The politics of Japan’s immigration and alien residence control

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Since the 1990s, the Japanese state has tried to balance easing immigration for some categories of immigrants while tightening restrictions for others through immigration and alien residence control. Using qualitative and data-driven analysis, this paper examines the political implications of Japan’s recent policy of accepting less-skilled migrant workers by providing a systemic explanation of the institutional changes in immigration management. The state uses alien residence control in order to curb the social costs of immigrant integration while pursuing a selective worker acceptance policy. Despite the policy shift, it seems likely that Japan will maintain this essentially illiberal means of temporary labor inclusion with long-term social exclusion.

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... Meanwhile, the latter includes those who hold highly skilled, technical trainees, designated activity (e.g., working holiday, housekeepers in special economic zones, Economic Partnership Agreement nurse or caregiver candidates, and asylum-seekers), "nonwork'' activity (e.g., students), and a designated skills visa (via Specified Skilled Workers from April 2019. These migrant workers engage in economic activity with restriction (Endoh 2019). ...
... These norms have persisted despite some social welfare reforms that target increased labor productivity and economic development. During the Abe regime, for instance, Endoh (2019) shows the contradictory state response of outsourcing temporary migrant labor, while minimizing the social costs of integrating them by restricting access to welfare and permanent residency (Endoh 2019). This paradox is reflected in migrant workers' use of national health insurance, national pension, and public assistance. ...
... These norms have persisted despite some social welfare reforms that target increased labor productivity and economic development. During the Abe regime, for instance, Endoh (2019) shows the contradictory state response of outsourcing temporary migrant labor, while minimizing the social costs of integrating them by restricting access to welfare and permanent residency (Endoh 2019). This paradox is reflected in migrant workers' use of national health insurance, national pension, and public assistance. ...
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The Philippines has been a major source of female domestic labor in East Asia. The migration of Filipino female household service or domestic workers contributed to the sustained economic growth in countries like Japan, Hong Kong, PRC, and Singapore, amidst chronic demographic and labor issues. Being literate in the health and social security systems is vital to ensuring the well-being of Filipino migrant workers and the sustainable development of both the Philippines and East Asian countries. This scoping study examines the state of scholarship on health and social security systems literacy of Filipino migrant workers in East Asian countries, specifically Japan, Hong Kong SAR, and Singapore, as well as the Philippines. Using the Six-Stage Methodological Framework for Scoping Review adapted from notable social researchers (Arksey and O’Malley 2005; Levac, Colquhoun and O’Brien 2010; Liu et al. 2015) and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses-Extension for Scoping Reviews or PRISMA-ScR, the study searched for published literature on six databases and extracted studies based on criteria for inclusion using Covidence software. This scoping review showed that of the 60 studies analyzed, 25 focused on Japan, 16 on Hong Kong, and eight looked at the case of Singapore (including three, which focused on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN); the remaining 11 were about the health and social security systems in the Philippines for OFWs. The study found no existing conceptualization of migrant health and social security systems literacy in East Asia and the Philippines. While a few studies utilize the term ‘health literacy’, these papers also fail to operationalize the concept in the research. Most health and social security systems studies are concerned with accessibility more than literacy. A few studies that include Filipino migrant workers’ experiences with the health and social security systems of destination countries only go so far as describing such experiences using the words “knowledge”, “understanding”, and “familiarity.” To facilitate consultation as the sixth stage of the scoping review process, the study conducted focus group discussions with Filipino domestic workers in Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore and semi-structured interviews with select Philippine government agencies. Findings revealed that migrants themselves, governance, social networks, informal channels, and media contribute toward enabling or constraining Filipino migrant workers’ health or social security systems literacy. Most Filipino migrant workers are systems literate only to the extent that they are familiar with and partially understand the basic social and health security schemes offered in destination countries and the Philippines. This study proposes a framework for defining health and social security systems literacy both as a complex process that is intimately tied to the portability of healthcare and social security and as an individual migrant competence that consists of shifting levels of connection to the health and social security systems of the Philippines and destination countries. It offers several research and policy recommendations that advance collaboration between the Philippine government, academics, migrant NGOs, and Filipino migrant workers.
