Consultant urges 'one-of-a-kind' immigration policy for Japan

TOKYO —

In its cover story for June, Sapio devotes 14 articles—including a contribution by former Tokyo Gov Shintaro Ishihara—and 23 pages to wide-ranging discussions on the subject of immigration. It looks like substantial changes are coming, and coming soon. What form should immigration take? What are the merits and demerits?

Management consultant Kenichi Ohmae is, if anything, a pragmatic person. He also expresses his ideas logically and persuasively, and he has devoted a lot of thinking to the issue of immigration, which he suggests be adopted as a policy in three successive stages.

First of all, the demographics don’t lie: by 2050 the largest age segment in Japan’s population pyramid, both for males and females will be those in their late 70s, with fewer and fewer younger people. If this course is maintained, people in their productive ages will decline rapidly. Ohmae says he pointed this out more than 20 years ago. During his past four decades as a business consultant, he has observed that in general, introduction of foreign workers in Japanese businesses has been carried out in five-year increments, during which time problems and challenges are resolved through a trial-and-error basis.

When one looks back 25 to 30 years, to the economic “bubble,” Japan found itself with a labor shortage, particularly in construction and manufacturing. It began bringing in “Nikkeijin” (people of Japanese ancestry) from Latin America, along with Pakistanis, Iranians and others.  Since there was no visa status for manual laborers, they entered on tourist or student visas, and the government feigned disinterest when they took blue-collar jobs.

Then the bubble collapsed, and these workers were summarily dismissed. The number of illegal foreign workers declined, and Japan was soundly criticized for its lack of interest in the workers’ welfare.

The current Abe government appears inclined to issue guidelines that will expand entry by foreign workers in such fields as construction, nursing care, agriculture and household domestics. On the other hand, it’s proceeding with measures to ensure that the entry of such foreigners not be mistakenly construed as “immigration policies.” In other words, time limits will be imposed on those workers’ stays. Inevitably, this will result in a repeat of the mistakes and troubles that happened after the collapse of the bubble.

Considering that the Japanese babies being born now will take from 15 to 30 years before they start contributing to Japan’s economy, it’s clear that immigration offers Japan’s only hope to preserve its economic vitality. And, Ohmae emphasizes, now is probably its last chance to take meaningful action.

The three stages Ohmae proposes are: First, Japan should emulate Silicon Valley in attracting 1,000 skilled people a year from such countries as Israel, India, Taiwan, Russia and East European countries. But these people should not be limited only to the field of Information Technology. They would be concentrated in six “clusters” around the country, mostly in large urban areas where they and their families would be made to feel at home with access to churches, schools and so on.

The second stage is to find a way to attract 100,000 professionals a year in the category of work titles with the “shi” suffix (such as “kangoshi” or nurse), trained care providers, attorneys, firemen, etc), all of which are currently in short supply.

The third stage is to accept blue-collar workers, of whom at least 300,000 per year will be needed to keep Japan’s economic engine purring. Ohmae suggests the Japanese government set up and fund preparatory schools in countries likely to supply labor, where students can learn the basics of the Japanese language, laws, customs, and so on before they arrive. And passing an examination will entitle them to a Japanese-style “green card,” permanent residence and the right to work. Such a system is likely to help avoid concentration of unskilled foreigners who would gravitate to the slums that have created social problems in other countries.

When considering the future of immigration, Ohmae also urges the importance of avoiding its politicization among Japanese, so that when people debate its pros and cons, this can be done dispassionately, without tarring one another with “right wing” or “left wing” labels.

Japan Today

  • 6

    CanadianJapan

    This sounds like a great read, anyone knows if it's possible to buy and download this magazine?

  • 9

    semperfi

    Well, immigration is unavoidable . . However following this measure, Japan needs to give immigrants larger legitimacy by allowing them to become CITIZENS (following certain clear unambiguous criteria), local & federal VOTING RIGHTS , Pensions , and other benefits, plus full protection under the law.

  • 20

    Graham DeShazo

    This is FAR too good an idea for Japan to actually carry out. Rather, they will wait till the last possible second and then do something pell-mell and rash

  • -11

    CH3CHO

    semperfiMay. 12, 2014 - 07:50AM JST

    Well, immigration is unavoidable

    Why?

  • 3

    Frungy

    semperfiMay. 12, 2014 - 07:50AM JST Well, immigration is unavoidable . . However following this measure, Japan needs to give immigrants larger legitimacy by allowing them to become CITIZENS (following certain clear unambiguous criteria), local & federal VOTING RIGHTS , Pensions , and other benefits, plus full protection under the law.

