Hello Blog. Some weeks ago Debito.org Reader FB sent along a link to an article which noted: “Spain and Japan were among the most open to the idea of increased immigration, with 28% and 23% of their respective populations supporting more immigration. Japan, known for its isolationist policies and historically low immigration numbers, is facing a dire economic threat — its population is getting older” (bold emphasis added). It cited a recent worldwide Pew Research Global Attitudes Survey of 27 countries on international migration of labor etc., which can be found as a pdf here and a report here.
I was incredulous. I’ve written before how Japan’s policymakers, even its demographic scientists, view the word “immigration” (imin) as a taboo term and topic of discussion. So I wondered if there had been some finagling of the question’s translation, as in, using the term gaikokujin (foreigner) instead of imin–because imin itself would be clumsy in construction as a disembodied term unlinked to people (i.e., there is as yet no popularized word iminsha for immigrant). Likewise, there is no official “immigration policy” (imin seisaku) in Japan either to convert newcomers into permanent residents and citizens.
So I wrote to Pew directly:
From: “Debito Arudou”
Subject: Question about your recent Global Attitudes survey
Date: December 11, 2018
To Whom It May Concern,
I [have] a question about your recently-released Global Attitudes survey.
Regarding the Japanese response to Q52:
Q52. In your opinion, should we allow more immigrants to move to our country, fewer immigrants, or about the same as we do now?
Could you please send me the text of this question as rendered in the original Japanese? I can read Japanese text.
Thank you very much. Sincerely, Debito Arudou
I received the following answer:
From: Pew Research Center <email@example.com>[emphases added in boldface, highlighting imin no kazu, or immigration numbers]
Subject: RE: Question about your recent Global Attitudes survey
Date: December 11, 2018
To: “Debito Arudou”
Hi Debito, Thank you for reaching out. The original Japanese text is below:
|Q52||In your opinion, should we allow more immigrants to move to our country, fewer immigrants, or about the same as we do now?||Q52 日本に受け入れる移民の数を増やすべき、移民の数を減らすべき、または現状を維持すべき、のどれだと思われますか？|
|3||About the same||3.現状を維持すべき|
|4||No immigrants at all (DO NOT READ)||4. 移民はまったくいない（読み上げない）|
|8||Don’t know (DO NOT READ)||8.わからない（読み上げない）|
|9||Refused (DO NOT READ)||9. 回答拒否（読み上げない）|
Please let us know if you have any questions.
Best, [HT], Pew Research Center
Well, if that’s the exact text Pew read over the phone to the Japanese respondents, I can’t doubt it. But I’ve never seen the word imin used in this context in Japan, moreover asked of more than a thousand respondents, as per the methodology of the Global Attitudes Survey:
More surprising were the responses from the Japanese surveyed:
Just gawk at those numbers. Japan has the lowest “Few Immigrants/None” and the highest “About the same number of Immigrants/More” combined of all the countries surveyed!
Again, the diehard skeptic in me wants to poke holes in this survey, especially given the constant duplicity of the MOJ and the GOJ towards NJ in general, especially when it comes to surveying the general public. But this is Pew, and they are among the most rigorous of international surveyors we’ve got. Given that they used the term “immigration numbers” (not just the “temporary-foreign-labor-on-revolving-door-visas” connotation that a mere term like gaikokujin would have allowed), this is on the surface quite promising.
Next stage, an actual Immigration Ministry (Imin Shou), which I believe may also someday be in the cards. The Immigration Bureau is being upgraded to an actual Agency (Cho), one step below a Ministry, come April.
Thoughts? Dr. Debito Arudou
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