H-Japan on “Apartheid or Academic Accuracy: Japan’s Birth Rate”, Tohoku U Prof Yoshida’s demographic research methodologically excludes “foreigner births”


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Hi Blog.  One social statistic that is very politically-charged in Japan (along with the unemployment rate, which is according to some kept low due to methodological differences in measurement) is Japan’s birth rate.  I have already argued that Japan’s demographic science is already riddled with politics (in order to make the option of immigration a taboo topic).  But here is another academic arguing that how the birth rate is measured differs from time to time, sometimes resulting in not counting NJ women giving birth in Japan!  In other words, Japan’s demographic science is methodologically leaning towards only counting births of Japanese citizens, not of births of people in Japan — and a prominent scientist named Yoshida at Tohoku University is actually advocating that NJ births be excluded from Japan’s birth rate tally, for the purposes of formulating “appropriate public policy”!  Application of the Nationality Clause to demographics to systematically exclude them from public policy considerations?  The author of this piece from H-Japan calls it “apartheid”.   So would I.  Have a read.  Arudou Debito


Apartheid or Academic Accuracy: Japan’s Birth Rate
From: JFMorris
Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2012 
Venue: H-Japan Website, courtesy of LB

Dear List Members,

On 12th July 2012, Professor Yoshida Hiroshi of the Graduate School of Economics, Tohoku University, made a press release of research conducted under his direction. So far as I can ascertain, this press release was ignored by almost all mainstream media, but NHK reported the content of his team’s findings on its TV news programmes in detail, and featured a detailed interview with him on its evening radio news show.

The starting point for Professor Yoshida’s research is the discrepancy between the official birth rate announced by the Japanese government. The birth rate for years when a census conducted is higher than that for years when there is no census. The reason for this is that in census years, the birth rate is calculated on the basis of women of Japanese nationality resident in Japan, whereas in non-census years the birth rate is calculated using the total number of women in the relevant age cohort; i.e. including women of foreign nationality resident in Japan. Professor Yoshida recalculated the birth rate for 2011, a non-census year, excluding women of foreign nationality from his figures and compared it to the birth rate for 2010, a census year, for various levels of local governmental bodies across Japan. His press release demonstrates that when comparing 2011 and 2010, the official figures for the birth rate show either no change (10 prefectures ) or a decline across the prefectures of Japan, whereas when the 2 years are compared using his equivalent data, the birth rate shows a decline in only 8 prefectures (of which 5 are most likely affected by the events of March 2011), and actually shows an increase (albeit small) in 30 prefectures.

Professor Yoshida’s research is very important in any discussion of the birth rate and population issues in Japan. It is extremely important in formulating pubic policy on matters concerning population, and the related issue of women’s issues, especially at the level of local government, as regional discrepancies between the local birth rate and the national average are large. In his long radio interview with NHK, Professor Yoshida emphasised the importance of collecting statistically valid and meaningful data in order to formulate and evaluate the effectiveness of public policy, particularly in an issue so delicate as the birth rate.

So far so good. However, in the pursuit of statistical consistency, Professor Yoshida has committed a form of apartheid, and NHK by uncritically reporting the methodology and ‘significance’ of Professor Yoshida’s research, has amplified his methodological error across Japan, and given it quasi-official sanction by reporting it on the ‘national’ news network.

Professor Yoshida’s work contains two problems. If he wishes to point out the methodological inconsistency in the way the current Japanese birth rate is calculated, he has an important and very valid point. All scholars who use the official figures for the Japanese birth rate should be aware of his research. However, if he is going to claim (as he does in his press release and on public television and radio) that his figure are the objectively ‘correct’ figures for the Japanese birth rate, than his calculations are just as methodogically flawed as the governmental figures that he criticises. His calculations assume that all children of Japanese nationality born in Japan are born by women of Japanese nationality. The rate of marriages of Japanese men to women of foreign nationality has accounted for 3.2 to 4.6% of all marriages in Japan over the past 10 years or so. The overwhelming majority of children born from these marriages will be registered as ‘Japanese nationals.’ The gist of Professor Yoshida’s criticism of the official figures for the birth rate in non-census years is that they are lower than the reality. However, the figures that he claims are the objectively correct figures, by the same token, will always produce a figure for the birth rate that is higher than the reality, because it denies that there are children born to mothers of foreign nationality throughout Japan. If Professor Yoshida merely wished to demonstrate the inconsistency of the official figures for the Japanese birth rate then his research would be valid. However, to claim that his figures are objectively correct is not as invalid as the data that he criticises and for exactly the same reason that he criticises the government figures, the gross insult that he has committed by denying the existence of 10’s of thousands of women of foreign nationality married to Japanese men and bearing Japanese children is unforgivable.

To add insult to injury, Professor Yoshida in his radio interview claimed that statistics for foreigners resident in Japan should be excluded from all public calculations of population within Japan, in order to formulate appropriate public policy. The example he used to make his point was Gifu Prefecture, which has a relatively large concentration of foreign workers. After the depression following the Lehman Brothers’ Shock of 2008, the majority of foreign workers remaining in Japan are people who have lived here for 20 years or more, and are not likely to conveniently return to their home country. By claiming that foreigners/foreign workers should be excluded from all statistics for population in Japan and any formulation of policy based on these statistic, Professor Yoshida is doing nothing other than advocating a form of apartheid.