    Actually immigrants already have all of these rights (except for the unambiguous criteria for citizenship). The problem is, as always in Japan, the spotty enforcement.

  • 4

    marcelito

    Ohmae has the right ideas , too bad the J-politicians will never implement them. The best they will do are patch solutions allowing in temporary workers on time limited visas as mentioned. As Japan,s decline accelerates in future years it will be discussions, "shouganais" all over the place by which time it will be too late. Japan simply has no capacity to make radical, timely changes when required and it will have only itself to blame as its slowly continues its downwards slide.

  • 8

    Mocheake

    >

    Most of the old guys running the show wouldn't even put up with hearing these logical suggestions.

  • 2

    Meguroman

    Something will be done but I doubt as well-thought out as this. On the other had, Japanese firms will innovate with products and services for older people. Already more adult diapers sold here than baby ones. Whether it is housing, medical products, food, entertainment, travel - everything will be adjusted for the silver haired set.

  • -1

    GW

    Marcelito

    Good post, but I think things are going to pick up speed rather than go down slow, if current thinking doesn't take dramatic changes & SOON!

  • 0

    gogogo

    You need to address the issue of wages in Japan, you can earn 2-3 times more for some skilled jobs in different countries. You only get what you pay for.

  • -2

    gaijinfo

    The only legitimate reason for immigration is a labor shortage. If you bring in more workers when there's not any demand, it will just make matters worse.

    If the government would back off substantially, and let the economy grow naturally, instead of trying to push on a string, then Japan might have a chance.

    But they won't, so they don't. GAME OVER is coming soon to a country near you. Then another... then another...

  • 6

    sighclops

    With the "old boys club" running the country, there's just no way a brilliant plan such as this would ever be considered. I believe there are four issues that he didn't address:

    1. Simplified & "relaxed" visa terms. Japan is still an extremely difficult country to enter for any longer than a year.
    2. Job security. Don't treat all immigrants as simply "numbers in the system" who can be fired at any time.
    3. Addressing the pay issue. Stop paying the old fogies at the top the biggest salaries for essentially contributing nothing. Pay the young, brilliant minds what they're worth! All of the innovation these days is NOT COMING out of Japan.
    4. Gender equality - oh boy, would need a full 100+ page report to address that issue...
  • 4

    FizzBit

    Anyone who wants to see the Japanese culture ultimately destroyed, should follow Kenichi Ohmae.

    He's a globalist through and through, a pseudo oligarch who espouses corporate reign over the economy, while nations just sit back and watch.

    Just take a look at two of his three publications:

    The End of the Nation State

    The Borderless World

    He was the project director of team "H2O" which, with the help of Hosono, helped with the disposal of the disaster debris all over Japan to be burned.

    Now he works for TEPCO.

    About his immigration ideas:

    "clusters"! Are you serious? That's NO way to integrate immigrants into a different culture.

    This guy probably dreams himself as a global corporate director from the 1975 movie Rollerball, where there are no more counties, just corporations running everything, where there is also no freedom, no voting, no books, and all history is edited and summarized for the masses.

  • 5

    Mister Ed

    Far better to encourage the development of 'Little Japan' economic zones overseas where land is cheap and labor already existent.

    Economists put the economy first and foremost, not society and their predictions are notoriously faillible. They are looking for economic benefits, especially chasing that chimeric of god of "expansion" ... but what is this crazy obsession to chase a place in an economic league table?

    Far better to let Japan slide down the table and focus on sustainability and quality of life for those already on board "Nippon Maru'.

    As far as the population, it would be far better to manage the decline gracefully and aim to reduce the population even further. Embrace the trend and use them to improve the quality of life, e.g. leading to larger homes, more open and green spaces in cities. Problems in agriculture can be far more easily cured by reforming land ownership and creating larger farms. Japan does not need to go back to a feudal past with armies of land workers (... even if it would probably be healthy for the people!).

    There is nothing intrinsically good, or necessary, about mass immigration. For most part, it is against the interest of the ordinary working people as all it does is devalue their labour, is used to destabilise it, and it's generally them that are forced to face the cultural dissonances of letting foreign labor into the country. It's far more proven to cause problems and in such a finely balanced and civil society like Japan those would be exaggerated.

    Japan should avoid mass immigration like the plague. Its people do not have the 'cultural anti-bodies' to handle it. Immigration at the bottom end general brings little with it and wants to take money out of the economy and back home at the end. Far better to allow capital to travel overseas and make its money there, than importing labor and incurring all the social costs and problems inherent in doing so.

