an overview that goes beyond Nikkei to include Chinese and Filipinas/nos too.  Aside from overviews of the economic forces at work on NJ labor, he saliently proposes (of note): 1) officially defining “multicultural coexistence” (tabunka kyousei), 2) coordinated entry and social integration procedures, 3) regional coordination that includes NJ, etc.  He also endorses an awareness of “transnational livelihoods”, not dividing the issue into “Japanese and foreigners”, etc.  His heart’s in the right place, but proposals are still at the slogan stage.  I assume he elaborated on his points orally.

Mr Iguchi (Material 2) has a five-pager that still resorts to the divisive “wagakuni” (our country) invective, but still endeavors to portray NJ as deserving something more than just a ticket home.  He stresses the issue of “social integration” (shakai tougou).  He writes a bit of fluff here and there that the bureaucrats are probably not interested in (such as the treatment of Burmese refugees), but does overturn a few unconsidered stones:  how the mixed bag of overseas policies towards foreign “cultural identities” have resulted in potential backlashes if they are not respected; how “multicultural coexistence” is not an imported concept in Japan’s case, but one generated from Japan’s grassroots — i.e., from Japan’s local governments, such as when Kawasaki City passed policies in the 1990s benefiting “foreign-national residents”; how important language is for not only communication, but also for securing permanent residency and citizenship [!!]; how NJ rights must be respected and enforced through Hello Work and local governments [!!], etc.  He advocates immediately 1) the GOJ use the July NJ registration reforms as an opportunity to get Hello Work and local governments helping NJ enlisted in employment insurance and social insurance, as well as to promote secure jobs for them, and 2) get employers to properly insure their NJ employees and ensure flexibility towards covering their families.  He advocates that within the next five years NJ get up to speed in Japanese through standardized education, evaluation, and systematic accreditation of J language teachers.  Beyond that, mid-term suggestions include 1) proper technical accreditation for young NJ trained technicians aimed at properly matched markets, 2) periodic lists of vocations in desperate need of workers and training programs for NJ to fill them, 3) exchanges through educational accords with other countries at the university level to bring in foreign researchers and students (as well as beef up language accreditation for imported NJ workers, with targeted language education for them; example cited being the plight thus far of foreign nurses and health care workers).  His final, underlined conclusion was that to restore Japan’s economic vitality, it is essential to bring in NJ (specifically high-quality foreign labor, Nikkei, technical trainees, and refugees [!!] for specific industries, and to accomplish that, concrete policies are necessary to encourage proper administration of NJ as well as encourage social integration at the national, regional, and local levels.  Surely true.  The attitude, however, is still one of “we’re going to wipe the slate clean and start treating foreigners better from when they enter at the border”, not one of making things better for the NJ already here.  Ah well, gotta start somewhere, I suppose.

Mr Satou (Material 3) offered a bullet-point summary, focusing on 1) the present state of NJ children’s education, 2) evolution of the characteristics of educational policies towards NJ children, 3) issues within those education policies, and 4) future issues with a view towards multicultural coexistence.  Quite frankly, it was jolly difficult for me to understand within which was an observation and which was policy advice.  Some points made that don’t overlap Ikegami’s and Iguchi’s, to wit:  1) education of NJ has not developed into talk of reform of the education system to accommodate them, but rather of how individuals will cope with their education, 2) basic principles of guarantees of rights from the perspective of multiculturalism must be made clear before proper “acceptance” (uke ire) can take place, 3) Japanese children should be schooled in tolerance of others as fellow residents (shimin — rendered later as “citizens” (as in shiminsei no kyouiku, “citizenship education”)).  Good stuff and better constructs included, especially the new civics lessons, but in the end, this came off as a laundry-list outline/survey of issues and problems with relatively unclear proposals.

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Meeting 3, according to Material 1-4 distributed May 24, 2012, says that the June 15 hearing will involve the mayor of Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture (since so many NJ are clustered there working in factories), the unnamed head of Tokyo Shinjuku-ku (where “a lawless zone of foreign crime” Kabukicho is; I assume a bureaucrat?), a Mr Tamura Taro, representative of the Multicultural Center Osaka (which works a lot with Nikkei Brazilian issues), and a Ms Sakamoto Kumiko, head of NPO Aidensha (which works with Portuguese speakers etc. in Mie Prefecture explaining Japan’s rules, helping them get homes and proper insurances, and assisting in translations etc.)

