Why does the gap between poor immigrants and rich immigrants exist?

by Ayana Nishizaki

Last week, in my post about ‘International Immigration’, I was wondering why poor immigrants stay poor while the rich get richer. Though my study, the causes are different ones than I expected. There are two main reasons: educational opportunity, and inefficient use of human capitals. I would like to discuss these reasons in terms of ‘illegal Hispanic immigrants’.

Immigrants of America are divided into two groups: legal immigrants who can speak English and illegal immigrants who can’t speak English well. Recently, increasing the number of illegal Hispanic immigrants is one of the big problems. They try to stay longer after the tourist VISA expired because it takes long time and much money to get the right of permanent residence.

The first reason of the gap is their education. According to one reading, Gross Enrollment Ratio of Hispanic is 57while that of American is 80. Most illegal immigrants don’t have enough money to take educational opportunity. Therefore, they have no choice to get low income jobs. On the other hand, educational cost of the high quality school is getting higher. It means only the rich can get high quality education and tend to get high income jobs. Therefore, the gap is still not getting close.

As the second reason, human capitals of immigrants are not used effectively and correctly. Recently, new immigrants are more highly educated than old immigrants because the number of immigrants who graduated from universities is increasing. However, immigrants are still faced with a difficulty to get acceptation of a job they want. The problem comes up when immigrants enter host country and show their qualification and ability to employers. These qualifications that they got in home country are not necessarily useful in host country. Even if these qualifications of home countries are similar to those of host countries, their ability of communication, language knowledge, and adopting culture are different from those of natives. There is a fact that there are many opportunities to get jobs like house keeper and restaurant server. However, when it comes to more high-skill-required jobs such as IT manager, it seems more difficult for immigrants than natives. Therefore, some high educated Hispanic immigrants have no choice to work what they really don’t want because of unpractical use of their ability.

From this study, I realized that the problem of the gap is caused by less education opportunity and inefficient use of human capitals. I though the main reason was merely their poor economic situation. However, even if some immigrants achieved high academic ability, they can’t get jobs they really want. In my view, that point (how difficult it is for immigrants to get acceptation from employer in terms of language skills, ability of adaptation) is one of the barriers when they assimilate. Therefore, as one of the solutions, I think government should clarify what kind of skills and ability in each jobs is exactly necessary in host country and inform immigrants of the clear criteria. By doing so, immigrants can make their life plan (such as which skills is necessary to get in advance) to reach their goal and also employer can easily measure and their ability and communicate with them.

Are “hafus” special?: Considering them as an individual

by Yui Matsushita

According to Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (2010), the number of birth in Japan which one of parents comes from a foreign country was 21,966, while the total number of birth was 1,071,304. That means about two percent of babies (one of 49 babies) in Japan have one Japanese parent and one foreign parent. They are commonly called a “hafu.” It can be said that Japan is no longer a racially homogeneous nation.

Japan is diversifying today; on the other hand, Japanese society does not recognize this situation well. It tends to consider “hafus” as different from Japanese. They are still constrained by its stereotyped images that “hafus” are “foreigners.” Typical questions that Japanese people ask them, such as “what is your parent’s nationality?” and “which language do you speak at home?” are clarifying the difference and do not accept them as Japanese. There are a lot of “hafus” who were born in Japan, brought up in Japan, can speak only Japanese and recognize themselves as Japanese, however, they are often apt to be misunderstood that speaking Japanese fluently is surprising and speaking English is natural even it is the result of their efforts. Japanese society tends to cast people with ‘different’ appearances and ‘different’ backgrounds out (as regards appearances, it is conspicuous in people who have a white parent).

Also, there has been a lot of debate over how to call mixed-race people. In Japan, these people are usually called “hafu,” which is derived from the English word “half.” However, some people object this word because it seems to mean incompleteness of “hafus,” and those people claim the word “daburu” (the English word “double”). Both words typically focus on a “blood” characteristic of “hafus” and tend to ignore cultural and racial backgrounds (Lise, 2011). It can be applied to other Japanese words which represent mixed-race people. Every time a new word comes out, its appropriateness is argued and its fault is pointed out, however, “hafus” themselves tend not to feel its negative meaning, and some of them even think the word “hafu” is convenient to introduce themselves. Due to this, the way to call them is not a big problem because most people are not aware of the original meaning of the word “hafu” or “daburu.”

The most important issue today is that “hafus” are considered as special people and society does not treat them as individuals. They are classified into a framework of “hafu” and their action is seen as characteristic to foreigners. What Japanese society has to do is to treat them as individuals and respect their identity as Japanese. They should be considered as not foreigners or specials but one of Japanese.


