July 25, 2018
Do you know how many foreigners move to Japan as labor force? According to the Ministry of Justice, the number of foreign workers in Japan exceeded 1 million for the first time as of the end of October 2016. About 40 % them are the foreign residents who have permanent resident status (like Japanese Brazilians.) Others include specialists (interpreter, experts, and scholars) and foreign students.
What is the best immigrant policy for Japan, which is facing a declining birth rate and an aging population? Japan takes the selective immigration policy. However, it can be considered as selfishness of Japan to accept only people it likes under rapid depopulation.
Let’s take a look at how other countries are accepting foreign workers in the globalized world. Many immigrants move from the developing countries to the developed countries. The United States and EU are chosen by immigrants as the popular distinctions. Contrary to these regions, Japan is preferred by only few people as a destination. We need to think whether our country becomes closed society to the world or aims to be part of the global society.
While the world is becoming more globalized in a variety of fields, it is possible for young people to go outside of their home country and never come back. It is important to keep talented and internationalized young people in Japan.
Three Measures to Open Japan
There are three things we can do if Japan wants to attract more foreign people. First, more generous acceptance policy of foreign specialists. My idea for Japan is to accept more specialists from ASEAN countries because Japan generally has good relations with these countries and they share the similarity of society and culture with Japan to some degrees.
Even after the foreign workers get a work permission, they need to be incorporated into the Japanese community. In 1980s, when Japan eased its migration policy to accept people who have Japanese ancestors, many Japanese-Brazilians began to be hired by factories in Ohta city, Gunma Prefecture. Most of them did not speak Japanese, however, eventually they were fired. As a result, the number of social welfare recipients increased and the rate of unpaid people was increasing, too. But that was not their faults. Nobody paid much attention how to welcome them to the local community and Japanese-Brazilian workers did not have an opportunity to learn Japanese-style communication skills. Theoretically, once the Japanese government issues a status of residence, it is their responsibility to protect those who acquired this status. It is not accepting people carelessly but making a rule correctly. But most of the cases, government only care about applying the rules strictly and do not care about how to incorporate them to the Japanese society.
That leads my second point that Japan has to think about soft landing of immigrants. That is also an economic policy. They don’t have enough knowledge about Japanese culture and language. Who would help them when they get a problem? Japan needs to give social welfare benefits for them in the same way with Japanese. In addition to the social security programs, it is important to teach life hack to live in Japan. Also, it is also important to provide school education to the second generation of immigrants.
Last but not least, Japanese people need to change their mind-set, atmosphere, or sentiment against people from abroad. Some Japanese do not want Japan to become a globalized country. But as Japan will host the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, I think Japanese people also need to change. Recently, there are many foreign visitors in big cities and towns to enjoy sightseeing spots and Japanese people are willing to take care of these tourists with our “omotenashi” mind (Japanese hospitality).
When a staff speaks only Japanese in a restaurant or traditional spots, how does a tourist get a good image of Japan? If a tourist visit Japan and liked it, he/she might be thinking of coming to Japan as a business person in the future. Japan’s omotenashi needs to provide such inclusiveness of foreign people. The more Japanese people think this way, the more the government policies will change. As a beginning, reform of awareness among the Japanese is important.
Brighter Future with Immigrants
Accepting immigrants look promising if Japan introduces more generous accepting policy. Japan can make the best use of capable young people around the world permanently. New industry and new service may be start by such young immigrants and they will bring new culture and impacts to the Japanese society.
Facing with severe depopulation in the more globalized world, Japan will be declining if it fail to incorporate immigrants, otherwise even young Japanese people will go out of this country and find their own horizon in abroad. I believe all people of the world can participate to create a society of Japan.