I have submitted a letter directly to Professor Yoshida pointing out the methodological shortcomings and social implications of his research and public statements. I have also submitted an email to NHK outlining the problems involved in their reporting, and have not received an answer from either.

John Morris
Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University,
Sendai, Japan

For reference:
Tohoku Uni press release of Professor Yoshida’s research

Professor Yoshida’s web site

Official governmental figures on marriages by nationality within Japan

11 comments on “H-Japan on “Apartheid or Academic Accuracy: Japan’s Birth Rate”, Tohoku U Prof Yoshida’s demographic research methodologically excludes “foreigner births”

  • The message is pretty simple really. The Professor believes that NJ don’t matter, and that the only ‘real’ Japanese is a ‘racially pure’ one. Disgusting, but he would be far from the only person to hold such views.

  • ‘Birth rate’ term confuses at least birth rates of a state and a territory. The first one accounts all kids having or are going to have passports of this country irrespectively of birth place but with respect to the total number of citizens of this country. The second one considers statistics for a certain territory regardless citizenship. In some European countries, like Germany, the discrepancy between these two approaches is very significant: kids are everywhere, but the official birth rate is sadly low. A birth rate given without specification has no practical meaning.

  • As questions, do we know more about his work?

    A possibility surely exists that his failure is purely one of incompetence, rather than malice.

    In other words, might he be operating from ignorance rather than from evil intentions?

    Ignorance is sadly too often found within academic circles (in which one might imagine that there would be little ignorance).

    Conversely, his clock: http://mega.econ.tohoku.ac.jp/Children/index_en.jsp is redolent of similar racist messages from racist Blut und Boden groups in Europe.

    After all, a prediction about population a millenium away is meaningless and misleading.

    And, if the point is that Japan has an aging population, then surely a cure is to import nearby groups that are more fecund, such as Chinese, Mongolians, etc.

  • It’s wrong on so many levels. That people who consider themselves to be Japanese by birth are shit out of the statistics for policy making.

  • untrustworthy_adversary says:

    Not sure why Professor Yoshida would exclude NJ from any statistics, that’s just bad social science based on the “Homogenous Japan” myth. I mean, would produce any kind of meaningful basis for policies if you simply exclude a part of the population of Japan from a supposedly scientific work?

    Anyway, good on Mr. Morris for sending a letter to each NHK and to Prof. Yoshida. If my experiences with the (mainstream-) media are any indication we won’t see an answer anytime soon though. It would be great though if Mr. Yoshida found the time to explain his reasoning in detail.

    — I think the presumption is that Japanese public policy should be grounded in the needs of the kokumin, not the gaikokujin. It’s a very common (and chauvinistic) conceit found in Japanese policymaking. Of course, if that also excludes NJ mothers of Japanese babies, Yoshida is only about, oh, about sixty years behind the times.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Debito, at a time when J=gov has recognized that it needs to find a way to ‘co-exist’ with the NJ it begrudingly admits it needs for the future, this is just another tick in the ‘against’ box for Japan that potential immigrants will weigh up when making their choice. Canada or Australia anyone?

  • Debito, you say that “Of course, if that also excludes NJ mothers of Japanese babies…”, but the general opinion is that NJ mothers CANNOT HAVE Japanese babies, the same way that koalas cannot give birth to chimpanzees.
    Of course, another possible interpretation to this insanity is that NJ mothers giving birth in Japan are only “passing through”, so to speak, and have been “caught short”, only giving birth in Japan, and they will shortly be returning to “their country”.

    — Not sure that’s the “general opinion”. Need more substantiation for that claim.

  • His website contains a countdown clock, set to the day (1000 years in the future), when there will, he says, be no longer any more Japanese babies born in Japan.

    But extrapolating data like that from a linear graph of a current trend to make such a ludicrous claim is academically dishonest. Either it is done to scare people who don’t know any better, or he doesn’t know any better himself.

    The only lessons we can learn from this academic have nothing to do with his research but have everything to do with his ability to conduct genuine research and reporting.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    The good doctor, and his stupid clock, are just another throw-away example of the bad science that nihonjinron-giron both relies on, and encourages, whether the doctor know it or not.
    The argument goes like this;
    ‘Haafu’ Japanese children are not as ‘Japanese’ as children with 2 Japanese parents.
    NJ parents with a J-child are still a relative minority, so they are statistically unimportant to the doctors research.
    Unfortunately, this kind of thinking creates a ‘self-fulfilling prophesy’ that serves to dis-encourage NJ from marrying J and having children in Japan (although they may choose to live with J-partner and kids in thier home country), and therefore keep the number of NJ parents of J-children a minority not worth including.

    I wish I could make a clock that showed the number of children with one NJ and one J-parent living outside of Japan, because the number on that clock would just be sky-rocketing upward!

  • What also disappoints about his clock is that it overlooks the well-established notion that fertility rates are heterogenous.

    There surely are groups within Japan that are highly fecund, even if they are currently small in number.

    But, by projecting as he does that in 1 000 years there will be no more Yamato J, it overlooks this fact.

    This group of J, for example, I assume is likely to be fertile, if their Dutch derived religion is truly their guide.


    And, there will be other highly fertile groups as well.


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