Asahi: Registered NJ population drops again in 2010, GOJ to institute policy of “points system” for future NJ visas this Spring


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Hi Blog. To kick off a salvo of blog entries on NJ migration/immigration to Japan, here are two articles from the vernacular press. The first one talks about the MOJ’s institution of a “points system” for future NJ visas, in order to encourage “foreign researchers, doctors, managers and people with specialized knowledge or skills” to come to Japan — with higher value accruing to those with good educational pedigrees, higher salaries, etc. “People with more than 70 points” will be considered “higher-degree people with capabilities” (koudo jinzai), with an annual quota of about 2000 souls. They’ll get special benefits like easier visa conditions for wives and children (something currently reserved for those here on foreign expat packages in the financial markets), and five-year waits for Permanent Residency (instead of the usual ten for those not married to Japanese), and no doubt more.  It’s scheduled to start from this Spring.

Fine, let’s have an objective and reviewable system for immigration (or in Japan’s case, just plain old inward migration), but there are two assumptions here, 1) that people are still simply beating a path to Japan now as a matter of course (when by now there are plenty of other rich countries in the region that are better at, say, foreign languages and import infrastructure, not to mention without an irradiated food chain), and 2) a guarantee of things that are fundamental to making a life here without harassment for being different (such as, say, oh, a law against racial discrimination, and checks and balances against a police force that sees racial profiling, street harassment, and even home invasion as part of its mandate). Japan has had plenty of opportunity to take some safeguards against this, and the fact that it won’t yet still wants to get people to live here anyway to offset its demographic crisis is just plain ignorant of reality.

The second article talks about the effects of a society with institutions that aren’t all that friendly or accountable for its excesses — the second drop of the registered NJ population in two years, after a rise over 48 straight years. I talked about this briefly in my January Japan Times column (as one of the Top Ten Human Rights Events for 2011), so for the record, here is a vernacular source.  I think, sadly, that people are starting to wise up, and realize that Japan isn’t all that open a place to settle.  Arudou Debito


外国人の年収などを点数化 「高度人材」には優遇措置
朝日新聞 2011年12月28日, Courtesy MS




外国人登録者、2年連続減 法務省「長引く不況影響」
朝日新聞 2011年6月3日20時30分



37 comments on “Asahi: Registered NJ population drops again in 2010, GOJ to institute policy of “points system” for future NJ visas this Spring

  • The decrease for 2010 is old news if I am correct.
    What I am really waiting for is the 2011 figures. I’m picking a 5-10% drop at the very least.

    — It takes a while for the GOJ to tabulate those stats (all the local governments no doubt have to report in, and I don’t think they’ve all necessarily wizened up to the internet yet). The last time this old news (quite so, sorry) came up was in June of last year, as you can see by the date on the Asahi article. Still, it oughta at least be mentioned on, sorry for taking so much time to get to it.

  • I love how the MOJ always like to import people of the “finest pedigree.” What a crock! Like you said, those people have a lot more choice for where to go and would probably be treated far better in other countries than in Japan on a day-to-day level. Let’s not even talk about how they’d be treated within the corporate structure of Japan (I’m looking at you Olympus!). The MOJ always wants to tout how Japan attracts these kinds of highly educated/skilled foreigners by their numbers only, instead of actually quantifying their accomplishments. There’s a reason why so many Japanese researchers leave Japan and do better work in other countries (some winning Nobel prizes to boot). But what about the ordinary guy or gal. The person who fell in love with anime and wants to become an animator. The person who visited Hokkaido and decided they’d love to be a farmer there. What about those kinds of people? What are you doing to attract them? As Japan’s population ages, it’s work force and market shrinks. The time of viewing immigrants like high-class brand goods has to come to an end.

  • @Debito.
    Great post!
    This demonstrates something very well; the tatemae of Japan that the Japanese show to themselves!
    NJ in Japan numbers are dropping, but there is still the belief that somewhere there are lots of well-to-do NJ who would just come to Japan right now if only permanent residency visas took five years, not ten (yeah, I’m sure the next plane into Narita will be full of NJ millionaires)! This is the tatemae/willful self-delusion that because Japanese think that Japan is the best place in the world, and they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, that all NJ must think so too! Japan has four seasons! (just imagine that!).
    It’s a meaningless J-Gov initiative created to solve a non-existent problem. Meanwhile, the real problems are left unattended (sigh)…

  • Does anyone actually have the point rubric (or at least a rough draft of the rubric) that states how many points are given for each thing?

