Japan opens its doors wide to immigration

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/01/01/japan-opens-its-doors-wide-to.html


So I guess the government’s previous “plans,” to stick their heads in the sand and/or rely on a vast army of robots to take the place of missing human workers, did not pan out.

Not taking any bets on when they will realize they need to allow and encourage married women to have careers and lives outside the home if they ever want their birth rate to rise again.


These are not unskilled jobs. They’re undervalued jobs. Here in the States, we pay these people poverty wages and tell them they are unskilled - and then we act shocked when our citizens don’t want these jobs.


That’s not immigration. Immigration implies citizenship. This is a guest worker program.


Immigration implies at least permanent residence. Plenty of immigrants never become citizens.


I came to the comments to point that out as well. Also, unlike in the United States, if the gastarbeiter have children, those children won’t be Japanese citizens either.

I expect the five-year duration is intended to prevent any of the gastarbeiter to apply for naturalization, which can only be done after five years continuous residence in Japan.


“opens its doors wide”

Let’s see, Japan has 40% of the US population. The US issues 11 million visas each year and Japan is issuing a third of a million, about 3% of what the US does. Oh, and they’re temporary, “work here for five years, then we kick you out” visas, for the most part.
Yeah, I’m going to say that Japan hasn’t really changed its tune regarding immigration. They’ve just gotten desperate enough to let a few more people in, temporarily.

Yeah, shipbuilding, caregiving, construction, even agriculture aren’t “unskilled” jobs. (The irony is that Japanese agricultural workers transformed California’s farming when they moved here; centuries worth of expertise on high-intensity farming that no one else had made their farms much more productive than their neighbors, setting off a whole chain of consequences for the state still felt today.)

I’m not even sure how this differs from the existing guest worker program for Chinese agricultural labor. Maybe it’s less restrictive in where and how workers can live? (The existing program is incredibly limiting for the workers - reportedly they live in separate housing away from the native population and even talking to women can cause them to be deported.)

Which is also being denied here. So definitely not “immigration.”


Hardly opening your doors “wide”, still sounds pretty unwelcoming to me.
But I am genuinely interested in how this will work out seeing as they openly admit to permitting their arrival primarily for the benefit of Japan herself. Any benefit/improvement to the guest worker’s situation will merely be a trade off.
This feels like a refreshing contrast to my corner of Europe where people are admitted primarily on the basis of their humanitarian needs, leading to something close to auditions in misery rather than asessment of skills and abilities. My fellow citizens have started to think that just giving someone a residency permit is some great act of selflessness in and of itself, even if the new arrivant ends up on the dole for years.


I’m glad Japan open (a tad) its borders but the few friends of mine who want to live and work in Japan are more the artist type than the ship builders type :confused:


Headline should really be “Japan by necessity becomes slightly less xenophobic”.


A guest worker program and constant-or-increasing xenophobia are not mutually exclusive.


In theory I suppose not, but in practice? I seriously doubt it. The Japanese are quite harsh with their conditions. Way back in the 60s and 70s the Netherlands had a similar shortage of working age people and we solved it with hundreds of thousands of mainly Turks and Moroccans. They and their children became citizens though, something Japan isn’t willing to do which will not help. We have had and still have our share of problems that come with welcoming such a large group of people, I think Japan is setting itself up for even bigger problems.


They should think about a digital nomad visa. Let someone who has a remote gig establish tax residency in Japan. With minimum income limits, it could be a big draw, be it people who use Japan as a jumping off point to SE Asia or who choose to live in Tokyo proper (which is actually quite affordable rentwise compared to, say, SF or NYC).

Anyways, my prediction is as remote work becomes more common you’ll see countries vying for those tax dollars - imagine how many highly paid remote devs would love to live in Tokyo? And then their taxes can pay for elder care for the citizens.


Japan isn’t really hurting for remote workers or even tax revenue, they’re hurting for workers who can perform the myriad physical tasks that need doing like caring for the elderly and building ships and harvesting crops.


What they’re really hurting for is babies. The birth rate is really low, the lowest in the world perhaps. It’s a cultural problem and I don’t think they’re willing to do anything about that.


Well, people certainly can enter on a tourist visa and remote work, and they will look the other way if you obey the visa limit, but they don’t get your taxes then.

I’d disagree that they aren’t hurting for tax revenue. Maybe not now, but 5-10 years in the future they’ll be hard pressed to keep their infrastructure up to date.

1 Like

The work that needs doing doesn’t necessarily need to be done by native-born Japanese people. They just need to get comfortable with the idea of changing demographics if they aren’t making the next generation of workers themselves.

The birth rate in the US is well below two births per woman too, but our population hasn’t been declining since we have traditionally been more open to immigration. (Granted, Japan’s birthrate is even lower than ours.)


Sure more revenue wouldn’t hurt, but it doesn’t do you much good to have money to spend if there’s no one around who you can hire to do the actual work.


Have we conclusively established the issue is lack of workers? Here in the states there are caregiver shortages mostly because other fields pay more for less hassle, not because of a lack of bodies.


Hard to imagine who is going to take care of the massive retiree population that’s about to make up a third of the population without a lot of able-bodied people to do the physical work.