Reuters: Japan eyes more foreign workers, stealthily challenging immigration taboo


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Hi Blog.  Here’s an article talking about policy shift towards Japan’s immigration policy in all but name.  It’s still something in the pipeline with policy trial balloons (and the obligatory caution about how foreigners pose a “public safety” risk), so is not heralding any sea changes.  Plus the reporters severely undermine the credibility of their article by citing their hairdresser as a source!  Ignore that bad science and let’s focus upon the current debate in stasis.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Japan eyes more foreign workers, stealthily challenging immigration taboo
By Linda Sieg and Ami Miyazaki
Reuters, April 25, 2016, Courtesy of MS–business.html?nhp=1

TOKYO (Reuters) – Desperately seeking an antidote to a rapidly aging population, Japanese policymakers are exploring ways to bring in more foreign workers without calling it an “immigration policy”.

Immigration is a touchy subject in a land where conservatives prize cultural homogeneity and politicians fear losing votes from workers worried about losing jobs.

But a tight labor market and ever-shrinking work force are making Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy team and lawmakers consider the politically controversial option.

Signaling the shift, leading members of a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) panel on Tuesday proposed expanding the types of jobs open to foreign workers, and double their numbers from current levels of close to 1 million.

“Domestically, there is a big allergy. As a politician, one must be aware of that,” Takeshi Noda, an adviser to the LDP panel, told Reuters in an interview.

Unlike the United States, where Donald Trump has made immigration an election issue, Japan has little history of immigration. But, that makes ethnic and cultural diversity seem more of a threat in Japan than it may seem elsewhere.

And while Japan is not caught up in the mass migration crisis afflicting Europe, the controversies in other regions do color the way Japanese think about immigration.

LDP lawmakers floated immigration proposals almost a decade ago, but those came to naught. Since then, however, labor shortages have worsened and demographic forecasts have become more dire.


An economic uptick since Abe took office in December 2012, rebuilding after the 2011 tsunami and a construction boom ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have pushed labor demand to its highest in 24 years.

That has helped boost foreign worker numbers by 40 percent since 2013, with Chinese accounting for more than one-third followed by Vietnamese, Filipinos and Brazilians.

But visa conditions largely barring unskilled workers mean foreigners still make up only about 1.4 percent of the workforce, compared with the 5 percent or more found – according to IMF estimates – in most advanced economies.

So far, measures to attract more foreign workers have focused on easing entry for highly skilled professionals and expanding a “trainee” system that was designed to share technology with developing countries, but which critics say has become a backdoor source of cheap labor.

This time, the LDP panel leaders’ proposal went further, suggesting foreigners be accepted in other sectors facing shortages, such as nursing and farming – initially for five years with visa renewal possible.

They also proposed creating a framework whereby the number of foreign workers would be doubled from around 908,000 currently, and the term “unskilled labor” would be abandoned.

In a sign of the sensitivies, however – especially ahead of a July upper house election – panel chief Yoshio Kimura stressed the proposal should not be misconstrued as an “immigration policy” and said steps were needed to offset any negative impact on jobs and public safety.

After a heated debate in which one lawmaker said the plan would “leave Japan in tatters”, members agreed to let the panel organizers decide whether to make any revisions to the proposal.

Experts, however, say changes are afoot regardless of the semantics.

“The government insists it is not adopting an immigration policy, but whatever the word, faced with a shrinking population, it is changing its former stance and has begun to move toward a real immigration policy,” said Hidenori Sakanaka, a former Tokyo Immigration Bureau chief.

Two cabinet members have already advocated adopting an immigration policy, as have some LDP panel members.

“The fundamental problem of the Japanese economy is that the potential growth rate is low,” LDP panel adviser Seiichiro Murakami told Reuters. “To raise that, big structural reforms including … immigration policy are necessary.”

The influential Nikkei Business weekly has dubbed a foreign worker-driven growth strategy “imin-omics”, a pun on the premier’s “Abenomics” revival plan and “imin”, the Japanese word for “immigrants”.

Abe, however, has made drawing more women and elderly into the work force while boosting the birth rate priorities, and publicly the government rules out any “immigration policy”.

Still, Abe’s right-hand man, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said debate on more foreign workers lay ahead.

“We are seeking to mobilize the power of women and the elderly as much as possible, but at the same time we recognize that the acceptance of foreigners is a major issue,” Suga told Reuters.

He said the future debate would also consider the longer term issue of permanent residence for less skilled foreigners, but added caution was needed.

Conservatives are likely to resist major change.

For example, an ex-labor minister commenting at the LDP panel earlier on a proposal to let in foreign beauticians said the idea was fine, as long as their customers were foreign, too.

But hairdresser Mitsuo Igarashi, who has four barber chairs in his downtown Tokyo barbershop but only himself to clip and shave, wants to hire other barbers and doesn’t care where they come from. “We’ve got to let in more foreigners,” said Igarashi.


