February 23, 2019


Japan's Immigration Policy: Turned Corner or Cul-De-Sac?: A new immigration reform package still doesn't go far enough to meet Japan's needs. (Arnab Dasgupta, February 21, 2019, the Diplomat)

Undoubtedly the new reforms come at a time of dire need for Japan. The influx of approximately 350,000 lower-skilled and semi-skilled workers will undoubtedly bring cheer to many sectors of Japanese economy. Small and medium-scale enterprises, burdened as they are with declining worker productivity due to a shortage of helping hands as well as difficulties with the fundamental problem of adapting to new production methods, will undoubtedly appreciate the boost foreign workers will bring to their sagging margins. Agriculturists, cosseted by the state until the new millennium, will also have reason to be satisfied; foreign workers will be a great help to rapidly aging farmworkers who have been struggling to maintain the viability of their profession while the economy progressively lurches into a post-post-industrial twilight.

More broadly, another group of stakeholders in the Japanese democratic system will have reason to rejoice: local governments. As Japan's birth rate plunges into a total crash (the total fertility rate for an average Japanese woman has retreated to a lowly 1.21 in 2018, with no let-up in sight), even as life expectancies continue to maintain world-beating highs, the problem of "ghost towns" is becoming more and more an object of concern, even alarm in some local corridors of power. Responses to this issue have been haphazard; some municipalities are effectively offering abandoned or vacant houses for free, conditional on certain residence and tax requirements, while others prefer to gently fade away. To be sure, major hubs of global significance such as Tokyo and Osaka are not under threat just yet, recording the only positive demographic growth due to the sheer number of young people moving base to live and work in these global centers, but a slowly creeping sense of desperation has nevertheless enveloped much of the rest of Japan, especially metropolitan areas in the less well-known parts of the archipelago. The resulting stress to the social welfare infrastructure, as well as to the fiscal viability of some regions, has led many to turn to attracting foreigners instead. The news media has recently given some attention to municipalities that are aggressively attracting foreign residents, with promises of political and social rights that would effectively make migrants equivalent to locals.

Within a decade or two immigrants will be writing their own tickets to their choice of developed nations which will compete fiercely for them.  Happily, America has all the advantages.

Posted by at February 23, 2019 9:04 AM