    I notice that many articles make bold statements about how many points we can get for thing x or thing y, but never cite sources.

    I have read a ton of articles on this this evening, and I have gleaned the following information from several articles (and I admit that I am not sure about the veracity of these articles:
    Education: maximum 30 points (30 points for a doctorate, 20 points for a master’s degree, according to one article)
    Work experience: maximum 25 points (one article claims that doctorate + 10 years of work experience is 55 points, so do the math)
    Salary: 10 – 50 points (once again, how much constitutes a “good” salary seems to be a secret right now)
    Japanese language ability: some unknown number of points (I hope it’s a lot, but somehow doubt it)

    So…first of all, I want to know where all these articles are getting their data. Here are some of the articles I read:
    (this one states 20 points for a master’s degree and 30 points for a doctorate)
    (this one states a doctorate + 10 years of work exp. = 55 points, and also states that salary is worth 10 – 50 points)

    So…a few things strike me as odd here:
    1. No mention is given as to how many points Japanese language ability is worth, at least as far as I can see. How many points will I get for JLPT N1? If it’s 5 points, forget it. If it’s 30 points, I might actually be able to become eligible for this thing someday (provided I finish a master’s degree and get a decent income, for instance).
    2. The total number of possible points seems to exceed 100 (I count 105, and that’s not even counting Japanese language ability which is still a question mark). Is that an error, or is that how the system is set up?
    3. Do they give extra points for being young? Most immigration points system give extra points to people under 30, because they have lots of years ahead of them to contribute from their salaries into the national tax base. And since Japan is facing a rapidly-aging population, I would think youth would be a desirable trait in a points system…

    Anyways, I’d love to know the source for all these articles’ bold, specific claims such as “masters degrees are worth 20 points” and “a doctor with 10 years’ experience would get 55 points. Has the point rubric been made available? Because I sure can’t find it…

  • The expectation of the insular Japanese bureaucrat is that Japan is god’s gift to planet Earth, so OF COURSE people are desperate to come here, and Japan gets the pick of the litter.

  • @Charles

    Details of a draft can be found in Japanese at the moj website here:
    There are tables for each of the three categories. From a brief read it seems that:
    1. JLPT 1 qualifies for 10 points only in each of the categories
    2. The totals of the base criteria add to 100, but there is the possibility of “bonus” points outside of the basic points. (The 10 points for the language ability is a bonus category.) The qualifying line is set at 70.
    3. Yes, points are related to age for the researcher and specialized/skilled category. i.e. more points for younger people. But not for the executive/manager category.


    高度人材に対するポイント制による出入国管理上の優遇制度 制度の概要・目的
    平成23年12月 法務省入国管理局
    高度人材(現行の外国人受入れの範囲内にある者で,高度な資質・能力を有すると認められるもの)の受入れを促進するため,高度人材に対しポイント制 を活用した出入国管理上の優遇措置を講ずる制度を導入。
    高度人材の活動内容を学術研究活動,高度専門・技術活動,経営・管理活動の3つに分類し,それぞれの特性に応じて,「学歴」,「職歴」,「年収」,など の項目ごとにポイントを設け,ポイントの合計が一定点数に達した場合に,出入国管理上の優遇措置を与えることにより,高度人材の我が国への受入れ促 進を図ることを目的とする。
    「高度人材」のイメ ージ
    我が国が積極的に受け入れるべき高度人材とは・・・ 「国内の資本・労働とは補完関係にあり,代替することが出来ない良質な人材」であり,「我が国の産業にイノベーションをもたらすとともに,日本人との切磋琢
    磨を通じて専門的・技術的な労働市場の発展を促し,我が国労働市場の効率性を高めることが期待される人材」 (平成21年5月29日高度人材受入推進会議報告書)
    1学術研究活動…基礎研究や最先端技術の研究を行う研究者 2高度専門・技術活動…専門的な技術・知識等を活かして新たな市場の獲得や新たな製品・技術開発等を担う者 3経営・管理活動…我が国企業のグローバルな事業展開等のため,豊富な実務経験等を活かして企業の経営・管理に従事する者
    ・ 複合的な在留活動の許容
    ・ 在留期間「5年」の付与
    ・ 在留歴に係る永住許可要件の緩和 ・ 入国・在留手続の優先処理
    ・ 配偶者の就労
    ・ 親の帯同
    ・ 在留資格「特定活動」の一類型として整備
    ・ ポイント制における評価項目と配点は,告示で規定
    ・ 現在の在留資格に関する要件(在留資格該当性・上陸許可基準適合 性)を満たす者の中から高度人材を認定する仕組みとする
    ・ 高度人材に雇用される家事使用人の帯同 ※優遇措置の詳細については別紙3
    法務省において制度開始後1年をメドに実施状況を分析し,その結果を踏 まえ,関係省庁,経済界・労働界を交えて制度の見直し及び在留期間の 更新の取扱いについて検討する。
    More information at