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15 comments on “Reuters: Japan eyes more foreign workers, stealthily challenging immigration taboo

  • Onceagaijin,alwaysagaijin says:

    I find the whole basis of this article to be suspect. Revolving door gaijin exploitation schemes do not = immigration.

    This word immigration when applied to Japan’s gaijin labor and skills exploitation policy should be stopped. Journalists should stop using it. The word immigration disguises the facts about the real situation, like collateral damage = state murder of innocent civilians, news conference = corporate dog and pony press conference, etc.

    There seems no pathway to citizenship for more than ~15,000 people a year, a tiny drip when a massive transfusion is required.

    Instead the MOJ must be laughing, dangling the prospect of permanent residency (PR) for those higher up on its racist exploitation scale while everyone with an ounce of sense knows full well that PR status is worse than second class; you can’t vote, and you have none of the very few enforceable rights of a kokumin.

  • We had the old news before, talk talk talk NO immigration policy just talk. Japan doesnt want immigration they want robots.

  • “…initially for five years with visa renewal possible…”
    “.. LDP panel earlier on a proposal to let in foreign beauticians said the idea was fine, as long as their customers were foreign, too….”


    This is so laughable

    “Abe, however, has made drawing more women and elderly into the work force while boosting the birth rate priorities…..”

    Hahaha..make it so, and it shall be done. Just like in the boardrooms of those now failing behemoth companies, the CEO barks and the drones bow with obedient acquiescence and do anything (as we have seen such as lying and covering up – Japan business practices) just to satisfy their bosses. Forcing woman to marry pathetic chauvinists to have kids and remain at home and then lose any dignity with chauvinists as bosses piss poor pay and no support for their family…yeah, that’s really gonna work too!

    Get ready for the quick downward slide folks….the end has started…yet by the time Japan Inc wakes up and smells the coffee, who would wish to come to a country that pays shit salaries shit working conditions and still would be sent home after their contracts have expired because real acceptance and integration is still not possible….oh dangg…that’s already here , not tomorrow!! Great advert, not!

    Last person out please switch off the lights…

  • How is the hairdresser a source? It is just one voice of a small shop owner looking for an employee.
    And also, please do not underestimate their knowledge. When I mentioned to my barber my new bike, he asked about the shop where I bought it, and then proceeded to give me some background info about it. Awesome!!

    — Next up, Reuters cites the all-seeing eye of the local shoe-shine boy…!

  • Jim di Griz says:

    To be fair, the allegedly real hairdresser (who I suspect to be a figment of the journalist’s imagination; a kind of literary invention that serves to further the narrative) is the only Japanese person in this entire article who has an economic activity stifled by the J-govs attitude to foreign workers, and holds a totally pragmatic opinion where racism has no place. This is to be applauded; he is prioritizing his personal financial well-being over top-down brainwashing notions of racial homogeneity and harmony.

    Which is why I believe that he is a figment of the journalist’s imagination.

  • This revolving door visa bullshit is patently nonsense. Even on 5y visas, in order to get 10m foreigners working in Japan, you’d need 2m new ones each year. The more foreigners you need, the harder it gets, year on year. And as soon as you have a couple of lean years for whatever reason, the whole concept collapses, along with the economy.

  • to sum it up – The people who run Japan are talking, but their actions do not match their words.

    IMHO, the readers here are evaluating the stated plan(s) on how effective they might actually be.
    J politicians, and the power elite, however, are broaching this unpopular subject in a way that will keep them in power. If they really did something, they might be kicked out of office – and what good would that do (them)?

    As far as Japan ending – I disagree. Japan can still maintain some tourism & for every foreigner in Japan, there are probably 10 back home who think it would be cool/fun/interesting to live in Japan, even if only for a while. I.e. – the elite will continue to sell the dream, and young / poor foreigners will continue to suck it up.
    As long as they stay away from blatant racism (in English), they will continue to get away with their “separate & unequal” system.

  • Bringing foreign workers is a temporary fix. It is not a solution for the aging population problem in the long term. While the government can bring foreigners to balance the work force in the short term, it also has to solve the problems causing the aging population in the long term.

  • baudrillard says:

    “PR status is worse than second class”- indeed, why I turned it down. What is the point? Its just a confirmation of what is already known, that you’ve been a here a long time. But if you leave Japan for a few years,you lose it anyway.

    “.. LDP panel earlier on a proposal to let in foreign beauticians said the idea was fine, as long as their customers were foreign, too….”

    Like I said on the Nate Nossal tour guide thread- perceived as a separate economy, one could quite easily make under the table earnings that don’t really count “as its gaijin to gaijin, so not really in Japan”.

