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Japan may boost immigrant numbers

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

While stressing that no decision has been made, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Friday did not deny a media report that the administration is considering increasing the number of immigrants to boost Japan’s potential for long-term economic growth.

The Sankei Shimbun reported Friday that the Abe administration has decided to consider accepting a massive number of immigrants, possibly as many as 200,000 a year, to make up for the rapid aging and shrinking of the Japanese population.

“It is true (the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy) is now having discussions to promote mid- to long-term development of Japan, with an eye on structural changes such as the shrinking of the population,” Suga, the top government spokesman, said during his daily news conference.

“It is also true a knowledgeable person there proposed the utilization of foreigners as one policy option . . . but we, as the government, have not made any decisions on such a matter yet,” Suga said.

As he pointed out, during the Feb. 24 session of a subcommittee of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, a key advisory body for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the administration revealed an estimate that Japan will be able to maintain a population of more than 100 million if it accepts 200,000 immigrants a year and the total fertility rate, a key indicator of a country’s birth trends, recovers to 2.07 by 2030 from the current 1.39.

Whether to accept huge numbers of immigrants to maintain Japan’s economic potential has long been a politically sensitive issue. Many conservative lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are opposed to such ideas.

But earlier this month, in an apparent sign of a policy shift, a high-ranking official close to Abe argued that Japan should accept a large number of foreign unskilled workers and that such a policy should be included in a package of new growth strategies Abe plans to announce in June.

“Resistance of the LDP is strong, but it’d be easier to win understanding of people if (immigrants are limited to) such areas as domestic helpers, baby sitters, medical workers and nurses,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Abe aide also pointed out that the prime minister, in a speech delivered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22, already promised to world business leaders that Japan will accept more foreign workers.

“Few people have understood the importance of the speech, but (Abe) has already made the promise to world leaders in Davos,” the official said.

In his speech to global business and political leaders, Abe said Japan should tap more female workers to increase the country’s growth potential, and for that purpose, Japan “needs support of foreigners” in such areas as domestic help and home nursing of the elderly.

Abe did not mention any target number for foreign workers.

According to a Cabinet Office simulation, Japan’s population will plummet to 87 million in 2060 from the current 128 million if the total fertility rate remains at the current level of 1.39.

  • Steve

    The decision to open the immigration floodgates is driven by big business, and what’s a ‘quick fix’ for them isn’t always good for the country… and is seldom good for the people.

    If your nation is built on immigration (for example the USA or Australia) then the policy might well work. However, if your country is ethnically homogenous and unused to mass inward migration then experience tells us that the problems created are substantial.

    Just take a look at the United Kingdom, another island race that is coming to terms with almost two decades of rampant immigration. A country where the native British can sometimes feel like foreigners in their own land.

    Japan is for the Japanese. Find another way to solve the economic problems.

  • Ron NJ

    … because the “worker trainee” and nursing programs we already have here worked out so well then, is it?
    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/24/national/foreign-trainees-still-falling-prey-to-japanese-employers/

  • phu

    “Resistance of the LDP is strong, but it’d be easier to win understanding of people if (immigrants are limited to) such areas as domestic helpers, baby sitters, medical workers and nurses.”

    First off, it’s odd and a little alarming that “medical workers and nurses” are mentioned in the same breath as “domestic helpers” and “babysitters” and, if this person has the same point of view as the author, are considered “unskilled workers.”

    Second, it’s ridiculous (but not hard to believe) that this is the only immigration that’s even considered acceptable: Essentially creating a lower caste of foreigners, imported to be subservient the Japanese and to watch their kids and look after their elderly.

    The government’s “highly skilled immigrant worker” failed, predictably, and now along with the mistaken conclusion that highly skilled foreigners don’t want to come to Japan comes the safe and comforting idea that the only foreigners they’ll have to tolerate will be changing diapers and making hospital beds.

  • allll

    It’s a bit ridiculous.
    There are already quite much japanese poeple living under the bridge or fighting every day life for surviving with low wages and part time jobs, and they want to bring massive immigrants to obstruct the whole of unskilled jobs?
    What would happen is like France in the 1980s. Even if the history context is not the same, 30 years later you have some ghetto or hell of poeple raging being radicalised, racist and so on, to be discriminated and not getting the same social statut as normal french.
    First of all they should reconsider the social policy and change the trend of the relation applied between the opposite sex to encourage making children.
    Also it’s a big problem from the nuclear disaster I guess.

  • Wahrheitsfreund

    “The Abe aide also pointed out that the prime minister, in a speech
    delivered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22,
    already promised to world business leaders that Japan will accept more
    foreign workers.”

    And Abe shows his true colors as the puppet and traitor he is.
    At least the wartime PMs like Konoe and Tojo legitimately loved their country and weren’t willing to sell it and their people to the highest bidder.

    • Daishi88

      Uh…you DO realize that Japan already is a nation of immigrants? Before Sakoku, the nation was built by Japanese people working with Asian immigrants to design their cities and advance their handicrafts and technology. That’s ancient, traditional Japan.

      Japan supremacist Tojo used foreign technology, a lot of which was built by foreign workers forced to work in factories. Japanese scientists worked closely with Germans, and their atomic weapons program was built on German theories (as was the US atomic program).

      So, uh, if your argument is that “Tojo loved his country” because he didn’t accept foreigners…um…he used a LOT of foreign labor, ideas and technology. Like…unspeakable amounts of it. Like, literally unspeakable, because Japanese colonization was so horrific no one wants to talk about it anymore.

      Abe and Tojo aren’t really that different here – they both realize the necessity of both foreign labor and foreign national resources in Japan. Just as the Japanese Imperial war machine was built on the backs of Asian slave labor, Japan’s future is going to be built on the backs of foreign immigrants.

      The BIG difference, the important one here is: Tojo conquered and enslaved foreigners. Abe is going to give them money. Some of them will get LOTS of money, some will get “slave wages.” Both are Japan supremacists, though.

      The DIFFERENCE is that Tojo’s Japan supremacy lead to war and colonization. Abe’s? Probably won’t. It’s not that big a difference, though, and your attempt to praise Japan’s war-time leader in contrast to Abe really falls flat because of it.

  • yeaa

    depopulation is happening fast in those areas and will continue more and more so far it is happening at a rate of 200,000 a year and will fall even quicker that means 200,000 homes in that year have been abandoned or sold to people that want to escape the overpopulated city but still i think the decline is good overall as it will mean a better future for japan less people more room for houses and a greener lifestyle when the decline ends anyway the earth will go into a decline and japan is the first to do so same with china will do so too in a few years later it is needed in this overpopulated world.

  • Alex Chen

    Would having a smaller population actually be a problem?

    If you think about it, first world countries consume the most resources. If first world countries had fewer people, less resources would be used.

    Secondly, modern society is less stressful so people age better which means they can work even during old age. In addition, most jobs in a modern post-industrial society don’t require physical strength.

    Finally, what about robots? I thought Japan was going to use robots to solve the labor shortage problem.