Japanese Immigration Policy in the Future

“Japanese must enact a new immigration law so it will allow us to bring in many immigrants.” Japan Times reported the interview of Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara at the Tokyo metolopolitan Government building. In this interview, Ishihara answered his view of politics for immigration in Japanese society. “Since we are not a homogeneous people because our ancestors can be traced back to Korea, China, Mongolia, whether the number of foreigners increases or not in Japan is irrelevant. Because of labor shortages as society rapidly ages, we need more foreign residents to make up for our labor shortage.” He favors accepting foreign residents in Japan to strengthen our aging society. However, even if he favors positive immigration policy, he opposes the idea that gives the right to vote in local elections to long-term foreign residents. “Such a thing is impossible, must not happen and is dangerous because regional issues influence the state” he said. If foreign residents want to participate in local politics, they should become naturalized Japanese citizens, he said in the interview.

Do you think the immigration policy that Ishihara proposed is the best policy which Japanese government should proceed to? Should we accept more immigrants just for making up for labor shortage? We do not have to treat them as citizen but just as labor, and we do not have to guarantee their right as citizens? What does he mean “they should become naturalized Japanese citizens”?

I think the idea of Ishihara is very conservative and it is far from the ideal policy which we have to proceed to with regards to immigration policy. First of all, even if he thinks our country is not homogenous society because of the diversity of our ancestors, our society is still very homogeneous with regards to national politics; for instance, it makes much of the interest of Japanese and neglects the right of non-Japanese people. It regards Japanese society as if homogeneous country and still many non-Japanese people are eliminated from in various social situations. Actually, our society has much cultural diversity. According to the statistics from the Ministry of Justice, the number of population those who do not have Japanese citizenship (what is called “Gaikokujin” in Japanese) is over 2 million. The number has been increasing and will continue to increase in the future. Considering these situations, we cannot say our society as homogeneous, and we cannot continue our national politics which limit the right of non-Japanese people any more. It is much more the case if we have more immigrants with some immigration policy in the future.

Though Ishihara answered that it is impossible to allow long-term foreign residence to have right to vote in local election, I think his idea is impossible in reverse. If more immigrants will live in Japan, inevitably we will have various issues related to them. We will have more children who have non-Japanese parents in schools; we will have more workers who are not Japanese at stores. If we have more immigrants, it does mean that they play more important role in our society. If we have more immigrants, we will not be able to ignore their right such as voting right even if they are not permanent residence.

It is easy to say that we will accept more immigrants because we need more labors amid the rapid aging society; however, before we accept them as labors in Japanese society, there are many issues with which we have to tackle. We will need to change our national policy so that people who are from outside of Japan have more right in Japanese society. Not only ensuring their right, we also have to create social supporting system which new immigrants will be able to start their live in Japanese society smoothly. We also have to create environment where Japanese people can live together with immigrants; for instance by offering more cultural education in schools. Just making immigrants naturalized Japanese citizens will not be our solution.

by Shunsuke Ochi

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