    Where absolutely necessary, clearly time limited contracts as in the past were a good idea, e.g. you come, you work, you get paid, you leave, are the worst it should consider. The important element is clarity. Any workers coming should be under no illusion of the terms they are being engaged upon.

    I'd even put a bar on marriages during said contracts, as that system is too abused by opportunistic and illegal immigrants. Designated economic zones, as in China, are also a good idea.

    And, yes, proven language skills are a must to prove commitment.

    The only place where I would agree easing up immigration is at the higher skill and management end and from nations of a par with Japan. For the sake of ordinary workers, Japan could do with a breath of fresh air at the managerial level to challenge and change some of the unreasonable working practises in Japan, like rights and allowing workers to go home at a reasonable time!

    All this talk of society ageing is also a distraction. Old people in Japan stay healthy, still work harder than young and look after themselves and each other well into their 80s and even 90s. A 20 year retirement period is just not sustainable for any economy, except for the super rich. Working long into old age will just be part of the package of life for all of us in the future.

  • 4

    Kelvin Ng

    Read the report carefully. They just want your body and labour, not your residency. You are only allowed to stay until your usefulness to the Japanese society runs out. You will not be allowed to become a permanent resident, not to mention a Japanese national. It simple terms, they want to cream you off and kick you out when you turn sour! Very smart strategy for the japanese. But will there be enough stupid foreigners to take up the bait and are willing to sacrifice/waste their youth and time just for the good of Japan, and be willing to be escorted out of japan when their talents dried up or no longer required? Just look at Singaore now you will know the problem as well as solution is not that simple.

  • 0

    igloobuyer

    @Fizzbit

    Do you have a better idea? Immigration won't somehow force Japanese to forget their culture, will it?

  • 3

    genjuro

    @Fizzbit and @Mister Ed Excellent posts. I wasn't aware of Ohmae's background, and the fact that he works for TEPCO should immediately raise flags about him and his proposed plans. Implementing them would not be in Japan's best interests.

    Instead of pushing for immigration as a solution to the labor shortage, maybe the government can launch a massive campaign on encouraging and training all these NEETs and hikikomoris to be productive. From a labor survey taken last year there are at least 600,000 NEETs in Japan, and if only a fraction of that entered the work force that would already be a big help. There are still of course other issues such as wages and workplace practices but at least having the available manpower first would be a good start.

  • 3

    clueless

    There seems to be a "Let's fix it tomorrow" attitude to the declining population of Japan. The old guys in charge now won't make any changes because: A: They won't be around to see the outcome anyway. B: Unpopular measures need to be taken and nobody has the nerve to suggest, never mind implement them.

  • 9

    Yubaru

    They would be concentrated in six “clusters” around the country, mostly in large urban areas where they and their families would be made to feel at home with access to churches, schools and so on.

    There are so many ways to read into this and all of them are scary. They don't want the "intellectuals" mingling with the population.

  • 0

    gokai_wo_maneku

    SHOCK!!! I bought the magazine and in Ishihara's article, he positively and aggressively supports strong immigration! I couldn't believe what I was reading or that it was written by the same guy who was governor of Tokyo. He says (it is an interview) you can't just kick out workers when their period is over. But he still says シナ人 (shinajin), which is a not very nice word for Chinese. He talks about the great Koreans in Japan. He also says Park Chung He (father of current Korean president) told him things were not bad under Japanes rule. There are lots of other articles. The Ishihara interview is the most unusual read.

  • 3

    5petals

    More wishful and impratical thinking that wont work. First of all, Immigrants speak their native tounge to each other, and the universal language of choice is English. Japanese, after spending billions of yen, still cannot express themselves coherently or understand English at an elementary level. Japanese is a difficult language to learn, even near impossible to write. Then there is the Japanese customs in both social life and at work; most are archaic and only Japanese can understand them.

    In order for immigration to work in Japan, the Japanese themselves must change. Its 2014, people still avoid me, wont sit next to me, and deny me housing and employment. It will be the same in 2020, 2030, 2040. Japanese must accept English as a second language in work matters and in daily life. They must accept outsiders as insiders. We all know this is impossible, thus immigration reform is impossible. It will be more of the same; 1980s all over again. Massive SE asian and Iranians etc coming to do the 3K jobs.

  • -2

    CH3CHO

    5petalsMay. 12, 2014 - 02:47PM JST

    First of all, Immigrants speak their native tounge to each other, and the universal language of choice is English.

