Nowadays, Japan is paying attention only to the declining birthrate and aging population, but in fact, another big change is coming. The number of "immigrants" living in Japan continues to increase. It is said that the number of foreign residents in Japan has nearly tripled in the 30 years of Heisei, and it will not be long before the number of foreigners reaches the 3 million mark. As the "shape of the country" is about to change drastically, this book calls for an overall picture.
Even in Western countries, which have accepted a large number of immigrants, not all people want to live in harmony with immigrants. Populists have emerged and are gaining support, asking immigrants for the causes of economic stagnation and social unrest and repeating xenophobic discourse.
Of course, the author, who is the editor-in-chief of the web magazine "Nippon Complex Journey," which conveys Japanese immigration culture and immigration circumstances, does not take this attitude. Recognizing that Japan is already entering the "era of immigrants," he said he would like to consider a path that does not use democracy as a means of exclusion.
Japan is a country of only "Japanese" who share the same language, culture and history-some may want to believe this. However, in reality, it is not possible to return to a pure and innocent "one Japan", and it is doubtful whether there was a place to return to in the first place. The author argues that his hometown is not something he misses, but that he creates it with people who happen to be there.
What are "us"? Where does "Japan" come from and where does it go? This is a book that will give you an opportunity to face these questions.
The main points of this book
The number of foreign residents has nearly tripled in the last 30 years. However, neither the government nor the sensibility of society has caught up with this change and is not facing "immigrants."
Contrary to the government's premise, foreign workers who are not qualified to work have supported Japanese industry as "so-called unskilled laborers." However, as the economy of their country of origin develops, the benefits of coming to Japan to work are diminishing.
Elimination of non-regular residents is becoming more severe. The number of people accommodated in immigration facilities is increasing, but many are cornered in a poor environment. We should acknowledge the existence of "immigrants" and now we should steer toward solidarity rather than exclusion.[Must read point!] Real image of "late immigrant nation"
Foreign residents who have tripled
Currently, there are about 1.46 million workers (as of the end of October 2018) and many foreigners living in Japan. The total number of other people is about 2.64 million (as of the end of June 2018), which is equivalent to 2% of Japan's total population. Considering that there were only about 940,000 people in 1988, it has almost tripled in the 30 years of Heisei.
However, the government intentionally avoids the word "immigrants" and calls foreign workers "foreign human resources." It's as if Japan is also a huge human resources company. As a matter of fact, there is no ministry or agency that controls the support of immigrants and foreigners, and our senses have not caught up with the reality that has changed significantly. It is the general sensibility of Japanese society that the existence of foreigners and immigrants is still seen as "new" and "different".
In Europe and the United States, various trials and errors have been repeated regarding "immigrants." But "immigration" is not just a problem in the West. There are also "immigrants" in Japan, and there are "immigration issues" to be addressed. As a "late immigrant nation," we must begin to think about how to deal with "immigrants."
Subdivided status of residence
What kind of foreigners live in Japan? By country of origin, China is by far the largest, with just over 740,000, accounting for nearly 30% of the total. This is followed by South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Brazil, and these top five countries account for nearly three-quarters of the total.
Looking at the type of status of residence, it can be roughly divided into five categories. The most common is "status of residence based on status or status (hereinafter, status / status)" including "Japanese spouse, etc.", and more than half of the total fall under this category. This qualification group has no restrictions on renewal, and it is characterized by being able to take any job and staying in the country without a job. The next most common is the status of residence in the specialized / technical field (hereinafter referred to as “specialized / technical”). Of the statuses of residence, it is the only one whose purpose is "working", and there are 15 qualifications when subdivided. The third most common is "study abroad," followed by "technical intern training" and "family stay."
Of the five, the status of residence in the "Status / Status" category is the most stable. In the "specialty / technology" category, you can continue to stay as long as you have a job in the field. The fifth "family stay" is what is given to the spouse and children. On the other hand, "study abroad" allows you to stay only while you belong to a school, and after graduation, you often switch to "specialty / technology". "Technical intern training" is the farthest from settling. The maximum period of stay is 5 years, during which family members cannot be called in.