  • @Gilbey

    Thanks for sending us that link!

    I looked over that rubric, and man, it looks nearly impossible.

    I ran some calculations:
    If I get a master’s degree (and become a researcher, making me eligible to qualify for researcher points): +20 points
    I’ll be 29 when I hit the five-year mark in this country: +15 points
    For salary, I somehow doubt anyone would be willing to throw more than 4,000,000 yen a year at me, so: +10 points
    Forget about most of the bonuses, except for Japanese proficiency (let’s assume I can get to JLPT N1 within the next four years): +10 points

    So…drum roll…after all that hard work…
    …55 points — 15 points short of where I would need to be to qualify.

    Okay, so I bite the bullet and do a PhD instead of a master’s degree (+10 more points) and have a working career of 3 years (+5 points), but by that time, I would have gotten older and would have lost 5 points on age…65 points…

    So…really, I don’t see any way I’ll ever be eligible for this. I guess I’ll just have to wait and either hope that Japan loosens up the point system (Hideo Hiraoka himself called this an “experiment,” meaning that this may be used to test the viability of a point system before releasing a point system that is slightly more generous, in the future), or hope that I make it to the 10-year mark at which point eijuuken will be much easier to obtain.

    — Thanks for this. I’m beginning to wonder whether this “points system” is not a means for making obtaining PR even *tougher* to get, by setting the bar of “privilege” so high that hardly anyone qualifies, and blaming “those who do not qualify” for their own plight.

  • @Debito
    ‘– Thanks for this. I’m beginning to wonder whether this “points system” is not a means for making obtaining PR even *tougher* to get, by setting the bar of “privilege” so high that hardly anyone qualifies, and blaming “those who do not qualify” for their own plight.’

    Of course that’s the goal! The bar has to be so high as to make it unattainable, it saves the J-Gov tatemae that Japan is the best country in the world, and prevents the need to show the honne, which is that ‘high-class foreigners’ aren’t interested. It’s a very Japanese way of not addressing a problem…

    I dare say that when the truth comes out that the system failed, just like the Filipino nurses, the blame will lie with the quality of the applicants, not the quality of the system (we did our best, but they can’t cope with unique Japan…).

  • Thanks Gilbey for the link.

    The distribution of points does not seem very ideal.
    Japanese language ability should be much more important since they actually expect these people to live in Japan.
    The fact that they assign the most points to salary is a tell-tale sign of their greed for our tax money.

    I ran the numbers and found that I qualify.
    However, I’ll already close to the 10-year mark already, so it hardly makes a difference.
    Other than PR, the rest of the 優遇 do not really amount to much.
    (And two of five have further restrictions that all but the richest will not qualify for.)

  • “Japanese language ability should be much more important since they actually expect these people to live in Japan.”

    People in science research with Masters or Doctorates already know the deal regarding Japan. If you come here, no matter what you are promised at the outset, you will be relegated to proof-reading the papers of your Japanese colleagues. That’s it. Japanese is not necessary for you, because you are not expected to take part. This is not new, it’s well-known.