    LOL. So you say that immigrants come from English speaking countries like USA, Australia, NZ and UK, or Immigrants learn English to immigrate to Japan. And your conclusion is that Japan should change its national language to English to accept immigrants.

  • 0

    ReformedBasher

    Probably the most suitable group for immigration into Japan would be, but not limited to, educated people from South East Asia.

  • 1

    yokatta

    Some good ideas here but first Japan (gov't) has to start reforming it's internal political processing, structuring etc within the gov't diet etc. AND then implement these good ideas that Ohmae mentions. It won't pass the red tape line before reform takes place I'm afraid....

  • -2

    Moukhfi Nouari

    what about china labourors , aren't they the most fitting for the relance of japan economy ?

  • 0

    igloobuyer

    @genjuro

    Instead of pushing for immigration as a solution to the labor shortage, maybe the government can launch a massive campaign on encouraging and training all these NEETs and hikikomoris to be productive. From a labor survey taken last year there are at least 600,000 NEETs in Japan, and if only a fraction of that entered the work force that would already be a big help. There are still of course other issues such as wages and workplace practices but at least having the available manpower first would be a good start

    Nope. Even if Japan were able to force all hikikomori and all able bodied women to work they would still fall way short of the required workforce to maintain the same economic vitality. The country will just go bust.

  • 3

    Pandabelle

    However following this measure, Japan needs to give immigrants larger legitimacy by allowing them to become CITIZENS

    I don't understand this. You can become a citizen with full voting rights, and thousands do it every year.

  • 1

    gokai_wo_maneku

    @ 5petals, all of the foreigners working at my company speak, read, and write great Japanese . They have permanent residency (we sponsor them), own their own places, etc. You should get off your bottom and learn how to do stuff here, like tons of other foreigners have. And first of all, learn Japanese! Sounds like you are 負け組 not 勝ち組. Well, some have what it takes and some don't.

  • -2

    Mister Ed

    How can someone possible know enough to contribute to the political or democratic system of the nation they are part of without speaking or reading the language? Or is it something that White people are just naturally better and wise at?

  • 4

    jpn_guy

    @Mister Ed "I think avoiding renting out apartments to foreigners is quite a sensible business decision."

    Given that it would be almost impossible for new arrivals to secure a mortgage, where do you propose your carefully selected foreigners should be allowed to live in the event that all landlords follow your screechingly racist advice?

    Perhaps we could put them all in a purpose built bunker. Or maybe a tent village in the park. Or do you just give out advice that you don't think people should really follow?

    I am also interested in your comments about banning immigrants from marriage. Are we going to ban dating too? If you are not, then what will you do - forcibly separate every single working class immigrant from their partner when their time is up?

    Or are you seriously proposing a complete ban on international relationships for certain classes of people like apartheid South Africa?

    Anyway, I wonder how many people will be prepared to take up your offer to work in homeless celibacy before being sent back where they came from.

    In summary, I find all your comments devoid of any warmth, compassion or understanding.

    "Fast breeding' communities at the bottom end of society"; "peasantry that could literally swamp Japan and consume it like a horde of locusts"; "less socially evolved cultures such as the Philippines".

    Why do you hate the poor Mr.Ed?

  • -2

    5petals

    "And your conclusion is that Japan should change its national language to English to accept immigrants."

    No, please read the post again carefully. I said English as a second language. Do you understand what that means? It means countries and cities like SG and HK can readily accept foriegners without any language barrier The subject of this article is overcoming barriers or obstacles for immigrants who want to come to Japan.

    Dont you realize how easy it would be for everyone if Japanese could speak English? Japanese is a useless language in the world now, this is not the 80s anymore when it was all the craze to learn Japanese. When Abe or one of his delegates goes abroad, they speak, or attempt to, in English, because gasp, their audience are mostly English speakers!. How many people of the world understand Japanese? Some elderly person from the colonial era in Tawain or Korea? A few people who did homestay or the JET program?

    Nihongo is a language of hiearchy and hidden meanings..aka its a pain in the behind to use. I do speak the language, but like many from the West, am more comfortable speaking how I feel, get my point across instead of useless fun and games.

    So, if English is not needed, why have the Japanese been spending their hard earned wages for decades now on English scam schools? Lets just scrap the effort, and everybody speak Japanese! How easy is that?