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This article shows that the democratic borders argument is defensible, albeit not in the way Arash Abizadeh proposes. The democratic borders argument depends on the All-Subjected Principle, according to which the exercise of political power is justified only insofar as everyone who is subjected to that power is guaranteed a right to vote. According to the so-called “scope objection,” the scope of the All-Subjected Principle is too broad, however, and therefore, the argument can be refuted by reductio ad absurdum. Here I argue that Abizadeh’s appeal to the narrow-scope interpretation of jurisdictionally circumscribed legal requirements is not a plausible way of defusing this reductio. Instead, I show that the democratic borders argument is successful if the All-Subjected Principle consists of two individually sufficient conditions corresponding to narrow-scope and qualified wide-scope interpretations.
Dünya’da birçok gelişmiş ülke nüfus yaşlanması ve işgücü eksikliğine bağlı olarak yabancı sağlık görevlisi kabul etmektedir. Dünya’da en hızlı nüfus yaşlanmasına sahip olan Japonya ise uzun yıllar yurt dışından yaşlı bakım görevlisi alımına karşı direnmiştir. Bu tutum Japonya’nın kapalı ve muhafazakâr göç politikasının bir uzantısı olarak görülmekteydi. Ancak, ikinci Abe iktidarı döneminde yabancı bakım görevlilerinin arttırılmasına yönelik oluşturulan yeni programlar ülkenin göç politikasında büyük bir açılmayı simgelemektedir. Bu yeni programlar sonucunda, bir yandan yabancı bakıcıların sayılarının büyük ölçüde artırılması ve bakıcıların geldikleri ülkelerin çeşitlendirilmesi hedeflenirken, diğer bir yandan ise onların kalıcı oturuma erişimleri yani Japon toplumunun kalıcı bir parçası haline gelmeleri mümkün kılınmıştır. Bu çalışmanın amacı Japonya’nın göç politikasında yaşanan bu dönüşüme sebep olan faktörlerin açıklığa kavuşturulmasıdır. Bu doğrultuda politika yapım süreci Japon hükümetinin yayımladığı raporlar, gazeteler ve diğer halka açık kaynaklar kullanılarak takip edilmiştir. Araştırmanın temel bulgusu, Japonya örneğinde göç politikası dönüşümüne sebep olan faktörlerin demografik ve ekonomik değişikliklerden ziyade siyasi olduğunu ortaya koymaktadır. Şinzo Abe tarafından aktif bir şekilde kullanılan başbakanlık merkezli politika yapım modeli, sağlık sektöründeki işçi sendikalarının çıkarlarını koruyan ve yabancı göçmen alımına yönelik muhafazakâr bir tutum sergileyen bürokratik aktörlerin ekarte edilmesine yol açmış ve ekonomik çıkar gruplarının talepleri doğrultusunda politika oluşturulmasını mümkün kılmıştır.
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The 10th Migration Conference, TMC 2022 was hosted by the Faculty of Law, Economic and Social Sciences Agdal of Mohammad V University, Rabat, Morocco and organised by AMERM (l’Association Marocaine d’Etudes et de Recherches sur les Migrations) and IBS (International Business School, UK. The TMC 2022 Rabat was the first time such a major conference on migration held in Africa. The Conference accommodated discussions involving ministers, politicians, practitioners, lawyers, academics, media, experts, young researchers and students, practitioners and wider public. This conference was the first in person event in the series after two years of COVID-induced virtual conferences.