Again, all no doubt well-intentioned people.  A bit top-heavy on the Nikkei Brazilian front, again.  I guess Chinese aren’t prioritized as highly due to a lack of blood ties, and where are the Peruvians, Filippinas/nos, and other NJ?

The remaining materials were essentially repeats of the earlier materials.  Enough; my eyes are tired.  Points I missed or got wrong, please feel free to correct.  Thanks for reading. Arudou Debito

UPDATE JUNE 27, 2012:  MEETING THREE OF JUNE 15, 2012 CRITIQUED HERE:

GOJ Cabinet “Coexistence with NJ” Pt. 2: Critique of June 15, 2012 meeting — a very positive Third Act to this Political Theatre

Kyodo: Municipalities to deny services to illegal NJ; Kuchikomi: Rising NJ welfare chiselers “social parasites”

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Hi Blog. We’ve had a discussion recently as part of Debito.org Comments about one of the side-effects of Japan’s new residency-certificate registration (juuminhyou) coming up in July.  People suspect that the GOJ is using this revision as a means not only to make sure that local governments aren’t being “soft” on NJ visa overstayers (by denying them benefits even the Kyodo article below acknowledges they are entitled to), but also to check whether all NJ residents are registered and paying into Japan’s social insurance system. This is controversial because plenty of Japanese also opt out of the system, and also because it will possibly become a means to say, “Pay in or no visa renewal,” something that citizens obviously cannot be threatened with.

This is yet another example of social Othering on a policy level (if you want to tighten things up, you should do it across the board for everyone in Japan, not just NJ), not to mention with some pretty stiff potential penalties (back paying into the system may run into the tens and hundreds of man yen, which can be financially insurmountable, and unjust especially when some employers in Japan have conveniently forgotten to pay in their half of the NJ employee’s social insurance when hiring NJ full time).  Thus NJ get uprooted from Japan due to their employer’s negligence.

I for one haven’t done enough research on what’s going to happen in coming months under the new system (my scrivener colleague in the visa industry himself too is waiting and seeing), but when it becomes plainer it’ll be discussed here. What IS plainer is that the Japanese media is already gearing up to portray the perpetual scapegoats for Japan’s social ills — NJ — this time as welfare spongers and social parasites. See the second article below.

Note that all of the things that are being alleged against foreign “welfare chiselers” in that article I’ve heard and seen being done by Japanese too (especially the fake marriage bit — but what’s not covered in the article is how a NJ visa changes when a divorce occurs, so it’s not that “easy”).  But one need not mention that inconvenient detail.  NJ shouldn’t be here anyway if they’re going to commit, er, the same crimes that Japanese commit.  Once again, social Othering and scapegoating of a disenfranchised minority is SOP in Japan for lots of social ills — and worse yet, the specter of “foreign hordes taking advantage of Japan’s overgenerous system” sells newspapers and alienates the aliens. Nothing less than media-bred xenophobia. Arudou Debito

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Some municipalities set to deny services to illegal foreign residents: poll
Kyodo News Tuesday, April 24, 2012
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120424b6.html

Foreigners residing in Japan illegally could lose access to education and health care services when the revised basic resident registration law takes effect even though they are still entitled to receive them, civic groups said Monday.

According to the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan and other groups, dozens of the 72 municipalities that participated in the survey plan to deny services when the revision takes effect in July.

Four said they won’t allow children of illegal foreigners to be enrolled in public schools and 13 said they will not issue maternity health record books to pregnant foreign women who are residing illegally.

Another 12 said they won’t be able to subsidize delivery expenses for pregnant women in financial distress, while 33 said they will not vaccinate illegal foreigners against tuberculosis and other diseases, the survey said.

After the revision takes effect, foreigners will registered in the same residence system used by the Japanese.

In addition, illegal residents and asylum seekers will no longer be covered by the resident registry system, although the central government has repeatedly said they will continue to be entitled to basic services offered by municipalities.