  • 0

    gokai_wo_maneku

    5petals, Japanese is an extremely useful language if you want to live in Japan, which is the topic at hand. You just do not want to make a commitment, evidently. In any case, most foreigners in Japan do learn conversational Japanese, plus whatever vocabulary they need for their special situation. And they learn whatever kanji they need for their daily life (reading signs etc.). You must be hanging out with all those Americans in Roppongi, who just don't care and whose experience of Japan is obtuse, to say the least. What a typical totally western ethnocentric attitude that YOU have to learn OUR language so WE can live in YOUR country. HK and Singapore have a history of British colonization, it is not like they just wanted to learn English. Japan was never colonized.

  • 0

    bookowls

    the demographics don’t lie: by 2050 the largest age segment in Japan’s population pyramid, both for males and females will be those in their late 70s, with fewer and fewer younger people.

    Good! Judging by the way young people are changing and growing in Japan, I can only see the youth of tomorrow getting more obnoxious, lazy and ignorant!

  • -1

    Mister Ed

    @jpn_guy

    No, it's not racism, it's just a reflect on the reality of Westerners attitudes towards rented property gained from personal experience.

    A situation amplified in Japan because the high emphasis places on reputation. If I am going to take the financial risk, I cannot afford to destroy myself due to the inconsiderate actions of some moron who is going move out within a few months leaving a mess and unpaid rent/bills/the requirements of redecoration.

    Rather than "hate the poor", I am more sympathetic to, firstly, the Japanese one's whose labor will be devalued by immigration and, secondly, poor immigrants whose labor is going to be exploited. Like I wrote, far better to take the economic development to them, where they already have families and communities and develop them there.

    Only by creating more global equality will more security etc arise.

    @ Kelvin Ng

    What's happening in Singapore? I heard from a friend here they are encouraging top end/wealthy immigration from Asia/China and that is what is causing a problem for locals, e.g. increasing property prices beyond their reach

    I don't agree with the idea that "they want to cream you off and kick you out when you turn sour!" ... the immigrant is paid at a much higher rate and received the benefits of Japanese society whilst they are there ... it's more like making clear to a house guest that they are just that ... a guest ... and that they have to leave once their invitation is over.

    That they don't gain tenants' rights just because they were invited to stay for a defined period.

    Regarding Japan, what I actually wrote, but what disappeared, was ...

    "Cynically bringing in 'fast breeding' communities at the bottom end of society, as with e.g. Mexicans in the USA, Indians and African in the UK etc, to fluff up the economy will not be good for the Japanese."

    The myopic doom and gloom merchants, who see the world in simplistic and exaggerated black or white scenarios, have no idea about the vast realities in between.

    Japan is still currently number 3 economy. It can afford to slide down the economic league table a long way and actually increase the quality of the ordinary Japanese who are still living inhumanely in many aspects, and working highly inefficiently in others.

    Making workplaces more efficiently and especially the bureaucracies more streamlined would go a long way to offset any losses.

    As German, France and elsewhere have proven, you can work 40 hour weeks and still have world class and competitive economies.

    In France, the legal length of the working week was 35 hours, in which the working day may not exceed 10 hours.

    I agree that the most suitable 'mass immigration' would be those from culturally and religiously pluralistic societies both Buddhist and Hindu, e.g. Thai, Balinese, Nepalese etc, but avoid those from rigidly monotheistic or less socially evolved cultures, e.g. Muslim Indonesia or Philippines.

    In many ways, Japan's problem is geographic; that culturally it leans more towards Northern Europe than Asia and yet it is too far away for it to have the open borders with it that would benefit it most (easier immigration and emigration to nations with equivalent levels of wealth, structure and education). Instead, it still has America still forcing its big fingers up its ass, trying to open it up to the USA (TPP, US Military etc) which is the last thing it needs.

    There are large parts of South Korea society which would both love to have open borders and share with Japanese culture and be suitable to cooperate willingly. It's already happening down in the Busan/Fukuoka region. Unfortunately, there are also those who are livid at Japan's successes, and would want to erode it from within.

    The same too with China, only except there is the additional burden of a vast, impoverished and desperate peasantry that could literally swamp Japan and consume it like a horde of locusts. No blame on them. They are just desperate because of the CPC's policies.

    Therefore, if I was the Japan government, I'd be very discerning ... it's not the same as discriminating ... at which nations I opened doors with.

  • 2

    TravelingSales

    Why would skilled workers volunteer for 55% marginal tax rates?