  • As an actual real DPhil working as a scientist in Japan (rather than a mythical rumour), I don’t spend much time proof-reading, though I don’t deny having done a very small amount (maybe one paper per year). It’s true that Japanese is not essential for me, because all the science that matters is written in English. The career of a foreign scientist here certainly has its tribulations, but there is enough of an upside to have kept me here for a decade – which is longer than I have stayed in any of my previous jobs in my home country, by choice.

    I don’t think Japan actually has a pressing need for more Japanese speakers. There are already 130 million of them, and few foreigners will ever achieve true native-level fluency. But congratulations to those who do anyway.

    — That’s remarkably arrogant and demeaning of you to say.

  • Does anyone know how many people they actually expect will qualify for this? Personally, I am in my early 30s and have a science PhD from a top Japanese university. Even if I found a job in Japan at my current salary (2x what I was offered in Japan after graduation) I still wouldn’t qualify based on this point system. This feels like a tatemae system where they can say “See, we welcome foreign talent!” but don’t have to actually let anyone in.

  • Eric,

    The first article indicates that they are targeting roughly 2,000 people a year.
    Quote: 「年間約2千人が対象になる見込み。」

  • Sorry you took it that way, Debito. Note that I was replying to some anonymous person who asserted I must just be employed as a menial proof-reader. But seriously, JLPT1 is certainly “nice to have” and worth something (and awarded points by the scheme!) but surely you can be realistic enough to accept that in itself it hardly makes anyone much of an asset to Japan.

    As for the more general question of whether the points scheme overall is unrealistically high…well maybe it is. How does it compare with the other countries where similar schemes exist?

    — About the first paragraph: Given the fact that most people I’ve ever talked to, both on the record and informally, have clearly stated that fluency in Japanese is what separates those who “belong” here and those who don’t (and is the main reason cited for why most people have said to me that I am in fact a Japanese, regardless of how I look), I would say that Japanese language fluency is ESSENTIAL for becoming a part of Japan. It’ll ALWAYS be used as an excuse for exclusion if not.

    What I was pointing out as arrogant was your saying, “few foreigners will ever achieve true native-level fluency”. That’s not only demeaning, it’s nasty as well. On behalf of those of us who have achieved it (and I know plenty of people who have, so I consider it just as difficult yet attainable as most other foreign languages), here’s a hearty “fuck you” with two fingers raised back atcha.

    That said, the fact that language fluency gets so few points both under this scheme and in naturalization procedures (they only require 小学校3年生 level) does support your point about the low regard it is held by officialdom (even though their expectation is that those who would be able to read this policy in the first place have fluency — so far no clear link to a translation for those precious few koudo jinzai the GOJ apparently wishes to court). Happy it’s so low for naturalization, unhappy it doesn’t count for much as a required skill set for better visas.

  • trustbutverify says:

    Quote: “Does anyone know how many people they actually expect will qualify for this?”

    I suspect they’ll actually be surprised how few people qualify.

    Smells like typical government bureaucracy to me. Bunch of civil servants probably gathered round a white board, made lists of “desirable” qualities for new immigrants, assigned somewhat arbitrary rankings and scores to each of the attributes and called it a day without ever actually doing the math.

    They’re probably sitting there thinking there is a “reasonable” number of people who possess those extraordinary qualities to qualify and are eager to immigrate to Japan, and they’ll be dumbfounded when their plan to bring in external talent doesn’t result in a queue at the border.

  • @James Annan,

    I’m wondering if your attitude regarding the Japanese ability of non-native speakers doesn’t belie how much time you really do spend proof reading your colleagues English, but it wouldn’t be so important to develop such great Japanese language skills, if the Japanese weren’t officially the worst non-native speakers of English in the world, would it?

  • Is there an official government document that describes in more detail the goal, assumptions and projections for this proposal?

    It would seem that very few could qualify for this.

    If true, then Japan would be qualifying for the most elite academics.

    Yet, elite academics, including Japanese elite academics, are not attracted strongly to Japan for many, many disciplines (though not all to be sure).

    As such, Japan is unlikely to attract such elites unless it is willing to offer strong incentives, which it does not currently offer, such as lavish salaries, etc.

    Elite academics in most disciplines are attracted to institutions in which other international elites work.