Can contemporary liberal states formulate and pursue a “liberal” immigration control policy? Set against the backdrop of the experience of immigrant-receiving Western liberal democracies, this article examines this question by focusing on Japan. Its main objective is to map the under-studied case of Asia’s most liberal democracy, which is conventionally associated with an “at best illiberal” stance on immigration. I contend, first, that liberal immigration control policy is inevitably defined by approximation, and second, that Japanese policy outputs have become, albeit to varying degrees, more liberal in three fundamental domains of immigration control: the admission policy is increasingly open and unambiguous; the selection policy is gradually being racially decentered; and the removal policy is more attuned to migrants’ rights. However, this case also demonstrates that such an evolution generates inconsistencies across, and tensions within, the different policy domains, which underscores the contemporary liberal state’s general incoherence on immigration affairs.
The aim of this study is to analyse and compare how the rights of low‐skilled labour migrants have been formed and developed in Japan and South Korea, from a discursive institutionalist perspective. Over the last two decades, interestingly, the two East Asian nation‐states, although having similar policy legacies of East Asian welfare and immigration regimes (productivism and ethnic nationalism), have demonstrated different policy developments regarding the two groups of low‐skilled labour migrants, resulting in different paths in terms of their rights – i.e., persistent ethnic differentiation in Japan and ethnically hierarchical inclusion in Korea. This article argues that the rationale behind the difference between Japan and Korea can be found in their different discursive interaction processes of policy legacies and alternative policy ideas (human rights and multiculturalism). That is to say, policy legacies have legitimised and strengthened the existing policy paradigms of low‐skilled foreign‐born populations – i.e., ethnic differentiation in Japan and differential exclusion in Korea, whereas alternative ideas have reinforced and/or challenged the paradigms, thereby engendering different approaches to the inclusion/exclusion of low‐skilled labour migrants.
This paper examines Japan's immigration policies during the Abe government. Japan has maintained its very restrictive immigration policies, especially for unskilled foreign workers, since the early 1990s. But despite Japan's reluctance to open its doors to unskilled foreign workers, the Abe government drastically shifted its policy position toward expanding the employment of unskilled foreign workers through the revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law in 2018. This paper argues that while Japan's demographic crisis and the strong business demand for the foreign workforce are important in explaining this change, Prime Minister Abe's political leadership is another key factor accounting for Japan's recent policy choice.
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Scholars have argued that the dynamics of immigration control have changed. Unlike previous waves of immigration which were controlled by national law and administration, this wave would be more difficult to control. Because of the constraints imposed by international agreements, international institutions, and national judicial authorities, controls would be embedded in international institutions and law that were assumed to be inclined to be less restrictive than national institutions and law. Looking at these patterns over the past 20 years, it now appears that international constraints on immigration control have been highly exaggerated. Indeed, international relations have become an important context for understanding the enhanced ability of states to control immigration, and to develop more muscular policies for integration. For this reason, international constraints may be less important for understanding the development of immigration policy than neo-nationalism, enhanced through intergovernmental relations in the international system. Therefore, what began as a scholarly discussion of the limits on restrictionist policies because of international constraints has developed into a discussion of the use of international relations to strengthen the effectiveness of restrictionist policies.
The politics of immigration in liberal democracies exhibits strong similarities that are, contrary to the scholarly consensus, broadly expansionist and inclusive. Nevertheless, three groups of states display distinct modes of immigration politics. Divergent immigration histories mold popular attitudes toward migration and ethnic heterogeneity and affect the institutionalization of migration policy and politics. The English-speaking settler societies (the United States, Canada, and Australia) have histories of periodically open immigration, machineries of immigration planning and regulation, and densely organized webs of interest groups contesting policies. Their institutionalized politics favors expansionary policies and is relatively immune to sharp swings in direction. Many European states (France, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Belgium) experienced mass migration only after World War II and in a form that introduced significant non-European minorities. Their immigration politics is shaped by what most see as the unfortunate consequences of those episodes and are partially institutionalized and highly volatile and conflictual. European states until recently sending countries (Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece) deal with migration pressures for the first time in their modern histories, under crisis conditions, and in the context of intensifying coordination of policies within the European Union. We should expect the normalization of immigration politics in both sets of European states. Although they are unlikely to appropriate the policies of the English-speaking democracies, which should remain unique in their openness to mass immigration, their approach to immigration will, nevertheless, take the liberal democratic form.