  • -1

    CoconutE3

    Blue collared workers should be offered the option to immigrate to Japan also at the end of their work visa. The Japanese government should put more responsibility to the corporations that hire such workers. The government can reward companies by offering incentive to hire immigrant workers and also encourage them to set up division within company to make sure they get equal benefits and support for their daily living. The government must also put serious consideration in accepting their families. The workers and their families should be able to immigrate if they so desire alfter a job well done. There's alot to consider and hopefully Japan will get it right.

  • 2

    Fadamor

    Far better to encourage the development of 'Little Japan' economic zones overseas where land is cheap and labor already existent.

    How is that "far better" for the citizens of Japan? Those foreign economic zones don't bring in any Japanese tax revenue to help cover the costs of a burgeoning elderly population.

  • -5

    Mister Ed

    Seriously ... why?

    Except for China ... which is obviously too unstable and unethical ... and possibly South Korea, until its nationalists drops their attitude, why not just take the capital and build factories - and communities - overseas?

    Giving a handful of immigrants a golden ticket to a far higher quality of life does very little to nothing to the communities back home where they came from.

    Take the same money and invest in building communities and employment in other nations, anywhere from India across to the Philippines. That way the companies reap the same benefits, no Japanese lose their jobs or have their labor de-valued due to the exploitation of cheap immigration, and no social problems are imported with them.

    The problem with accepting dependents in is that you start with just one or two and before you know it you have an entire bus load turning up demanding equal social benefits, claiming welfare, creating burdens on social services ... and then the native culture and population is basically outbred and subsumed by numbers, as is happening to Europe as we write.

    Before doing so, you should ask very honestly if the incoming culture is better ... if it has any positives influences what they are (and what the negative ones are) ... and whether it is truly advantageous or beneficial for the ordinary Japanese.

    Given that all cultures are doing the best they can do at present, all you have to do is compare Japan to those other nations in the here and now ... because what you are going to get is; what you have already got over there.

  • 0

    gokai_wo_maneku

    @letsberealistic, sadly, I agree. One of the other commentators in the magazine issue is the very rightist (Nanjing denier) Sakurai Yoshiko. She says that if you want foreigners in Japan to respect Japanese values and manners, first Japanese have to learn Japanese values and manners. Her motivation is being a rightist "Japan-is-best-thing-in-the-world", but whatever, Japanese do seem to have a thing for western stuff and are forgetting Japanese stuff. Festivals are dying because the countryside is dying, depopulating. @Mr Ed Japan is already doing this. We outsource to all parts of Asia, and even outsource to the US. Lots of Japanese factories everywhere in Asia, and they are very popular to work at, even in China.

    Finally, I know that there are lots of foreigners who are only here for a few years because they have been sent here from New York, and when they return they will get a corner office on the 30th floor. I deal with these people daily. They know how limited they are because they do not know Japanese language. They work in Roppongi Hills. They are very bright and interesting, and they understand the need of American feet on the ground here, that is, Americans who settle in here permanently and know the language etc, and they complain that there just are not enough. The only Americans who apply for jobs are American non-Japanese speaking wannabees. It is easy to find Japanese speaking Chinese, Thais, Philipennos, Indians, etc. Just no Americans. But according to what they say, this is not unique to Japan. They cannot find native language speaking American feet on the ground anywhere in the world. Japanese speaking, reading, writing Americans are worth their weight in gold.

  • 0

    JeffLee

    "First of all, the demographics don’t lie..."

    yes they do. I was born after the baby boom, and my econ prof cited demographics to tell the class there would be a bonanza of jobs for us after graduation, since there would be fewer people around. In fact, the jobless rate was double digit by the time grad rolled around.

    Most demographic projections I've been told in my life have turned out to be wrong.

  • 8

    justbcuzisay

    I think it is funny how so many people cannot understand that the attitude of 'foreigners don't speak Japanese' and 'they will only be here a few years' or they don't integrate into society' are all self-fulfilling prophecies. Not just in Japan, but anywhere. When the locals treat people as outsiders, many newcomers will eventually stop trying to fit in and either give up or stick to their own.

    I have experienced this as a mainland American moving to Hawaii, and as a Intermediate-Level Japanese speaking, well understanding of Japanese culture, new arrival to Japan. Both times I stuck it out and after YEARS was able to make a handful of local friends, but for a lot of people it is too lonely and I have seen many leave for this reason.

    Some also mentioned protecting Japanese culture. I don't think it is in any threat of damage from immigration. The thing I admire most about Japan is the contrast and creativity in blending old and new. Accepting other cultures does not have to be at the expense of losing your own. I live every day fully respecting Japanese culture and society, but that doesn't mean I have to or try to 'be Japanese' . My own nationality and culture could never disappear as it is who I am.

