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Immigration as a Source of Renewal in Japan

John Haffner
Japan's population is on a downward slope, a trend which causes analysts no small amount of concern. As the Japanese government warned in a report a few years ago, " he speed with which the !irth rate is falling is creating a situation that undermines the very foundations of society, the economy and the sustaina!ility of local communities." "rom its current population of more than #$% million, and e&trapolating from current trends, the country may shrin' to #(( or )( million people !y $(*(. +erhaps more important in economic terms is the narrowing of Japan's demographic pyramid, -hereas ## wor'ers supported two retirees in #).(, the ratio was four wor'ers to one retiree in #))), and !y $(*( the /0 pro1ects that only #.% wor'ers will support one retiree. hose wor'ers will face a heavy !urden. A 2c3insey study predicts that Japanese households will !e no !etter off in $($4 than they were in #))%, " he continual improvement in living standards the Japanese have en1oyed during the last half5century will come to an end." In theory, Japan could counteract this decline through increases in immigration, !ut this is easier imagined than done. o sta!ili6e the population at its current level, Japan would need to increase the immigrant population from a!out two million7the lowest proportion of foreigners of any 89:; country7to roughly #% million immigrants !y $(*(. +ut differently, whereas it now admits in the order of *(,((( immigrants a year, it would need to admit something li'e .*(,((( a year instead. 9ven if such a dramatic increase is unli'ely, there are good reasons for Japan to admit many more immigrants in the coming decades. Arguments for 2ore Immigration here are at least four reasons why Japan should admit more immigrants. "irst, Japan urgently needs a new ta&payer !ase given the population inversion as descri!ed a!ove. Its de!t will soon e&ceed $(( percent of its <;+, its pension system is significantly underfunded, and even its much lauded medical system is headed towards ma1or cost challenges with its aging and long5lived population. Also, many of its rural regions especially anticipate shortages of wor'ers and ta&payers. It is difficult to see how an ever5shrin'ing wor'force will generate the productivity and growth needed to address this range of looming concerns. Second, Japan's capacity to create new wealth7as measured !y start5ups and other measures of entrepreneurship7has atrophied. Immigrants would !ring a fresh

entrepreneurial spirit and capa!ility, new !usiness ideas, new sources of capital, and new glo!al connections. In an increasingly interdependent world, immigrants' glo!al connections could counteract the disadvantage Japan has with its cultural homogeneity. hird, immigrants would !ring greater facility with languages other than Japanese, including 9nglish, the glo!al lingua franca. ;espite its enormous wealth and the great literacy of its population, Japan has consistently ran'ed at the !ottom in 89"= scores among Asian countries. his is not for lac' of trying, >y one estimate Japan's 9S= industry is ?$( !illion per year. Immigrants with native 9nglish language facility7not 1ust from the -est !ut also from places li'e <hana and the +hilippines7would !ring improved linguistic competence and a more diverse classroom environment. "ourth and finally, there are arguments from the perspective of the immigrants themselves, of opportunities for a !etter life, of remittances sent home to assist family mem!ers, of personal fulfillment and e&pression through mo!ility and career development. Arguments against 2ore Immigration Arguments against greatly increased immigration in Japan can !e divided roughly into what might !e characteri6ed as right5wing and left5wing concerns. 8ne right5wing worry is that admitting more immigrants would harm Japanese culture !y diluting or even degrading it. >ut Japanese culture is dynamic, not static, and it has always !een influenced in significant ways !y other cultures and immigrants. As its population drops and ages, moreover, many aspects of Japanese culture may wane in the a!sence of new generations to renew them. >ut if millions of immigrants are given economic opportunities in Japan, there would !e more people studying Japanese, filling empty seats in its universities, and renewing Japanese arts and sports. In Japan's 8pen "uture, my co5 authors and I point to the e&ample of the :hinese American artist =iga +ang, who has done so much to revitali6e the Sogetsu I'e!ana school. +ang powerfully demonstrates how immigrants can renew aspects of Japanese culture. A second right5wing worry is that immigrants would cause a spi'e in social tensions and crime. he concern a!out social tensions has some validity, Japanese and immigrants would need to learn to live together@ immigrants would need to adapt to customary norms while Japanese would need to !e tolerant of differences. >ut the challenge is not insolu!le. he concern a!out foreigners and crime, meanwhile, is highly distorted and e&aggerated in Japan. As 2a!uchi Ryogo of 0ara /niversity points out, for e&ample, crimes !y foreigners are almost five times as li'ely to !e covered in Japanese media as crimes !y Japanese. he law5a!iding ma1ority of immigrants would !ring !enefits far outweighing the downside of occasional social tensions and criminal !ehavior. he left5wing standpoint, meanwhile, starts not !y e&cluding outsiders !ut !y promoting the idea of a smaller country. If Japan drops to a population of #(( million or less, the country will have a significantly smaller environmental footprint and lesser use of resources than it does now. And if it manages to drop its population while maintaining its wealth, it will !e a!le to set an e&ample for a world headed towards overpopulation and overconsumption. In

