Welcoming Immigrants, Not Just Accepting Them

by Ryo Tanaka

American society is one successful nation that has accepted transnational migrants. They have strong ties with their home countries and help strengthen political and economic relationships between both countries. Transnational migration is a worldwide phenomenon in the way that it involves rich countries and many other countries looking up to rich ones. Thus, Japan which is one of the biggest economic countries in the world is not an exception. However, it is also important to look at the unsuccessful aspect of transnational migration.

Japanese society has accepted immigrants for a long time. They come to Japan for a variety of reasons, but they commonly expect the host Japanese society to give them some benefits or compensate for some lack in their life. Immigrants recently coming to Japan as represented by the newcomers are typically seeking job opportunities. The majority of them are in blue-collar occupations. Some of them are looking for jobs in Japan to economically support their family in their home country; others come to Japan to seek refuge from discrimination, violation, or natural disaster in their home country. No matter what reasons they have, they come to Japan to seek better quality of life.

Thus, Japanese society has the responsibility to live up to immigrants’ expectations or needs as long as it officially accepts them. However, Japanese society does not fully live up to its responsibility. In some cases, it does not even fulfill their basic needs. For example, many blue-collar immigrant workers are not receiving fair treatment at workplace. They are mostly employed as irregular-workers, and thus, not given opportunities to get promotion. Moreover, due to recent unstable economy, employers cut the salaries of or even dismiss irregular workers including migrant workers. Thus, many migrant workers find it difficult to attain the purpose of their migration and even get disadvantaged from the environment around them.

The question linked to the reality above is how to establish equal relationships between them and other Japanese citizens. The reality is that migrant workers are “used as wood for fire” as discussed in class. They are concentrated in the bottom level of labor market. In this sense, migrant workers in Japan are assimilated into Japanese society in negative ways. First, as discussed so far, they have fewer opportunities to succeed in Japanese society due to its social structure. Second, more importantly, they are forced to follow Japanese value systems such as language and customs. In many cases, they are required to understand Japanese language at workplace to cooperate with Japanese workers. Thus, there is a big power structure that deprives migrant workers of opportunities to get the average or higher standard of living. Also, Japanese attitudes towards migrant workers negatively affect migrant workers’ lives. Some Japanese are denial or ignorant about foreigners. Thus, they often have trouble associating with migrant residents around them.

In conclusion, to the extent that not many migrants are socially and economically advantaged, it is hard to expect transnational migration between Japan and other countries to strengthen their political and economic relationships. This would negatively influence the relationships between the host Japan and the home countries. Therefore, Japanese society needs to guarantee equal opportunities for migrant workers to succeed and pay back to their home countries. In fact, America has established strong relationships with other countries by “welcoming” immigrants, not just “accepting”.

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