    Well, you could say that if the taxman came sniffing around, but I doubt he would unless you were trying to get a visa to do this side business (but you cannot, probably).

  • There is no infrastructure in place to assimilate foriegners into Japan. Its the same paradigm thats been tried and used for decades. The will rotate SE Asians in and out.Some will go back and tell all is good, perhaps get a commission for it, others wont. Exploitation vs Assimilation, well we know which one the powers that be prefer

    Now, there was a racist lady connected to the gov, forget her name, that suggested apartheid ghettos be set up and all the foreigners but put there. After thinking it over, I think that might work, IF they let the foriegners have a puppet foreign representative, (as Japan did in WW2) and they let them have an exclusionary ecomomic zone, where they can trade and do business without the restrictions applied to other Japanese. In return they accept their separate status. All the talk about assimilating foreigners isnt going to happen anyway, why not let the foreigners live together and use them as a test project on how to reform the economy? In Japan, if one gets up on another, fingers get pointed and he gets shut down, but foreigners sometimes get that “pass” A bit of social engineering, but hoping for real reform etc, I just cant see it happening

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    >Japanese policymakers are exploring ways to bring in more foreign workers without calling it an “immigration policy”.

    Called “outsourcing.” That has nothing to do with job-training opportunity for professional growth, but everything to do with a facade of ‘globalization’ brand to promote corporate narrative of ‘multiculturalism.’

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Meanwhile, Osaka University believes all the answers to all Japan’s problems lie in the creation of ‘Super Nihonjin’.

    Government funded university researching oddly nazi sounding ideas of creating racially pure supermen to save the country. Hmm…

    So many red flags, but of course ‘this is Japan’.

  • Japan tarnishes its own image:

    shameful decision. I like the comments below, “Japan is racist” “Japan has no honor, same as WW2”, “Japanese products should be banned until they take their share of Syrian refugees”, “Japanese judiciary meaningless”, Japanese inhuman” – that last one reminds me of China, which Japan strikingly resembles these days, oh the irony.

    Really, the cat is out of the bag on the net, no one really thinks Japan is “a superior society” like in the 80s anymore. We can learn nothing positive from Japan’s example.

    And I ve seen this one in Japan before: if your mum leaves, youve got a better chance but in fact the appeal is meaningless, they just repeat the previous decision.

    Omotenashikunai. Unjust. And yes, just RACIST.

    I ll enjoy watching the decline from afar.

    Court upholds deportation order for Thai teenager born and raised in Japan
    By Minami Funakoshi and Thomas Wilson
    Yahoo News UK, 5 December 2016

    TOKYO (Reuters) – A Thai teenager born and raised in Japan lost an appeal on Tuesday against a lower court ruling that upheld his deportation order, highlighting the country’s deep reluctance to accept foreigners even as its population ages and shrinks.

    The Tokyo High Court ruled that Utinan Won, a 16-year-old high school student living without a visa, should leave Japan. Won’s mother had already left Japan after lower court judges said her son could win residency if she returned to Thailand.

    “Of course I want to stay in Japan,” Won told reporters after the ruling. “I’d waited so long for this decision. I’m so sad and pained that it was made so quickly.”

    The High Court judges made their ruling in little more than 10 seconds, with cries of “Why?” and “Terrible” coming from a packed public gallery.

    Won’s case has drawn sharp focus on the plight of hundreds of children who, like him, live on “provisional release” – a status that allows those without visas to stay in Japan while banning them from working and travelling freely.

    Last month, Reuters exposed the agonising pathway to residency offered by the Japanese immigration authorities and courts to some families living on provisional release: Children can stay in Japan legally if their parents return to their country of origin.

    Tokyo District Court judges said in June Won could win a special residence permit if his mother – who at the time was also on provisional release – left Japan, and if he found another guardian.

    Won’s mother, Lonsan Phaphakdee, returned to Bangkok in September to give her son a chance to continue life in the only country he has known. Won now lives with a Japanese man who has been supporting the family.

    The High Court judges said in a written ruling: “We must say that the (lower court’s) decision and the deportation order are legally legitimate.”

    Although Won does not read or write Thai, he is able to speak the language and is young enough to adapt to life back in Thailand, the judges said.

    Won’s lawyer, Koichi Kodama, said the judges did not take into consideration the fact that the mother had left Japan and only re-evaluated evidence submitted to the lower court.

    Wearing his school uniform and sneakers, Won remained impassive throughout the ruling, his head bowed slightly. Representatives from the government, the defendant in the case, were not present at the hearing.

    His lawyer said Won had not yet decided whether to appeal against the latest ruling.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    @ Flyjin #14,

    You see, it’s exactly when these ‘pure blood nationalism as law’ stories break, that the world should be calling Abe out on all the times he told Western leaders that ‘we share the same values’.

    Sickening free-passism.


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