by Minako Sanda
In the 1980s, as Hobi neighborhood in Aichi prefecture and Icho neighborhood in Yokohama started to accept factory workers from China and Brazil and other countries, Japan pretty much seems to be getting there – opening up the closed door to the immigrating employees and becoming one of the multicultural nations. Certainly, 30 years after the good observation of such areas of immigrants, Abe is aware of the resistance to immigrants.
“Whether to accept (more) immigrants or not is an issue relevant to the future of our country and the overall life of the people. I understand that (the government) should study it from various angles after undergoing national-level discussions,” (Abe, according to Kawai 2014)
What Japan’s Prime Minister suggested the Lower House Budget Committee has created debates among Japanese citizens to reconsider what Japan is and will be like. Could this be finally a chance for a socially homogenized nation to learn the impact of multicultural immigrants?
Well, if you look at the reality of Japanese society, people can tell that acceptance of immigrants can do very little, if any, to help Japan’s current social issues such as declining birthrate (1.35 this year) and working populations, and a higher welfare burden for the younger generation. I personally believe that merely accepting immigrants who look for any form of employment will end up more expensive than what nation can benefit from the labor work immigrants provide. “Accepting domestic helpers and babysitters” should be discussed after developing solid system to support current working parents.
For example in the area of medical professionals and construction workers, where the declining number of workers is severe, it is not the occupations that are essentially hard, but it is rather there is not enough social welfare to support overworking people covering up for the lack of population. Without a development in social structure, immigrants may end up being thrown into the society without language skill, or no professional occupation after being a factory worker or a babysitter. Even when immigrants get jobs in the name of training, there is currently no support after they are done with the term, no JSL is provided for them. Therefore, this can easily lead them to unlawful employment and illegal stay afterwards. Whether government targets immigrants who are highly-skilled professionals or low-educated factory laborers, what both need is the same welfare, place to live, language lessons and support for their own family. If they want more professionals from abroad to move into Japan, they are inevitably asked to attract them by leveling up the current treatment that separate foreigners from original citizens in terms of employment, education and welfare.
Regarding the acceptance of babysitters and domestic helpers, I think the politicians lack analysis of the Japanese family structure and tendency in putting pressure on women to take care of domestic chores. Having the national policy to internalize the daycare of elderly and house work, and the Japanese nuclear house, all of which are essentially run by women, made women responsible for all family matters and did not allow many wives to go out to work full-time. From this history of family-based nursing and education system, women not only suffer from the physical fatigue, but also the social pressure on them to be the good glue of a well-balanced family. Currently, women who work after getting married and giving birth are increasing, but policies hardly catch up to support them (which is strange, working women is never a new idea before and during WWII, thus society without doubt forced women to stay at home), and now the solution for this is all brought by immigrants nannies and domestic helpers, not a new feminist policy.
Thus, solution to the lack of working population and declining birthrate is not as simple as counting immigrants in. What Japan essentially needs is to face the fact that a better policy to support parent to raise children in Japan, development of better welfare for the area of occupation where there are severe lack of professions, rather than begging immigrants for the quick solution to magically boost the labor population.
Kawai, M (2014) 15th May. The skeptical idea: the structure to accept 200,000 immigrants per year. 移民「毎年２０万人」受け入れ構想の怪しさ Retrieved on 2014. June 19th from http://seiron-sankei.com/3226