  • 2

    blueyama

    Japan doesn't need more immigration; it needs a feminist revolution. Japan has a huge, talented workforce in the shape of its women, and yet they are not being encouraged to go back to work after having children. My solution?

    End the casual sexism in workplaces, so that the 10% of women who are fired for being pregnant are better protected in law. Extend maternity leave from 8 weeks (too short for women who are still suffering from lochia) and then make affordable childcare easier to find and easier to enrol. Give mothers and fathers a protected right to apply for flexible working after having children.

    Japan also needs to make more babies... So, make pregnancy and birth free on the NHI (not reimbursed). Allow pain relief in labour (I know many women who have stopped at one child simply because labour pain is too great).

  • 0

    gokai_wo_maneku

    @blueyama, You are right, and up to now, Japan has been fighting with one hand tied behind its back. What if all those second rate men were replaced with first rate women! We would be the number 2 economy in the world again, no matter how big China is.

  • 5

    GW

    Sadly I think Japan has neglected the topics of its Population & Foreigners & its pretty much too late to deal with either in meaningful ways. It should have started on these late 80s, early 90s but these ships have effectively sailed sadly.

    Japans people will not have more babies unless we start seeing some serious improvements if living quality, BUT most Japanese don't want change so the decline continues full steam ahead as a self fulfilling prophecy. Little changes wont help, Japan needs to re-invent a WHOLE lot to have shot at dealing with its population problems, but I don't predict much happening unless it gets a whole lot worse & even then will Japanese go for some REAL changes, ....not likely, Japan is pretty fatalistic place, shoganai leads the way all too often.

    As for foreigners, those who stay & pick up some language etc often can live better than most Japanese as we don't have to well be JAPANESE, its an advantage actually. BUT here on in........well bringing in trainees & allowing illegals to do the 3K stuff seems set to continue, often ends up bad for all concerned. As for higher educated non-Japanese, well there will always be some attracted to Japan but their numbers seem to be declining & now much more info is available so Japan will have MUCH harder time competing for those who are looking at living outside their birth countries, I just don't see Japan getting better at this only worse.

    PR isn't so hard to get, but I would never trade in my passport for a Japanese one, I would consider if they would allow dual citizenship & I think Japan should, but...........am not going to hold my breath.

    Japan is a great place I love it, but it is in serious decline in many areas & if I was a nama gaijin again I am not sure I would move here, if I did I definitely would limit it to 1-2years max. Sadly except for a few hard core wanna to do Japan types I just couldn't recommend to most young non-Japanese to try to move here as Japan simply aint what she used to be sadly.

  • 0

    5petals

    "HK and Singapore have a history of British colonization, it is not like they just wanted to learn English. Japan was never colonized."

    You failed to mention that HK and SG were both colonized by the Japanese Empire and forced to renounce any loyality to the British and English speaking was outlawed. Several of them were masacred for "rebelling" against their oppressors.

    Seems right after the Japanese were defeated, both cities/city states reverted right back to original British customs and laws. Wonder why. Might of had something to do with the kempitai beheading people for pronouncing the Emperors name wrong. seems you left that little historical fact out.

    Japan was never colonized? So why are there a few dozen US bases on its soil? Gen MacAuthur was the defacto Emperor for several years. What do you call that?

  • 0

    StormR

    I volunteered ages ago to help japan address its declining population and birth rate, the offer still stands but the govt will need to convince some of the woman to step forward and then the govt will need to pay the upbringing costs of these kids.

  • 0

    Mister Ed

    @ 5petals

    Why? Because that's where the money and power was. You mustn't know Hong Kong very well.

  • 0

    gokai_wo_maneku

    5petals, well this thread is over, but I'll just say again you can't compare US "occupation" to anything like the horrors inflicted on the world by European Imperialism or Japan. The US is not enslaving Japanese to work in mines where the minerals go to US and Japanese are not paid, and the hands of their children are not cut off if they refuse to enslave themselves, as happened in Belgian Congo under King Leopold. And Mister Ed is perfectly right, after the war the ruling powers were Britian and the US, so it was very expeditious and profitable to get back English as the second language. I've been there many times. I know.

  • 5

    sangetsu03

    Utterly pointless. The one big glaring question being overlooked by everyone is "why is the population decreasing?" When the bathtub is leaking, what should one do? Keep adding water to the tub? or fix the leak?