How many "immigrants" are there in Japan?
Are these foreign residents really "immigrants"? According to the United Nations, people who have migrated across national borders for more than 3 months and less than 12 months are generally called "short-term (temporary) migrants" and those who have been migrating for 12 months or more are generally called "long-term (permanent) migrants". It's a target. However, there is no internationally or academically defined definition of "immigrant." The number of "immigrants" in Japan depends on what definition you choose, and the definition choice itself is political.
Let's count "immigrants" in various ways, paying attention to the status of residence. The narrowest definition is that of the "status / status" in the above five categories, only those with permanent residency are eligible, which is 1.085 million. In recent years, the number of "permanent residents" has increased rapidly. This is because foreigners who have come to Japan since around 1990 and have 20 to 30 years of experience in Japan are getting permanent residence and settling. This is clear evidence that Japan has already begun to move towards an immigrant nation.
The number of people regularly announced by the government as "foreign residents" includes "study abroad" and "technical intern training", and the number is 2,637,000. As I mentioned at the beginning, this is 2% of Japan's total population.
Further expanding the framework, there are also people who have been naturalized into Japanese nationality and "international children" born from parents of Japanese and foreigners. Even though they have Japanese nationality, they must be "people with immigrant roots and backgrounds." If you think about it so far, it will be about 4 million people at least.
Double structure of labor market created by tatemae
The emergence of "so-called unskilled workers"
About 60% of foreign residents work as "workers". The Japanese government has taken the stance of dividing foreign workers into "so-called unskilled workers" and "foreigners in specialized and technical fields" and accepting only the latter. However, the latter's share of all foreign workers is less than 20%. People with a status of residence that are not originally intended for work, such as technical intern trainees and international students, mainly Nikkei from Brazil and their families, play a central role in foreign workers as "de facto workers." There is a big gap between tatemae and reality.
This unnatural situation began to occur as far back as 30 years ago. The expression "so-called unskilled laborer" began to be used in the "Sixth Basic Plan for Employment Measures" approved by the Cabinet in 1988, in which the previous construction was already clarified. However, the stance of not accepting "so-called unskilled workers" does not match the needs of the industry that wants to hire low-wage foreigners in unskilled areas. As a result, a large number of "de facto foreign workers" who do not have a status of residence for the purpose of working have been born.
Will Japan continue to be chosen?
The reason why the government still keeps its structure is that foreigners rob Japanese people of their jobs, the labor market is fixed in two layers, upper and lower, and foreign workers are concentrated at the bottom. This is because there are concerns that they may do so. But in reality, foreign workers and non-regular Japanese workers have been distinguished from the world of lifetime employment and regular employment based on seniority wages and coexisted in a marginalized "other world". It was.
Another concern for the government was the "unemployment problem of foreign workers due to economic fluctuations." This was most apparent in the 2008 Lehman shock. The biggest impact was on South American Nikkei working in the manufacturing industry. Many of them, who were considered employment regulators, returned home due to unemployment. The number of Brazilians living in Japan, which was 317,000 at the end of 2007, fell below 200,000 in 2012.
However, the decline in Japanese workers is not limited to the Lehman shock. The economic growth of the country of origin is also slowly working. In particular, Brazil's rapid growth has been tremendous, with per capita GDP, which was only about $ 3,000 around 1990, surpassing the $ 10,000 mark around 2010. During that time, Japan's economic scale has hardly changed. The economic and wage gap with Japan has narrowed, and the value of migrant workers in Japan has become relatively small. The idea that "if you open the door, you can always get the foreign workers you need" is no longer optimistic. If we want to continue to secure foreigners who feel the merits of working in Japan, we must overcome the gap between the tatemae and the reality as soon as possible and recreate a system that is fair and transparent to everyone.
"They" and "us" are divided into several layers
Overstay is drastically reduced by strengthening management
Behind the "opening" movement of expanding the acceptance of foreign workers is also the "closing" movement of selective acceptance and exclusion. It is the strengthening of immigration control and residence control that puts this into practice.