    Japan is not such a place, and is unlikely to be so, given the “small Japan” issue about which Debito has written.

    To be sure, though, I anticipate Japan can attract some, but many fewer than Singapore, etc.

  • I found this today: Make of it what you will. Not doubting the needs of Afghanis in Iran for a moment, but thinking that a little love could be shown by the GOJ to hard working, tax paying NJ in Japan too. Or to the Japanese people themselves by their own Government for that matter.

    Japan donates USD 4mn to UNHCR Afghan refugees in Iran
    Japan has donated USD 4,000,000 to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for its supporting operation for Afghan refugees residing in Iran.

    The Japanese donation is slated to be spent on the refugees’ health services, education, and livelihood.

    “This contribution shows the continuous commitment of the people of Japan towards supporting refugees in the region and in particular in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said the UNHCR representative in Iran Bernard Doyle.

    Doyle thanked the people and government of Japan for their humanitarian aid at a time when they are marking the first anniversary of the disastrous tsunami and earthquake which claimed thousands of lives in March, 2011.

    The Japanese donation will provide free primary healthcare services and assistance to vulnerable refugees with medical treatment costs including the treatment of children suffering from cancer.

    The funding will also provide education opportunities for refugees through construction of additional classrooms and holding literacy classes.

    Refugees who want to return to Afghanistan can use the donation to get legal assistance and a cash grant along with travel costs.

    According to UNHCR, about 900, 000 Afghan refugees currently live in Iran, most of whom reside in urban areas.

    As Iran received little international support, the country’s officials had earlier called on the international community to help with hosting and providing repatriation support to Afghan refugees.

    UNHCR is run by voluntary contributions from governments, covering refugee needs in key areas.

  • Great post and I like Your calculations here. They J Gov. make point system the same way as with Philipinos nurses. Impossible to get through, and later blame “uneducated” foreigners.
    Furthermore they forgot to add that each billionaire will be fingerprinted and separated from their biz partners each time they re-enter country with four seasons. Wow!

  • Jim Di Griz,

    It is certainly a standing joke among NJ scientists (that I have met) that whatever we think we are doing, we are really English teachers. However this does not mean that our (at least my) research is relegated to a lesser priority or not properly supported (which was what prompted my first comment), just that we also contribute by being here, speaking English and helping to generate international contacts. I don’t accept at all that Japan is as bad place for a scientist to come and work as the previous commenter indicated, and I speak from a decade of experience.

    Debito, if they gave too many points simply for speaking the language, they would potentially open the floodgates for a lot of lower-skilled workers. Now, maybe you would say that they really ought do this, but it would not fit with their apparent goal of easing the situation for highly qualified (and high earners). So I think it is reasonable (from this POV) that JLPT1 is not assigned a high value.

    Incidentally, I just checked and I don’t believe I would qualify for Australia’s points system – they don’t seem to be interested in research scientists, unless I’m missing something.

    — If they “give too many points simply” for one skill in particular, then yes, you would have an unbalanced system. By definition of the operative word “too”. But let’s belay the Straw Men.

    Let’s also stop being so dismissive of language fluency as being the province of the “lower-skilled”, already. Being able to communicate with the world is a fundamental ability no matter how you slice it, and I don’t see a zero-sum between language ability and high skills.

    If you really want to get paranoid about it, the fact that the GOJ *doesn’t* hold language in high regard is exactly the subterfuge — as those who are linguistically handicapped are precisely in a weakened position in society, unable to communicate in a powerful way what they need, and agitate for more rights and better living conditions.

    Sadly, the fact that you seem to buy into a logical system that encourages powerlessness and dependency for a whole subset of labor in Japan, even yourself portray a lack of “true fluency” in the lingua franca as a natural state of affairs for foreign workers in Japan, is very indicative of your world view.

  • DR – Fukushima Gov. ask Tokyo Gov. to give free medical care to all Fukudhima children up to age 18th. It has been refused. I agree, Iran have oil, Fukushima have radiation and soon many sick people that Gov. don’t want to spend ( invest) money on. The most 2 important facts: TEPCO is to be bailed out and Japaneze must show off on international stage even though there are still people in Fukushima living like rats without much help.