Lise, M. Y. (2011). The hafu project: Photography and research. The booklet of The Hafu Project.

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. (2010). Demographic statistics: Annual transition of the number of birth classified by parents’ nationality. Retrieved 16th October, 2012, from http://www.mhlw.go.jp/toukei/saikin/hw/jinkou/suii10/index.html

Ethnic and Civic Nationalism in Japan

by Sakiko Maruyama

In the class, we learned there are two nationalisms; one is the ethnic nationalism and another is the civic nationalism.  While the ethnic one pays attention to the roots or ethnicity, the civic one emphasizes the attitude to obey the law. Then, we link the ethnic one with intolerance, while the civic one with tolerance for immigrants. In this way, both nationalisms seem to be opposite, but in fact, they can be seen in the same nation; there are some nations which their nationalisms change depending on the conditions, even if they have strong biases to one side. Japan is one of those countries which close to ethnic nationalism. We tend to regard the Japanese government as intolerance for immigrants and think the citizen is tolerant. But this matter is more complex than we think. We sometimes take more ethnic attitude than the government. I want to describe this situation by comparing the position of us and the government about two problems surrounding Korean school in Japan.

The first problem is about the compulsory education. Korean school isn’t authorized as the school participates in the system of compulsory education. Even though children graduate from Korean school, that doesn’t mean they meet compulsory education. On the other hand, many Japanese universities accept their applications because they have scholastic ability which is worth to take the entrance examination. In this problem, the government seems to be more ethnic and universities take more civic position.

The second one is the discussion about the free tuition of Korean school in Japan. Comparing to the first problem, we can find the government has different opinion about this discussion. The government seems to think seriously about the adoption of free tuition of Korean school, while some local governments obviously against it. The local governments independently focus on the question whether they give a subsidy to Korean school or not, and the local government which decides to cut it off is caused by ethnic reasons. For example, Osaka prefectural government cut it off because Korean school hold portrait of Kim Jong Il. Most of citizens agree with this policy, and free tuition may be out of the question for them. Therefore, in this case, the citizens support ethnic citizenship and the government sees the matter from the civic perspective.

In conclusion, we citizens sometimes take firm ethnic stance. We generally see the policy of the government as important to solve the question of immigrant. But seeing the above two discussion, I think the later problem is more serious. This is because we citizens seem to have a greater influence in this problem.

Citizenship in Japan

by Yuuka Kageyama

What is the meaning of being Japanese or having a citizenship in Japan? The answer can be various, depending on the idea of citizenship and when and where is the citizenship used or considered. Citizenship is usually defined as a form of membership in a community. One of the biggest features of Japan is that many people have same or similar culture, language (Japanese) and race, that is, Japan has less ethnic diversity compared to other countries such as America which has so many kinds of ethnic groups and immigrants. However, with the advance of globalization, Japan came to have various people and culture. In this society, how does the citizenship work especially on the immigrants from other countries or people whose parental origin are different from that of Japanese?  Let’s think about it from three dimension of citizenship.

First, in order to hold the citizenship as legal status, people need to have Japanese mother or father. However, there are many immigrants and people who were born and grown up in Japan but don’t have Japanese parents. Such people cannot be “Japanese” in terms of nationality. They also don’t have Japanese passport.  I met a student whose both parents are American but born and grown up in Japan and even have never been to America. He was educated as Japanese and his way of thinking and behavior is quite Japanese. However he doesn’t have Japanese citizenship in this regards even if he spends his entire life in Japan.

Second, citizenship ensures the right of participation in the community. In a society in Japan people who have right to be Japanese have responsibility to obey the law, which gives the government obligation to protect them at the same time. Moreover, individual needs to be treated equally as human right. Although it sounds natural and easy to implement, the reality is that people are not always equal in some part. For example, people who don’t have Japanese nationality cannot be national civil servant and cannot join the government by voting. It is true that there is a difficulty to give every citizen equally the right to be involved in the national important organizations, however, such people as immigrants should also have chance to reflect their wishes in some ways.

Third, citizenship gives people in a community a sense of belonging. People in a community share their own culture, belief, language and so on, which is closely connected with their identities. Immigrants who don’t share such identity can be ‘other’ in the society. The citizenship in this regard is different from the one which come from legal or political meanings.

Immigrants in Japan have still difficulty to join the society there is a need that Japanese government takes measures including achievement of substantive citizenship or expansion of the criterion to hold citizenship.