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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #176: November 27, 2003

Japan shuns foreign workers

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan shuns foreign workers"
China Daily


The article focuses on the aging population and dwindling birthrate in Japan and refers to the attitudes of Japan's authorities as well as people toward immigrants.

There are certain points in the article that needs further clarification for it to qualify as a basis for discussion. For example, Japan's unique geography and history may need to be supplemented, such as the fact that it is surrounded with waters which has helped keep Japan independent, politically and otherwise, since beginning of history. And the article's position seems to be vague on "illegal" immigrants, as it sounds as though it is endorsing at least some of this illegality. Needless to say, by definition, there is no state where illegal immigrants are welcomed.

That said, the aging and decreasing population at such magnitude is a formidable challenge for Japan, and it is finally beginning to be recognized by the general public as a clear and present threat for the well-being of Japan as a country and its society. Until very recently, leaders have avoided bringing up the issue for discussion, as it would not be able to avoid disrupting some sectors of vested interest firmly built into the society. It was only last year that proposals to reform certain parts of the public pension system came out of the ministry in charge, which was revised last month upon the re-establishment of the Koizumi administration. And this plan is now being criticized, not on its strategic approach but on technicalities of the choice of seemingly unrealistic parameters in formulating the plan.

But the pensions have at least reached the discussion table. And the pension system is only one of almost infinite number of issues the society of aging and decreasing population imposes. Immigration is arguably another of the more serious issues which needs to be attended. But the discussions have not yet really begun.

Apparently, there are two distinctive schools of thoughts to begin with, as to how the situation should be perceived. On one hand, there are people who insist that we are in a serious danger, and increasing the volume of younger generation is of the utmost importance. There is an opposite view, however, as introduced in the article at its end, that decreasing population means sharing the existing wealth with less people, meaning that in fact everyone would be better off. Depending on the view, the bases of discussion on immigration policy would differ significantly.

Actually, those who support the latter view are not necessarily saying that the stringent immigration rules should be sustained. They do admit there are tasks and chores that are best handled by younger people, and to the extent to supply such necessary and capable staff, they support increase of immigrants. But fruitful discussion may need to wait until some level of consensus could be formed among the contradicting views, though with a risk of it becoming too late to adopt effective measures.

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