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Source: www.asiaecon.org |

IMMIGRANTS IN JAPAN


Japan has a long history of setting tight boundaries on immigration. Unlike other places such as the United States or Europe, however, there has not been any official immigration policy. But in the past few years, the growing concern over the demographic crisis in Japan has put immigration on the agenda for its central policymakers. The Japanese population has been dropping since 2005, with a current growth rate at -0.139, according to The World Factbook (CIA, 2008 estimate). If current trends continue, in 50 years the population will have declined by a third and in a century by two-thirds. In fact, no country has ever had so many elderly as a percentage of its total population, with 22% of the Japanese population being older than 65. So, Japan is facing a serious problem due to its disproportional balance of the working and non-working population.


Japan has a long history of setting tight boundaries on immigration. Unlike other places such as the United States or Europe, however, there has not been any official immigration policy. But in the past few years, the growing concern over the demographic crisis in Japan has put immigration on the agenda for its central policymakers. The Japanese population has been dropping since 2005, with a current growth rate at -0.139, according to The World Factbook (CIA, 2008 estimate). If current trends continue, in 50 years the population will have declined by a third and in a century by two-thirds. In fact, no country has ever had so many elderly as a percentage of its total population, with 22% of the Japanese population being older than 65. So, Japan is facing a serious problem due to its disproportional balance of the working and non-working population.

With the society rapidly aging, population declining and the birth-rate falling, it is unlikely that Japanese authorities will solve this problem just by encouraging more births. Immigration seems to be the only solution. Although, in Japanese society, the subject is almost taboo.

Some other modern industrialized countries, especially in Europe, are experiencing very similar problems, although each of those countries are either engaged in aggressive immigrant recruitment efforts or are in the midst of major immigration policy changes to help remediate the problem.  Japan, in contrast, has a long history of rejecting foreigners. Among highly developed countries, Japan has always ranked very low in the percentage of foreign-born residents. Just 1.7% are foreign-born in Japan, compared with about 12% in the United States.

The Japanese people have traditionally remained deeply suspicious of immigrants. There is a public perception in the country that many immigrants come to Japan to engage in criminal activities. This is why, Japan was one of the few countries to industrialize without drawing on immigrant labor, relying instead on rural residents and women.

But in the last two decades, an acute labor shortage has prompted the Japanese government to create laws allowing foreigners with Japanese descent to enter and reside in the county as guest workers. This measure had the greatest response from Brazil, which has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. About 500,000 Brazilian workers and their families have moved to Japan, although the vast majority of them only speak Portuguese. The truth is that these immigrants are facing a lot of difficulties while trying to integrate into the Japanese society. Although most of them have had plenty of work and steady incomes, at least compared with Brazilian standards, they have been isolated, looked down upon, and cold-shouldered by the local authorities. 

Today, with the global financial meltdown, most of these immigrants are losing their jobs and are forced to return with their families, to their countries of origin. But Japan, with its rapidly aging population, cannot afford to lose these young people. The Japanese government, alarmed by this new situation, is trying to implement some measures to make it easier for unemployed immigrants to remain in the country. These measures were unthinkable in the Nippon country some years ago, when the government would have encouraged these unemployed people to leave the country. The government is implementing Japanese-language courses, vocational training programs and job counseling in order to make it easier for jobless immigrants to find a job in the country.

Japan’s views on how the nation should be and its views on foreigners needs to change in order to maintain the Japanese society.

Source: www.AsiaEcon.org
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Source: www.asiaecon.org |


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