Currentsituation of Japanese immigration Many foreignpeople may think Japan is an isolated island and is not very receptive toimmigrants. However, this is not true.
The number of foreigners living in Japanhas increased significantly in recent years. Mostof these foreigners are temporary residents, such as migrant workers comingfrom “technical intern” visas and overseas students completing theirstudies. Some will rotate back to their countries of origin, while new temporaryworkers will come in and some will stay, especially those who marry localpeople and settle in Japan. However, Abe’s government is not satisfied withletting convenience store staff and fried chefs alleviate the labor shortagecaused by an aging population.
It requires more skilled migration – engineers,entrepreneurs, researchers, managers and professionals. In order to attractglobal talent, the Japanese government has taken the example of countries suchas Canada to launch the point-based immigration system. Advanced degrees,language skills, work experience and other qualifications are counted, and highscores can help expatriates gain permanent residency in just one year – theequivalent of a U.S. green card. Therefore, the government once boasted that ithas the fastest permanent residence system in the world. After that, it takes 5years to stay, and another year or so of clerical work can become a citizen ofJapan.Therefore, forskilled workers, Japan is now one of the more affluent countries to enter.
There is only one problem – skilled workers do not come. According to the IMDWorld Competitiveness Center, Japan is the least attractive country in Asia toforeigners,Immigrationissues in JapanAlthough Japanlags far behind Europe and North America in accepting foreign workers,according to data collected by the Japanese government, there are currently 2million foreigners in Japan and 30% of them are permanent residents. Althoughthe Japanese government retains an outward position that does not acceptlow-labor occupations, it considers adopting a more positive attitude towardsaccepting foreign workers required by the construction industry. However, Japanis likely to soon violate its policy of safeguarding its own contradictions andwill at the same time expand the growth of foreign labor.
In the last few daysbefore the bubble economy burst in 1993, Japan still relied on foreign labor andthe Japanese government launched the “Foreign Training Program”(Satoshi, 2008). Although it is said that the system was designed to supportforeigners’ access to technology and know-how in Japan’s advanced technologies,it is actually used to compensate for Japan’s unskilled labor shortage(Satoshi, 2008).In developedcountries where immigrants such as the EU and North America play an importantrole, the acceptance of foreign workers has become a topic of increasingcontroversy. A number of examples have pointed out the challenge of creating amulticultural society, which illustrates the importance of starting discussionson Japan’s acceptance of foreign workers. In Germany, for example, varioussocial issues related to immigration have taken shape.
The German example showsthat avoiding face-to-face communication with immigration issues is essentiallythe cause of this problem. Lack of policies may be a factor in the developmentof immigration and labor issues and also a growing problem. In talking about theseissues, Japan has a lot to learn from the experiences of other countries.In the case ofhighly skilled workers, the competition among advanced countries is gettingmore and more intense, in order to obtain such more people. One of theunfortunate consequences of this competition is the loss of talent in countriesof origin when technical professionals such as doctors, nurses and teachersmigrate. This will lead to the deterioration of social infrastructure andadversely affect the supply of local skilled workers. One way to avoid this isto accept skilled workers from advanced countries to train workers in thecountries in which they work.
For Japan, which has a weak competitiveness inattracting highly skilled workforce, it is necessary to put forward a policy oftraining qualified personnel and ask them to go to work.As the Japanesegovernment is not willing to invite multinational migrant workers to enterChina, companies have to find new ways to find workers. As a result, manyforeigners have participated in a training internship program, an effectivethree-year work permit, a source of cheap labor, and eventually work underharsh conditions.Japan’simmigration policy historyJapanesepopulation contraction is “motivation” rather than”burden”, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sought to encouragemore seniors and women to join the labor force. However, outside observersbelieve that mass immigration will provide a more visible solution to the laborcrisis and population issues in Japan.However, no matter how important thisdemand is in the political ranks of this country, it seems that there is noincrease in the will of immigrants.During theperiod of isolation from 1641 to 1853, Japan prohibited its nationals fromleaving to foreign countries. Only Chinese and Dutch traders have access toNagasaki Port, Kyushu Island, the southernmost tip of Japan.
According toAtsushi Kondo, a law professor and immigration expert at Meiji University, is likelyto accept foreign workers in the late 1980s in the face of an increasinglyserious labor shortage threat. Since 1988, the Ministry of Labor has hosted asmall number of foreigners with higher skills and qualifications (Kondo, 2002).In the 1990s, Japan began to encourage high-skilled workers from severalcountries to work in Japan under special visa procedures and also welcomeJapanese who exchanged in other countries back to Japan (Kondo, 2002). However, forlow-skilled workers, the doors are still closed. In 2005, Sakamoto Sakashita,Tokyo immigration chief, put forward a plan for Japan to accept 10 millionimmigrants in 50 years. Few people supported the idea and later gave up theidea.
Although Abementions the need for “foreign technicians” to build the 2020 Olympicbuilding in Tokyo, he stressed that he should not misunderstand theimplementation of immigration policies when he held an economic conference withthe Cabinet in April 2014.The internprogram is a harshly criticized government initiative, mainly involving foreignworkers from China and South-East Asia who go to Japan for agriculture andmanufacturing and are said to have mastered the return skills. Experts say theplan has led to exploitation by some and forced others to rely onvulnerabilities in the system.The 2010 law amendment allows asylumseekers from foreigners applying for a valid visa to start their work sixmonths after submitting their application.
Although it allows asylum-seekers towait for the outcome of the case, regains normality and supports themselves,refugees who do not have a valid visa are still not allowed to work.Isit good or not to accept more immigration in Japan?In fact, moremigration to Japan is inevitable and Japanese need to be used to it. The reportof the United Nations Population Division on whether or not alternativemigration is addressing an aging society concluded in 2001 that Japan will needto admit more than 530 million immigrants by 2050 in order to maintain thecurrent level of support between pensioners and workers. Japan isconsidered as an “over-age” country, with more than 20% of itspopulation surpassing 65 and its birth rate has hit a historic low over thepast few decades.
According to the forecast by the Japanese Ministry of Health,by 2060, the population of China is expected to drop from over 40 million in2010 to 86.74 million. To support the growing aging population in Japan, whoneed pensions and medical services, fewer and fewer workers pay taxes andJapan’s economy faces unprecedented challenges. In fact, it is time to beginconsidering the best policy of accepting foreign workers and to base thesearguments on objective facts. However, the several issues occurred throughimmigration still need to solved in the near future.