Although stereotypically homogenized and hostile to immigrants, Japan has experienced an influx of foreigners from Asia and Latin America in recent decades. In Fighting for Foreigners, Apichai W. Shipper details how, in response, Japanese citizens have established a variety of local advocacy groups-some faith based, some secular-to help immigrants secure access to social services, economic equity, and political rights. Drawing on his years of ethnographic fieldwork and a pragmatic account of political motivation he calls associative activism, Shipper asserts that institutions that support illegal foreigners make the most dramatic contributions to democratic multiculturalism. The changing demographics of Japan have been stimulating public discussions, the political participation of marginalized groups, and calls for fair treatment of immigrants. Nongovernmental organizations established by the Japanese have been more effective than the ethnically particular associations formed by migrants themselves, Shipper finds. Activists who initially work in concert to solve specific and local problems eventually become more ambitious in terms of political representation and opinion formation. As debates about the costs and benefits of immigration rage across the developed world, Shipper's research offers a refreshing new perspective: rather than undermining democracy in industrialized society, immigrants can make a positive institutional contribution to vibrant forms of democratic multiculturalism.
This article discusses developments in the field of qualitative methodology since the publication of King, Keohane, and Verba's (KKV 's) Designing Social Inquiry . Three areas of the new methodology are examined: (1) process tracing and causal-process observations; (2) methods using set theory and logic; and (3) strategies for combining qualitative and quantitative research. In each of these areas, the article argues, the new literature encompasses KKV 's helpful insights while avoiding their most obvious missteps. Discussion focuses especially on contrasts between the kind of observations that are used in qualitative versus quantitative research, differences between regression-oriented approaches and those based on set theory and logic, and new approaches for bringing out complementarities between qualitative and quantitative research. The article concludes by discussing research frontiers in the field of qualitative methodology.
Japan is currently the only advanced industrial democracy with a fourth-generation immigrant problem. As other industrialized countries face the challenges of incorporating postwar immigrants, Japan continues to struggle with the incorporation of prewar immigrants and their descendants. Whereas others have focused on international norms, domestic institutions, and recent immigration, this book argues that contemporary immigration and citizenship politics in Japan reflect the strategic interaction between state efforts to control immigration and grassroots movements by multi-generational Korean resident activists to gain rights and recognition specifically as permanently settled foreign residents of Japan. Based on in-depth interviews and fieldwork conducted in Tokyo, Kawasaki, and Osaka, this book aims to further our understanding of democratic inclusion in Japan by analyzing how those who are formally excluded from the political process voice their interests and what factors contribute to the effective representation of those interests in public debate and policy.
Conference Paper
The scholarly study of international migration has, over the past several decades, slowly entrenched itself in the mainstream of political science. From research that intersects migration and the study of racial and ethnic politics in order to understand the implications of changing democratic electorates, to work that examines how migration collides with the foundational principles of national security, sovereignty, and citizenship, migration is a cross cutting issue that touches the heart of political science. As the 2012 presidential election in the United States and the intricate way in which immigration was woven into the narrative of President Obama's reelection further demonstrate, answers to "why is migration relevant for political science" questions are becoming increasingly clear across the discipline (Hollifield 2010). Yet compared to the other social sciences - especially sociology, history and economics - political scientists came late to the study of migration. From the standpoint of intellectual history, it is interesting to ask why political scientists and scholars of international relations were so late to focus on the topic of international migration. This is especially surprising in a country like the U.S., where immigration has had such a big impact on politics and government.