    The poplulation is decreasing because it is too expensive to raise children in Japan. The younger people move to the cities to find good-paying jobs, but the cost of living in the city is so high that even a so-called good paying job will only provide enough money to rent you a 1LDK apartment within 45 minutes of your workplace. And such an apartment is not suitable for raising a family. If you want a larger place, then you are going to have to increase your commute to at least an hour.

    And even if you find a place big enough for a family, you then have to worry about feeding them. Food costs two to three times more in Japan than it does in America or Europe. High tariffs on food, and farm subsidies keep the prices high.

    Then there is the cost for other goods, like clothes, shoes, a computer, toys, etc. These are also more expensive in Japan than they are in other developed countries. High tax, lack of imported competition, and price fixing makes the prices of goods quite high. A Sony TV will cost 40% more in Tokyo than it will in Los Angeles, likewise for other Japanese products.

    Allowing more immigrants into Japan is not a bad thing, but it is not a solution, as it allows the failures of the current system to continue. More needs to be done.

  • 2

    FizzBit

    +1 sangetsu03

    I guess the next question is...why are the people so unassertive about doing anything it? Don't answer. We already know.

  • 1

    kaimycahl

    Immigration breeds sentiment, racism, racial profiling and a subculture that will not become part of the norm. Look at Europe and the US!! The africans are ruining europe and the people from Mexico and south america is destrying the US. The US will become spanish speaking by year 2060! Look at Vancouver it mostly chinese!! If Japan wants to keep their culture they need to put women to work and make them just as equal as men and provide child care, and time off work when having babies. Give the young people a reason to procreate not abort!

  • 0

    Kajima Seibei

    Mass immigration? Don't do it Japan (unless you want to commit cultural suicide).

  • -1

    kyushubill

    What cultural suicide? Staring at flowers and blooms or eating raw fish?

    Nowhere is "immigration" discussed. What is by Ohmae, a champion of globalization that has killed the middle class around the world, is creating high skilled "migrants" that are placed in their own "zones" read ghettos.

    Do honestly think the land of the uniquely unique are discussing anything close to immigration? They are wanting construction workers to come and build the Olympic sites then leave. No where is there discussion of anything remotely resembling immigration. Immigration entails not only a work permit but a path to being a citizen - not just a migrant worker.

    Their plan in 2009 to attract skilled technology workers fell flat and so will this. It is obvious they want the skilled people they need in their own ghettos where the "pure" wajin will not be affected not disturbed. That is what is being discussed - migrants not immigrants.

    These fools in the ministries cannot even piece together a decent education system and you think they can an immigration policy? You either do not live in Japan or you think you know everything about Japan's "culture" from government run websites. Cultural suicide indeed. What utter piffle.

  • 0

    sangetsu03

    ...a champion of globalization that has killed the middle class around the world,

    So in order to maintain a middle class in developed countries, we should keep keep third world countries impoverished?

    Globalization is going to be painful as it occurs, just like all change is painful. Developed countries have become flooded with immigrants because they have kept the lion's share of the world's money within their borders. Isn't it better that the rest of the world be given the same opportunities to advance and succeed? and that the people of these countries be able to develop their economies, rather than abandoning them to come to America and Europe?

    Japan will never embrace free immigration, as the Japanese value their culture above all things, even the less savory parts of it.

  • 1

    Kajima Seibei

    I'm a European, Kyushubill and I've lived in Japan for decades. All Europe countries bitterly regret their reckless policies of allowing mass immigration. It wasn't meant to be that way; Germany, for instance, invited in "gastarbeiter" thinking they would go home after their contracts expired but lo and behold most of them stayed put and didn't return to their countries when Germany's economy went into recesssion. As you point out, Japan's bureaucracy isn't the most competent so it is unlikely to do a good job in this regard. Better to downsize the economy to match the declining population. At least then the country will still be their's.

  • -1

    Sokujin

    1) Japanese politicians are way too addicted to using xenophobia, ultra-nationalism, and racism for votes among the ignorant.

    Foreigners are framed as criminal diseased rapist hordes out to destroy "perfect" Japan. Consequently, Japanese politicians are going to ride such obnoxious tactics until it's too late and Japan has fallen to number 10 or lower in the world rankings.

    2) Japanese women in the work force will just accelerate the destruction of the family and lower wages.

    A) More Japanese women means lower wages and cheap labor to companies. Men will make LESS money to start families.

    B) Lower wages will FORCE married Japanese women with children to work.

    C) Japanese sex frequency per week (already among the lowest of industrial nations) and birth rates will further decrease due to women being married to jobs and careers, while being used as near-slave labor.

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