Opinion World Politics & Affairs

Opinion: Japan’s Dire Need of Immigrants

"But here, we have an example of what a country would look like if it has not so many immigrants."

Japan, despite having suffered a lost decade (or two), can be looked upon for at least two reasons; vending machines for almost everything, and the immigration rate. Their immigration rate is by far the least in the developed world. In the USA, the immigrant population is about 14 percent, whereas Canada and New Zealand have 20 and 25 percent respectively. On the other hand, Japan has an immigration population of less than 2 percent.


But why’s that? This is because of their very restrictive immigration system. This makes Japan some kind of a dream country for politicians, bureaucrats, and in general, everyone. If we see the last year, two big things happened; Brexit and Trump becoming the president of USA. Both these have something in common and that is “immigration”. Brexit happened because people were fed up of immigrants taking their jobs and Trump’s nationalistic agenda also helped him to win the elections.

But here, we have an example of what a country would look like if it has not so many immigrants.

Let us see how this has impacted Japan’s economy and will continue to impact in the future. Do they really save money because they don’t have to spend on social policies for immigrants? Do Japanese workers enjoy a higher standard of life because they don’t have to compete with foreign workers for jobs?

Japan Immigration Law

“One country, One culture, One race” was the statement made by the Prime Minister of Japan in the mid-1980s, Yasuhiro Nakasone. This statement alone summarizes the immigration policy of Japan. Basically, there are just two ways to get into the land of the rising sun; the Work Contract, and the Tourist Visa.

If a company wants to hire you from overseas, you will be needing a work visa. For that to happen either you should have a university degree or a very amazing skill that is impossible to find in the Japanese labor market. So, if you are a teacher or a construction worker, you are not going to get into Japan. There is another way called the “Technical Internal Training Program” which is something like an internship but you are paid half of what Japanese intern gets. Not only this, your boss is allowed to keep your passport and can track your bank account. After starting this program, thousands of Asian immigrants have simply disappeared.

But unlike other work visas of USA and Canada, you can’t do anything you like. If your work visa states that you are a chef, then you can work only in a restaurant. If you break the rule, then the government won’t renew your visa ever. The easiest way to live in Japan is, yes you guessed right, is to marry a Japanese woman.

Effect on people’s lives

Japan is the oldest country in the world, not because of their ancient history, but because of the age of its population. Some estimates say that in the next 90 years, they are going to lose about 44 million people of their population which are of the entire population of Canada.

This is a big problem because more and more people are retiring and need pensions to live their life. As the workforce is shrinking, the taxes will shrink but the people who need social security will increase. This leads to a big problem that more people need money and fewer people are working to cover that up.

This is why Japan has the highest public debt among all the countries in the world. Their debt level is currently more than double of their GDP. Also, their fiscal deficit (Income – Spending) is higher than what is in the United States. So, this means that if Angela Merkel had to go Japan, she would get very angry. But how does this relate with immigration?

The answer is, a lot of this is connected to the immigration. If you see the Japan’s history, they are a little low on economics and finance. They never focused on the Maths part and just wanted to make an “Immigrant free country”.

Japan losing the opportunity

If an immigrant comes to Japan looking for a job, his education, healthcare, social welfare, and all other costs are already paid by the government of his country. Japan doesn’t have to spend a penny on him. If he gets a job, he will contribute his brain and hard work towards building the nation and also pay taxes. In simple words, an immigrant is a free cash.

Since Japan has so few immigrants, they are losing out on this easy cash which might have helped them in their economic growth. That’s why the founder of Abenomics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the following announcement in the middle of the crisis in 2015 –

“For people who want to come to Japan to pursue job opportunities and further their studies, Japan must remain their hope. We must not be disrespectful to them, and out arms always must be wide open to them. I believe that’s the kind of country Japan is.”

A country that stopped innovation

After the asset price bubble in 1992, the Japan has never been able to get out of the crisis. They have been experiencing the two lost decades (25 years to be exact), which is more like a lost generation. The lost decade means that Japan hasn’t seen growth in the last 20-25 years which is a very big problem.

The Japan was always looked upon for innovation and technology in the past. The companies like Nintendo, Sony, Toshiba, Toyota, etc. were born in Japan and made a mark in the technology world because of their innovation.


But what’s common in all of them? All these companies are really old; Nintendo was created in 1889 and Toyota was created in 1937. Can you name any Japanese company that was created in the last 20 years?

You probably cannot, but on the other hand, you can name at least five businesses from the USA and Europe that were created in the 21st century. Do you know that “Immigrant founders started 52% of all Silicon Valley companies between 1995 and 2005”? Well, you know now. The entrepreneurial rate among immigrant populations is 2-3 times higher than the natives. This trend can be found in almost every country.

It makes much sense that immigrants will have an entrepreneurial spirit because they leave everything to start a new life in a new country. Moreover, they bring with them their culture and cross cultural thinking can lead to wonders.

Japan’s problem

Unfortunately, Japan has the lowest entrepreneurial rate in the developed world. Just over 7 percent of the population decides to start a business. Japanese people find it easy to get hired by an already established business than to starts one. In recent times, traditional Japanese electronics powerhouses such as Sony and Toshiba have incurred huge losses and shed thousands of jobs, while competitors like Apple and Samsung have continued to increase their market shares.

Twenty years ago, there were at least three Japanese companies sponsoring the European football championships and in 2016, there were none. The truth is that the Japanese companies are struggling to compete with American, European, and even Chinese companies. The reason is not the lack of resources, but the lack of innovation which explains the lost decades.

The impact is on the Japanese citizens. To keep up the growth and productivity, Japanese citizens have the longest working hours and the shortest holidays amongst all the developed nations. Moreover, they have almost the same salaries that their parents had.

So, this is my opinion on the Japan’s current situation. What do you think?

The views expressed in any article affiliated with or published by The Youth Journal are solely that of the original writer expressed in personal capacity and do not in any way represent an official posture of The Youth Journal, any of its staff, its partners or any other entity whatsoever.

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