Culling the Masses questions the widely held view that in the long run democracy and racism cannot coexist. David Scott FitzGerald and David Cook-Martín show that democracies were the first countries in the Americas to select immigrants by race, and undemocratic states the first to outlaw discrimination. Through analysis of legal records from twenty-two countries between 1790 and 2010, the authors present a history of the rise and fall of racial selection in the Western Hemisphere. The United States led the way in using legal means to exclude "inferior" ethnic groups. Starting in 1790, Congress began passing nationality and immigration laws that prevented Africans and Asians from becoming citizens, on the grounds that they were inherently incapable of self-government. Similar policies were soon adopted by the self-governing colonies and dominions of the British Empire, eventually spreading across Latin America as well. Undemocratic regimes in Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Cuba reversed their discriminatory laws in the 1930s and 1940s, decades ahead of the United States and Canada. The conventional claim that racism and democracy are antithetical--because democracy depends on ideals of equality and fairness, which are incompatible with the notion of racial inferiority--cannot explain why liberal democracies were leaders in promoting racist policies and laggards in eliminating them. Ultimately, the authors argue, the changed racial geopolitics of World War II and the Cold War was necessary to convince North American countries to reform their immigration and citizenship laws.
International labor migration has emerged as an increasingly regionalized phenomenon, with flows within East and Southeast Asia having gained great momentum. An expanding number of women are taking part in these cross-border movements in the search for work, to the extent that migration scholars have been referring to this development as the “feminization of labor migration.” This article examines the debates and issues concerning intersections between women migrant workers' experiences of specifically gender-based violence and violations of their more generalized workers', human, and citizenship rights. This is explored by investigating nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and their advocacy networking activities in response to states' (non)policies. Preliminary interviews with NGO representatives and migrant women in Japan were conducted in 1996. The article, however, raises more questions than offers answers. It, therefore, should be read as setting a future research agenda.
This paper examines the relationship between the number and rights of low-skilled migrant workers in high-income countries. It identifies a trade-off: Countries with large numbers of low-skilled migrant workers offer them relatively few rights, while smaller numbers of migrants are typically associated with more rights. We discuss the number-vs.-rights trade-off in theory and practice as an example of competing goods, raising the question of whether numbers of migrants or rights of migrants should get higher priority. There is no easy or universal answer, but avoiding an explicit discussion of the issue – as has been done in recent guest worker debates – can obscure an important policy choice.
Around 1974, most Western European countries abandoned migrant labor recruitment, and introduced restrictive entry rules. Today, policymakers are reexamining temporary migrant worker programs. This article examines demographic, economic, and social pressures for labor recruitment, discusses temporary migrant worker programs in Germany and the United Kingdom, and examines the European Commission's 2005 Policy Plan for Legal Migration. Current approaches differ significantly from the past and there is no question of a general return to labor recruitment policies. However, today's policies do share some common features with past guestworker programs, and may lead to negative social outcomes in both receiving and sending countries.
Nikkeijin rōdōsha ga mukaeta bunkiten
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As its population ages, Japan quietly turns to immigration. Migration Policy Institute. 28 March
  • D Green
Citizenship and Immigration
  • C Joppke
Kokusai jinkō idō ni taisuru seisakuteki kanri no jikkōsei to genkai [The efficacy and limits of strategic control of international human mobility]
  • J Akashi