  • @TJJ “People in science research with Masters or Doctorates already know the deal regarding Japan. If you come here, no matter what you are promised at the outset, you will be relegated to proof-reading the papers of your Japanese colleagues. That’s it. Japanese is not necessary for you, because you are not expected to take part. This is not new, it’s well-known.”

    Well-known? I didn’t know this before, but then I haven’t proof read a paper for a Japanese colleague in years. In fact, I proof-read papers on a more regular basis in my home country when I worked there (and still often do when former colleagues send me stuff for comment). Providing critical review for colleagues should be a normal part of science research. I suspect the reason why requests have dried up for me in Japan is my refusal to simply correct English and in fact give them a full criticism. I believe that there is no room for tatemae in science, which I’m not sure is a popular view with my seniors here. Instead they spend our tax money on over-priced professional editors who do a somewhat ropey job on correcting the English, have little effect on the multiple stylistic problems, and certainly do nothing to point out scientific issues; but what can you do I did offer proper help before….

    Regarding the points system: there certainly seems to be some strange comments here about it. I really don’t think it should be used as a target list to get “easy” residency in Japan and I find it strange that some people would think to base serious career choices on it just to get to live permanently here. Also, I’m puzzled at the number of people who think that these points are “impossible”. Personally, I don’t think it is difficult at all; I qualify easily on those criteria and most people I know in my field would also qualify under the researcher list. There are already a lot of schemes in place I know of to fund foreign researchers in Japan that bring in a few hundred scientists every year – I would be surprised if any of those selected would failed to hit this points targets. Saying that, perhaps researchers in less hard science fields are not so well paid or well qualified and I don’t really know about the technical or management fields (but I would assume they would be better paid than me). Anyway, this doesn’t seem a bad scoring list, or that different to points schemes other countries have – basically they want to attract people with particular higher level skills; knowing full well that supply of unskilled workers wanting to work here is currently outstripping the number in those categories they want to welcome in. As a disclosure, I’m not smugly just agreeing with the proposal because it suits me and strokes my ego at being wonderful – I don’t think I’m particularly special or my conditions unusual as a professional scientist and anyway I already have PR so it makes no difference to me.

    On the flip side of these sensible targets – I don’t really see the point of them. Qualified individuals would have no trouble getting visa/residency permits and most of the leg work would be done by the supporting institution anyway. The only difference this would make would be to make it faster to get PR and maybe retain proven contributors by making it easier for them to switch jobs in Japan as their status would not be tied to their employer. I really don’t think visa issues come high up the list on concerns/advantages for people considering accepting positions like these aboard. (one would correctly assume that employers would just deal with these). Surely attracting people in is more about the quality of the roles/research groups as well as the quality of life available here on the salaries offered? Oh and if they want us to stay here – improving funding opportunities might go a little me further than solving immigration problems that don’t really exist.

    I don’t see the proposed system making PR harder anyway, but just making it easier for select (but pretty common) desirable workers. On the other hand, I can see a knock on effect of the new immigration rules coming in July making PR harder as a bystander effect: it is generally held that one needs to be on the longest possible SOR in their category in order to apply for PR, if this remains true after 5 year terms are permitted, it might mean waiting longer – as there is no idea how easily these will be awarded or whether people will be given a number or 1 or 3 year permits first.

  • I’m inclined to be less cynical about the high points threshold. I think it’s just the typical caution of senior bureaucrats introducing a new policy in a sensitive area. This is a limited trial (limited in the sense that very few qualify). If it is deemed a success, I think they will bring down the threshold.

  • @trustbutverify

    I think you are spot on here.
    As someone who has worked extensively with both Japanese civil servants and with Japanese corporate HR directors, there is a massive disconnect in setting requirements here vs the known (or at the very least suspected) size of the talent pool.
    As a result highly talented people are rejected from posts where they could make a huge difference based on adhering too strictly to scoring metrics systems and not spending enough time thinking critically about how each individual could be of value.
    On the other hand of course a government must set a rule somewhere and stick with it. (While I feel that the corporate world has less of an excuse, since there is a greater opportunity for direct human interaction between the applicant and the decision-maker.) But the (sadly far too usual, and not unique to Japan) lack of will to examine these kinds of issues with a “case by case” policy is going to exclude a lot of very talented and potentially helpful people, while it will admittedly do a great job of screening out “low end” white collar labor. This is, unfortunately, about all Japan will have to offer for its own social infrastructure in generations to come.
    But despite all of the great people who won’t get in through this new policy, I still think that even a baby step forward to further crack open the door to Fortress Japan is a step in the right direction.

