Population fixes have anti-foreign bias, official says

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

The government is in denial over Japan’s looming demographic disaster and adopting unrealistic solutions rather than face the need to accept large numbers of immigrants, a former senior immigration official said Friday.

Hidenori Sakanaka, a former director of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau who now heads the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, said his voice has long gone unheard because an anti-immigration culture exists among Japan’s intellectuals and media.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Sakanaka said that policies such as trying to push the elderly and more women into the workforce to combat shrinkage shows “the government’s desperate desire to avoid opening up their nation to immigration — at all costs.”

On Tuesday, an advisory panel to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in an interim report that the government should focus on raising Japan’s birthrate to save the nation from an impending crisis of shrinking towns and workforces.

For Japan to maintain a population of around 100 million over the next 50 years, the report said that Japan’s fertility rate must rise to 2.07 percent from the current 1.41. But it also said it would not recommend the wholesale acceptance of immigrants to forestall the projected decline in the population — as Sakanaka advocates.

He told the audience in Tokyo that he believes Japan should become, over the years, a “nation of immigrants,” dismissing the panel’s suggested goal of boosting the birthrate to 2.07 percent as “unfeasible.”

“Not just Japan, but all other advanced and civilized countries are facing reduced birth rates. I don’t think achieving a 2.07 percent birthrate several decades, or even 100 years from now on, is possible. There are so many unknown elements,” he said.

Sakanaka also condemned Abe’s plan to expand a contentious foreign-trainee program to prevent labor shortages ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Experts say unscrupulous employers often exploit such trainees.

They allegedly use the program to obtain cheap labor, which often opens the door to other abuses. Currently the trainees can obtain a three-year visa, but government now plans to allow them to stay for two additional years.

Calling it an “incarnation of modern-day slavery,” Sakanaka said the planned expansion will “only be remembered as an embarrassment.”

  • Steve Jackman

    Good to know that there is at least one person in Japan who does not have his head buried in the sand and who’s not in stubborn denial.

  • Pete Wagner

    They should fund a program for emigration and repatriation of any foreigner with at least quarter Japanese blood. Make it enticing. Do this before opening the gates to the rest. Japan also needs an urban renewal/beautification program.

    • JeanPaulJ

      They should also allow dual nationality! The current practice of forcing people to choose makes living long-term in Japan a rather unattractive option for many people.

      • Pete Wagner

        Dual nationalities tend to be abused, just look at the US with the Israelis. It’s a dubious practice at best. Loyalty doesn’t split well.

      • JeanPaulJ

        The question of “loyalty” has always struck me as rather outdated. We aren’t vassals to the nation(s) we come from!

      • Pete Wagner

        It has to do with sticking together as a people in defense of predators and parasites. That is eternal.

      • Mike Wyckoff

        who said one can’t be loyal to 2 countries? 99.999% of us aren’t spies. (at least not that I know of)

      • Pete Wagner

        It’s like being loyal to two spouses. Doable?

      • Mike Wyckoff

        I’m sorry, how is it like being married to 2 people? Do you have a Japanese permanent residency?

    • Fayt Strife

      Dude you realize that using Japanese “blood” as a requirement for immigrants is not going to work how you think it will. Culturally they will have to assimilate just like any other immigrants except for the fact that you aren’t choosing people based on skill but based on ethnic background ONLY.

      You can go skill based and insure that your letting immigrants in that will contribute to society and wont be a drain on the system. Or you can take a gamble and go race based and allow people of Japanese descent to immigrate without knowing if they will contribute or be a drain.

      Heck if you went skill based you could even get immigrant engineers to work for JAXA. Another idea could to make several types of investment visa’s for foreigners to open businesses.

      Using ethnic background as the ONLY requirement will not work because culturally the Japanese people returning would be Brazilian, Canadian, American, Peruvian, etc. The reality is even all the people of Japanese descent outside returned to Japan it still wouldn’t solve Japan’s aging problem (and that is not going happen).

      • Pete Wagner

        The only skills Japan would need to bring are foreign language skills, as their education system gets the rest right (but flounders a bit on languages). Repatriating other nationals of Japanese origin goes a long way to address that. In terms of other skills, Japan is in a position to export rather than import as their automotive industries attest.

  • Earl Kinmonth

    Japan does in fact have a preferential program for people of “Japanese blood.” There are many Brazilians and Peruvians who have made use of this. And, you only need one grandparent who had Japanese nationality to qualify. The prohibition on dual nationality is an issue only if you take Japanese citizenship. You do not need citizenship to stay in Japan long term. Permanent residency is just what the name says and you can keep your original nationality.

    • UrbanSurvivor13

      They discriminate against them as well. (Dogs and Demons- Alex Kerr)….
      I love Japan, but they see all other countries as mongrelized…In 1000 years the world is gonna look like Keanu Reeves, or Beyonce….and then there will be the Japanese.

      • Earl Kinmonth

        Dog and Demons is 15 years out of date. “I love Japan, but they see all other countries as mongrelized.” All 127 million Japanese think this way? Looks like ethnic stereotyping to me. And, in point of fact people with mixed parentage are not uncommon in Japan but because the mix is typically Chinese-Japanese, Korean-Japanese, or Filipino-Japanese, this is not obvious to those who do not know Japan. Currently about 6-7% of all marriages registered in Japan involve one parent who is not a Japanese national. This means that in the near future, 6-7% of all children (probably more) will have mixed parentage. At the neighborhood schools my children attend, there are children with Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and Burmese parents just to cite the ones I happen to know. In my neighborhood, I also see school children who appear to have Indian or African parents.

      • UrbanSurvivor13

        BWah..well, I am sure the vast majority of Japanese think the same way as you.
        Which is to say, not.
        Just because you live in some kind of ghettoized new-age mini-Dejima, doesnt mean they don’t think youre a barbarian dog.

  • Nick

    Immigrants and the subsequent forming of various minorities will contribute to the ruin of this country, not prevent it. Plus in 30 years Japan will probably have enough robots to run the economy and the people will just be chilling^^

    • UrbanSurvivor13

      If they can just stop the infantilization of men, maybe they will start makin’ babies.

  • John Brown

    No nation can survive by closing it`s borders to immigrants. Less than 1% living in Japan now are from another country, yet even this it seems is too much for the `old ways`

  • Mike Wyckoff

    I get a strong feeling from my dicussions with older Japanese that they would rather see Japan die a slow extinction than allow immigrantion to save Japan. I would gladly switch from PR to Japanese if it meant I’m no longer treated and looked at as a foreigner, but alas that will never happen.