Shōten sairoku 21 nichi [Focus, recorded on
  • Asahi Shimbun
Kokka to jōhō, keishichō kōanbu isuramu sōsa, ryūshutsu shiryō o yomu [The state and information: Examining the leaked documents on investigations of Muslims by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department
  • S Furuya
Kokka to jōhō: Keishichō kōanbu isuramu sōsa, ryūshutsu shiryō o yomu [The state and information: Examining the leaked documents on investigations of Muslims by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department
  • S Iwai
Imin wa damedaga-saichō gonen no zairyū shikaku [No immigrant is acceptable, but…: Residence status for five years at most
  • S Kubo
  • H Naito
  • M Takahashi
Bureau of Immigration Control (MOJ) (2017a) Zairyū gaikokujin tōkei
  • Ministry Of Justice
Bureau of Immigration Control (MOJ) (2017b) Zairyū shinsa ni tsuite
  • Ministry Of Justice
Bureau of Immigration Control (MOJ) (2017c) Zairyū gaikokujin o torimaku saikin no jōkyō to kadai
  • Ministry Of Justice
Kokusaihō gensoku mo jinken mo mushi no Tōkyō nyūkan no hidō [Contra-humanitarian Tokyo immigration control office, neglecting principles of international law or human rights
  • R Shiba
Nyūkoku kanri seisaku: 1990-nen taisei no seiritsu to tenkai
  • J Akashi
Kaisei nyūkanhō, semaru shikō, fukamaru fuan [Implementation of the revised ICA nearing
  • Asahi Shimbun
Nihon no seichō donka no yōin wa seisansei de naku, rōdōjinkō no fusoku ni aru [Japan’s slower growth is attributable not to productivity but to the labor shortage
  • G D Blind
Keizai kiki to zainichi burajirujin [The economic crisis and the Brazilians living in Japan]
  • N Higuchi
Sovereignty and Migration
  • J F Hollifield
Gaikokujin tanjun rōdōsha ukeireron kasoku [Accelerating the acceptance of foreign basic workers
  • M Ichikawa
  • Fukuma D Komuro
Ukeire mikomi ninzū, seifu jōgen mitomezu [Regarding an estimated number for acceptance, Government does not consider it as ceiling
  • N Kikuchi
  • N Urano
Immigration policy for Japan’s sustainable future.” Japan: English-Speaking Union of Japan
  • T Menju
Bureau of Immigration Control (MOJ) (2017d) Shutsunyūkoku kanri hakusho
  • Ministry Of Justice
Gaikokujin rōdōsha mondai kankei shōchō renraku kaigi no secchi ni tsuite [On the establishment of inter-ministerial liaison meetings regarding foreign worker issues
  • Naikaku Kanbō
Open Wallet, Closed Doors: Exploring Japan’s Low Acceptance of Asylum Seekers
  • N Omata
Kaji o kitta gaikokujin kenshū/ginōjisshū seido: Fukeiki to seido kaitei wa dō eikyō shitanoka [A new direction for the industrial training and technical internship program: How did the recession and institutional change impact them?]
  • I Torii
Kigatsukeba imin kokka, chūto hanpana gaikokujin ukeire o tadase [We became a nation of immigration: Correct the lukewarm foreigner acceptance
  • Wedge
Immigration and integration policies in Japan: At the crossroads of the welfare state and the labour market
  • T Kibe
Moto nishinihon nyūkan sentā nyūkoku keibikan Izumi Taku
  • Y Kimura
Kokusai hikaku no naka no nihon no imin hōsei [Japan’s immigration law from an international perspective]
  • A Kondo
Impact of the new system of residence management: Characteristics and problems of the revised immigration control and refugee recognition act
  • M Kusaka
Shutsunyūkoku kanri oyobi nanmin nintei hō oyobi hōmushō secchi hō no ichibu o kaiseisuru hōritsu [Rationale for proposing the bill on a partial revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law as well as establishment of the Ministry of Justice
  • Ministry Of Justice
Bureau of Immigration Control (MOJ) (2019) Shutsunyūkoku zairyū kanri-chō no soshiki taisei
  • Ministry Of Justice
Labor Market Structure, Welfare Policy and the Integration of Immigrants in Japan: Brazilian Immigrants during the Economic Downturn. Paper presented at the migration seminar
  • H Takenoshita
Nyūkanhō kaiseian, kakugi kettei
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Shibomu tokutei nigō
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Shin zairyū shikaku hōan o ryōshō
  • N Urano
  • O Uchiyama
  • K Sato
Kokusai jinken-hō no kanten kara mita nihon no nanmin hogo seido no genjō to kadai [International human rights law perspective on the current status and issues of refugee protection in Japan]
  • S Yamamoto
Gaikokujin koyō jōkyō chōsa: 2016-nendo [A survey of foreign worker employment
  • Labor Ministry Of Health
Immigration Control: White paper
  • Ministry Of Justice