  • All the points are interesting, but I would say again that there ought to be an official government document that describes in more detail the goal, assumptions and projections for this proposal.

    Moreover, to not have such a document would suggest a lack of transparency.

    In the Netherlands, when such things are done, there are always such accompanying documents that are available.

  • I checked the document. I could not get 70 points in academic evaluation. I am 32 years old. I got my PhD in Japan and I have been working in a major national university for 3 years. I have published many journal papers. As a result, I am stuck at 65 points.
    Those salary points are not realistic for national universities that put strict limits on salary depending on age (work history). I got zero points from there. I wonder if I cannot get points from bonus (1). As far as I understand that eligible institutions for bonus (1) will be announced later. I wish there was some points for JLPT level 2.

  • My understanding is that this outline of the policy is still a draft, and is open to public comment at the moment. I guess that means that there could be changes in details before implementation.

    There a few related documents which throw some light on aspects of the policy formation process that can be found with a bit of googling. There was a deliberative body called 高度人材受入推進会議 attached to the office of the PM and his cabinet, and relevant documents can be found here: These are a few years old.

    More recently there was a body studying the criteria: 外国人高度人材に関するポイント制導入の際の基準等に関する検討会 this time belonging to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. They issued the following doc: 外国人高度人材に関するポイント制導入の際の基準等に関する論点整理 dated Aug, 2011, found here:

    This latter document appears to just list diverse views concerning various aspects of the policy expressed by different people in the study group.

    Perhaps interestingly, different views were expressed with regards to the salary requirements (excerpt follows):




    Further, I couldn’t help but agree with the following view: 優遇措置について、親や家事使用人の優遇措置がないことが来日への障害となっているとは考えにくく、優遇措置としてこれらが有効かは疑問である。

    In any case, I have not done sufficient research to comment thoroughly. Nor am I really capable of fully understanding bureaucrat-speak (even in English). In the various documents there are the obligatory references to globalization, 少子化, diversity, etc. etc. However, it appears to me that at the very least the idea behind the new policy is (1) to provide some objective criteria (provide some transparency), and (2) to present some positive statement as to what sort of immigration is desirable and is in Japan’s interest (demonstrate some kind of strategic thinking in Immigration policy), in contrast to the current framework, which seems to be focused on whom to exclude and lacks any strategy.

    — Thanks again for this. But if one is to talk about the politics of inclusion, one will have to discuss at the policymaking level how people are to be included — and not just by granting them a better visa status (which still does not really give them more rights and protections — just a longer more definite leave to remain). When we see a policy on how to make NJ into fully-accredited members of Japanese societies, with the same rights, privileges, immunities, and protections thereof (which this GOJ policy is obviously not), then and only then will I say we have a true immigration (as opposed to a migration) policy.

    If the nation-state can set boundaries for who is and who is not a member of society, then it must also set criteria for how somebody can graduate out of becoming The Other and become a member of that society. Otherwise, you’re just bringing in people who will remain perpetual Others in society, meaning in a perpetually weakened, exploitable condition as people and workers.

  • Someone above said that the quota for these special conditions is 2000 people?
    Well, i don’t know if there are 2000 anime loving millionaires out there, that can speak great Japanese too! So I guess that the biggest number of potential candidates will be rich Chinese? I can’t wait to see how that will work out! (sorry Debito…) But even Utada Hikaru is worried about the rich Chinese buying too much of Japan!