this spirit some environmentalists in Japan loo' favora!ly on what are !eing called "her!ivores" in Japan, men who have grown up in the post5!u!!le era who consume few products and have little interest in dating women. Her!ivores point to the idea a much less car!on5intensive society. >ut this interesting argument champions a smaller good over a larger one. <iven the enormity of the glo!al climate pro!lem, especially in Asia, and given Japan's energy and environmental e&pertise, the world needs Japan contri!uting solutions. >ut a smaller Japan without its economic house in order would !e a country unli'ely to contri!ute very much. In a word, Japan's smaller footprint would !e a lesser contri!ution than if it fully applied its capa!ilities toward the glo!al climate challenge. he point is even more o!vious when we recall that the immigrants in Auestion7even if they are not in Japan7would still !e living somewhere else, adding their car!on footprint to the glo!al atmospheric total.

Significant Immigration Increase /nli'ely Alas, even if there is a strong case for more immigration, it is unli'ely that Japan will em!ar' on a !old e&pansion. It seems more li'ely that Japan will only tin'er with its immigration levels. "or one thing, the cultivation of the fear of foreigners is not a new phenomenon, It goes !ac' centuries. 2ore recently the =i!eral ;emocratic +arty B=;+C, which held a monopoly on power for many decades, capitali6ed on and reinforced a popular fear of foreigners in some of its policies. And even those immigrants who are admitted are often integrated only shallowly into the country as means and not ends, as temporary wor'er commodities. Sure, one might say, !ut what a!out the ;emocratic +arty of Japan B;+JC coming to powerD 8ne of the most conspicuous features of the August $(() election7otherwise meant to herald a new era of change7was the a!sence of a strong immigration policy on the part of either the ;+J or the =;+, notwithstanding the importance of the issue for the country's future. And under the ;+J, the =;+ policy continues, and government officials are far more preoccupied with crac'ing down on illegal "overstayers" than introducing pro5immigration policies and educational initiatives. As for the general pu!lic, it is rapidly aging and !ecoming a nation of retirees, and it is dou!tful that these silver5haired voters will support proposals for a ma1or influ& of foreigners in their Auiet communities. he -orld's =oss "or many years Japan has fretted a!out its shrin'ing population. Interestingly enough, these worries have not translated into strong political or popular support for a revised immigration policy. Instead, the default orientation continues to limit immigrants, and arguments on the other side are muted. ;espite the many potential !enefits of more immigration in Japan7

economic and cultural renewal, remittances, personal fulfillment, glo!al lin'ages, and others7the country is li'ely to do no more than tin'er with its immigration levels. >y implication, therefore, Japan is also li'ely to !ecome a smaller, more de!t5laden and less productive country in the coming decades, and regretta!ly, less of a player in glo!al efforts to solve pressing challenges li'e climate change. If Japan goes gently into the good night of its retirement, that will !e the world's loss.

John Haffner is the lead author, with ;r. omas :asas i 3lett and ;r. Jean5+ierre =ehmann, of JapanEs 8pen "uture, An Agenda for <lo!al :iti6enship BAnthem +ress, 2arch $(()C@ he is writing in a personal capacity while also drawing on some arguments from that !oo'. He wishes to than' the organi6ers of the Sophia /niversity conference, James "arrer, 2idori 8'a!e, and ;evin Stewart, his fellow panelists, and audience mem!ers, for an e&cellent conference and two days of engaging discussions.
F $(## +olicy Innovations, All Rights Reserved.

Questions about the Article


1) In your own words, briefly list three reasons from this article favoring increased immigration. Provide at least one statement supporting each reason with a fact and/or statistic. eason 1! "upporting "tatement#s)!

eason $! "upporting "tatement#s)!

eason %! "upporting "tatement#s)!

$) In your own words, e&plain the 'ey differences between the right(wing and left(wing arguments against increased immigration. )o you believe that any of these are valid arguments* +hy or why not* ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

%) +hat reasons does the author give to support his opinion that a significant immigration increase is unli'ely* -ave immigration policies changed significantly since the )P. too' power in $//0* ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

1) +hat effect do you thin' that increased immigration would have on the future economy and society of .apan* ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,