The survey, which was conducted between January and March, highlighted misunderstandings on the part of local governments when it comes to providing basic services to illegal foreign residents. More confusion is expected to occur at municipal offices after the amended law enters force.

There were about 67,000 foreigners overstaying their visas as of January, according to Justice Ministry statistics.

Eriko Suzuki, an associate professor specializing in immigration policy at Kokushikan University, said the local governments polled mistakenly believe they cannot provide services to illegal foreign residents because they weren’t supposed to be in Japan to begin with.

The professor, who was involved in the survey, urged the central government to better inform municipalities about how to treat illegal aliens after the revised law takes effect.
ENDS
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Tabloid blasts growing numbers of foreign welfare chiselers
Japan Today.com KUCHIKOMI MAY. 29, 2012, courtesy of DR
http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/tabloid-blasts-growing-numbers-of-foreign-welfare-chiselers

“Malicious Foreign Welfare Recipients Increasing Rapidly” screams the yellow and red headline emblazoned across the front page of Yukan Fuji (May 25). The accompanying banner, in inverse white characters on a red background, reads “meticulous investigation.”

“If there’s a way to receive something, I can’t understand why you don’t accept it. How stupid can Japanese be?” chuckles Mr A, a 26-year-old man who lives somewhere in the Kanto area. The son of parents from an unnamed southeast Asian country—making A the second generation to live in Japan—he works as a regular staff member of a manufacturing company.

A’s newly purchased car, a Japanese model, cost 3 million yen. He can afford such goodies because he, his wife and their three children receive extra “pocket money” from the government.

“My wife began receiving welfare payments from last year,” he tells the tabloid. “Including child support and other subsidies, she gets 200,000 yen per month. When combined with my take-home pay, we get over 500,000 yen per month, or about 6 million yen per year. “

In the past, recipients of welfare had been limited, by law, to “Individuals whose income from work is insufficient to meet necessary living costs,” and by virtue of this, A should not be eligible. So how does he get away with it?

“Easy,” he says. “I divorced my wife.” And he did, on paper anyway. They still live together, so it’s what one might call a divorce of convenience.

“My ex-wife went to the city office and claimed she lacked ‘sufficient income to care for the children,’ and she was promptly judged eligible and began receiving welfare payments,” A confesses.

Should the authorities send a case worker to investigate, they would find the wife residing in a separate apartment, which she rents. But actually she continues to live together with her “former” husband.

“Once a month, a case worker will pay a visit, but since notification is always made in advance, all my wife has to do is take the kids over to the rental apartment ahead of time,” he says.

Mr A tells Yukan Fuji that nearly all the inhabitants of the public housing development where he lives are foreigners.

“There are some Chinese and Indians, but people from my country are the most numerous, more than 300. Most of them are receiving welfare,” he says.

Yukan Fuji remarks that indeed there may be foreigners whose difficult situation warrants welfare, but in the case of Mr A, we’re looking at flat-out fraud.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, as of February 2012, 73,995 foreign nationals were receiving welfare payments—more than double the figure of 2000, when the average for foreign recipients in any given month was 32,858 recipients.

An official at the health ministry told the reporter that foreigners deemed eligible to receive such payments include “Permanent residents and residents who are preparing for permanent status, those with officially recognized refugee status and those with Japanese spouses.”

“There’s no doubt that the number of foreigners taking advantage of flaws in the system has been increasing,” says Professor Ryu Michinaka of Kansai University of International Studies. “Some take the form of spurious divorces or falsified documentation. Even in cases when the government offices suspect something illegal is going on, they’ll invoke the ‘language barrier’ and just pretend they don’t understand.”

The foreign welfare chiselers also share the tricks of the trade with their compatriots, and parents also give advice to their children, creating next-generation social parasites.

“There aren’t enough case workers to check out the applicants,” adds Michinaka. “One case worker might have to cover 80 families, or sometimes even twice that number. Ironically, the total incomes for some of the families might be more than the caseworker earns in salary.”

Japan needs to put its collective foot down and put an end this “haven” that makes it so easy for unscrupulous foreigners to feed at the public’s expense, the article concludes.
ENDS