  • In all the categories, salary gives the most points. It’s interesting (and unusual for Japan) that it seems that they effectively want the market to decide what additional skills and experience needs are to be imported into Japan. In my experience, salaries for foreign hires are entirely negotiable and there are ways around the most strict institution regulations. For those not trained and experienced abroad, you are in the same boat as any Japanese-educated researcher. However, if you are providing exceptional talent above and beyond your average Japanese peers (high level publications, marketable patents, or speaking invitations to recognised foreign meetings), then I’m sure the bonus points kick in and experienced PhDs on low Japanese salary scales would easily meet the points threshold. I guess the idea is to retain the best workers that bring the most to Japan, but I’m sure the points and particularly the bonus points will need a bit of tweaking and also give potential for the system to be tuned to increase the eligible candidate numbers if required. But basically, if you are substantially more valuable to a Japanese company/institution than an equivalent Japanese and so they are willing to pay you more, you are the kind of person that the MOJ thinks Japan needs and so wants to make your life easier. Of course the reality is that Japan also need other types of immigrants, but I think we will be waiting a little longer to see further schemes aimed at them.

  • The point made by Nogbad is interesting.

    If the intent is to attract those whom markets have already rewarded very well, that suggests that Japan seeks to attract elite researchers.

    Japan will find that to be difficult, because elite academics in most disciplines are attracted to institutions in which other international elites work.

    Japan is not such a place, and is unlikely to be so, given the “small Japan” issue about which Debito has written.

    To be sure, though, I anticipate Japan can attract some, but many fewer than Singapore, etc.

    It may be though that some particular elite project or small group of elite projects has been effective in urging the government to afford them the opportunity to bring in elite academics.

    Any ideas which elite academic research projects this might be, if the hypothesis is correct?

    Something like this


  • John (Yokohama) says:

    “Foreign residents decrease by 55,000
    The Yomiuri Shimbun

    The Justice Ministry has reported that the preliminary number of registered foreign residents in Japan was 2,078,480 as of the end of 2011, down 55,671 from the previous year.

    This was the third straight year of decline since the number of foreigners peaked at the end of 2008, the ministry said Wednesday. A ministry official said the latest decrease could be attributed to the Great East Japan Earthquake and the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

    The three prefectures hit hardest by the quake saw particularly large drops: 15.5 percent in Iwate, 13.2 percent in Miyagi and 15.1 percent in Fukushima. These figures exceeded the national average decrease of 2.6 percent.

    By nationality, Chinese nationals were the largest group of foreigners with 674,871 registered as living in Japan. They were followed by Koreans at 545,397 and Brazilians at 210,032.

    (Feb. 24, 2012)”

  • @John (Yokohama)

    Every cloud has a single lining(?)
    ‘The Justice Ministry has reported that the preliminary number of registered foreign residents in Japan was 2,078,480 as of the end of 2011, down 55,671 from the previous year.’

    Which is interesting, because today;
    ‘Crimes committed by foreigners dropped 12.7 percent in 2011 to 17,286 cases, a preliminary survey released Thursday by the National Police Agency showed.’

    You can just imagine the National Police Association figuring out how to present a reduction in crimes caused by NJ as a result of their policing, rather than as a result of there being fewer NJ due to the Tohuku disaster.

    — I can. “The drop in NJ crime is a higher percentage than the drop in the NJ population. See, our policing is working.” Easy-peasy when it’s an institutionalized habit.

  • Edward J. Cunningham says:

    Regarding the debate between Debito and James Annan.

    Japan does not have a pressing need for people who speak the Japanese language and no other.
    However, there is a pressing need for people who are fluent in Japanese and foreign languages,
    especially English.

    Japan needs to not only encourage talented NJ who already know Japanese to come, and also
    teach NJ who do not yet know Japanese their language once they arrive. They also need to do
    a better job of teaching their own people English as well as other foreign languages.

  • Update: I had some time today so stopped by the Shinagawa immigration to discuss this new 優遇制度 system with an immigrations official. The most important detail: the 5 year wait period for PR begins AFTER you qualify as 高度人材; hence, your wait time is reset. More specifically, if you have lived in Japan for more than 5 consecutive years, then switching over to this visa will actually result in a longer duration of wait.

    Secondly, I was told that the visa is categorized as a type of 特定活動 and that if you change your job that job needs to be reviewed by immigrations as to whether it fits the requirements of the special visa. Hence, 転職 becomes more difficult.

    This new system does have some bonuses, but there certainly are drawbacks to be aware of.
    For some people, this 優遇制度 may actually be worse then what you already have.


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