There are two main patterns for "non-regular residents" who do not have a status of residence. One is unqualified and illegal entry / illegal landing, and the other is so-called "overstay" when you continue to stay excessively (illegal immigration) even after your status of residence has expired. According to the Ministry of Justice data, about 80% of non-regular residents are the latter.
Overstayers have increased their presence as low-wage workers since the 1980s, reaching a peak of about 300,000 in 1993. These foreign workers came to Japan with a short-term status of residence such as tourism, and entered the field of small and medium-sized enterprises and day laborers. In the early 1990s, when the rising labor demand on the Japanese side, which was booming, and the motivation for migrant workers on the foreign side matched, the public's eyes were not so strict about "illegal employment." However, with the increase in foreign workers with a status of residence such as Nikkei in South America and training / technical intern trainees, non-regular residents are subject to active exclusion by the government, and in recent years the number has remained in the 60,000 range. There is.
Immigration hunts down people who "can't go home"
There are two ways to eliminate non-regular residents: to detect non-regular residents who are already in the country and to block potential non-regular residents who will enter the country. Since the beginning of Heisei, the Immigration Control Act has been revised one after another in a strict direction. For example, the 1997 amendment created a new "crime related to group stowaways" and provided penalties for those who helped group stowaways from abroad. In the 2000s, measures to detect and repatriate non-regular residents in Japan will become more active. Since 2012, foreign residents have been managed by the Basic Resident Register, and information on changes in residence has been shared between local governments and the Ministry of Justice.
There is a problem that has become more serious in recent years regarding the repatriation of non-regular residents. The number of foreigners who cannot return to Japan due to various reasons and continue to be held in immigration facilities for a long period of time is increasing. Since 2015, the number has exceeded 1,000, and most recently it has been in the 1300 range. Moreover, more than half are long-term detentions of more than 6 months.
In fact, many who have been ordered to leave the country immediately. Those who are "can't go home" are being held. For example, if you get married, have children, and have lived in Japan for decades, your living base is in Japan. Often there is no longer a place to return. If you are applying for refugee status, you may not be guaranteed your life when you return to your country.
During the long detention period, there are countless people who are mentally and physically cornered and sick due to harsh treatment such as assault by staff, and some are forced to commit suicide. Detention in immigration facilities has a different meaning from detention in prisons, and is just a preparatory step for deportation. Nonetheless, the current immigration administration is hunting down people who cannot return and saying "go home." I don't think it's okay to leave such a structure alone.
To a country that accepts "immigrants"
The circumstances of foreigners living in Japan vary greatly depending on their nationality and status of residence. A number of invisible layers distinguish and divide people, such as how many years they can stay, whether they can work or change jobs, or whether they can live with their families. Considering this, it can be said that a person born in Japan with Japanese nationality has the full-spec rights and freedoms that can be enjoyed in this country.
Whatever definition we adopt, it cannot be emphasized that there are already many "immigrants" in Japan, and that we have come this far without looking directly at that fact. By denying the reality of "immigrants," we have divided the people living in this society into two different experiences: "stable life" and "unstable life." In the former polar region are the students of high-income regular employees with Japanese nationality, and in the latter polar regions are the students of non-regular residents who do not even have a status of residence.
There are two roads in front of me. In the direction of inclusion rather than marginalization, in the direction of solidarity rather than exclusion. This is not the story of "they". It is a problem of "us".
Recommendation of reading
In April 2019, a new status of residence "Specific Skills" was established. This story, which I learned in the news, can only be understood very superficially without knowing the whole picture of foreign residents including foreign workers. Although not covered in the summary due to space limitations, the meaning of the new system can be read in Chapter 4 "Why technical intern trainees'disappear'" and Chapter 6 "" Specific skills "and new contradictions". You should understand well.
If you read this book, even those who felt that the problem of "immigration" was a fire on the opposite bank should realize that it is also a problem of "us". Thinking about how to deal with "immigrants" is nothing but thinking about "us" who need "immigrants" but have difficulty in coexistence. The appeal of this book is that you can reverse your perspective from "other personnel" to "your own."