Japan Keeps a High Wall for Foreign Labor

Immigration provides one remedy to Japan’s lethargic economy, but Tokyo is resisting accepting young workers.

Comments: 125

  1. Already the brightest and smartest people in Asian countries are choosing to stay home rather than immigrate to other countries. This is a sea change that happened along with the economic boom in the last 15 years. The people who do line up at the embassies are the rejects, who cannot make a living even in a booming Asian economy where literally anyone can find a job.

    The more the US hamstrings people from applying for H1-B's and green cards, the more the keen competitive edge will be lost. Playing along to xenophobic haters will ensure that the children of those very haters will one day line up for work visas for jobs in India & China.

    I'm sure this will happen in my lifetime.

  2. So unemployed Americans can't work in Japan and get jobs and health coverage there?

    Another dream of American Corporations shot cruelly down by discriminatory 'big government' regulations.

    Sure it's a whole other country, but can't the Republicans do something about this? It's just so unfair.

  3. Or perhaps the Japanese have figured out that their country is crowded enough already.

  4. Empires rise, empires fall. A hundred years from now, many will refuse to believe Japan was once one of the most advanced and richest nations on earth. Japan has long prided itself with being a homogeneous society. That pride will be the cause of it's downfall.

  5. A measure of Japan's relevancy in the world today: study of the Japanese language is already falling out of favor, at least in western nations, as China moves ahead. After all, why study the language if they only want you as a tourist? Japan faces declining relevancy and a stagnant economy and culture unless they can open to the world and to new ideas.

  6. That would be America under the leadership of some Republicans, like Gov Brewer and McCain, the reality is that immigration is what keeps America new, unfortunately Americans stopped breeding and youth is important for economic development. Its just a fact.
    Europe is under the same problem as Japan, lets face it, the US is probably the only country in the world that welcomes its immigrants. I personally know many immigrants (illegals and legals) and am proud to say that some of them are the hardest working people i have ever met, my best friend just became legal now and is hoping to bring his kids in from Dominican, his kids are planning to go to college.
    Japan is under a crises of leadership, they are the definition of contempt, the US would be the same way if it wasnt for our hard immigrants that bring with them fresh ideas and exempkify the american spirit.

  7. Why is the United States (and I suppose Canada) the only country that "needs" immigration? The emerging economic powers like India and China have virtually no inbound immigration. Likewise, Japan created its economic miracle without immigrants. Germany still creates many of the best technologies and products in the world, yet has relatively little skilled immigration (especially compared to the US).

    Countries need to decide their own fates. The primary reason we have mass immigration is to create a larger labor pool in order to keep wages low. Private sector American workers have seen essentially no increase in real income since the 1970s, coinciding exactly with the start of the Great Wave of Immigration. Also, population expansion greatly benefits the real estate and homebuilding industries.

    Also, I find it humorous that the majority of NYT readers slammed the criticism of public unions in a recent article as dragging down the middle class, but Japan using immigration policy to maintain wages and living standards is somehow bad. The hypocrisy is startling.

    Japan's way makes more sense to me than America's never-ending immigration wave and flat-to-declining private sector wages.

  8. The situation sounds bad for immigrants who would like to get jobs in Japan, and not so good for Japanese corporations. But is it hurting the Japanese people? Are there jobs available for the Japanese? Would there be more jobs available for them if foreigners were getting jobs there?

  9. Having lived in Japan for decades I can speak to this with some knowledge. Japan remains one of the most anti-foreigner nation and people on Earth. The term here for foreign person is gaijin pronounced "Guy Jeen".

    The term is used often as an epithet and term of derision. Children shout with glee as they scream "Gaijin!!! Gaijin!!! to a foreigner--particularly a white of black person.

    Japan's aging population is a serious problem which could be alleviated by allowing immigration and by encouraging adoption rather than abortion.

    Until Japan begins to open the gates to modernity in the area of immigration and adoption the nation will remained mired in the same "medieval world" that she was in prior to Commandor Perry's Black Ships forced Opening of Japan.

  10. Japan doesn't want to end up like America and Europe with huge numbers of unemployed, underemployed and unemployable educated workers rendered obsolete by illegal immigration, globalization, robotization, and very soon pervasive AI management systems.

  11. Great article. I think the explanation for this unusual situation is that fact that Japan has a distinctive and particularly harmonious and embracing society that its inhabitants value above all else, particularly as they enter old age.

  12. The open policy on immigration in the US is not the answer either.

  13. no surprise, Japan's always been xenophobic, and the country tops the list in racial/sexual discrimination.

  14. Japan is a democracy in which the desires and will of the population are heard and repectfully acted upon by the governing bodies, unlike American politicians who continually fail to represent the desires of the majority of the American populous, particularly as applies to immigration.

  15. Japan does not have an immigration problem. It has trouble already finding well paying jobs for current Japanese citizens. Why would it want foreign immigrants taking away jobs that Japanese citizens can do?

  16. Japan is filled with unemployed Japanese, many of whom are homeless and without hope. Why would they bring in foreign workers to further dilute the situation now? Banning new immigration would be a stroke of genius here as well.

  17. America is not vibrant, it is bankrupt.

  18. Large numbers of younger Japanese are also emigrating, in larger and larger numbers.

  19. Japan is determined to fail as a nation.

  20. The Japanese people and their leaders are to be applauded for their wise policy of rejecting mass immigration and thereby choosing instead to preserve their people, their history and their culture. The suicidal folly of open-borders liberalism is a Western disease the Japanese do not want.

  21. Im absolutely amazes me how a Country like Japan can run into these problems.

  22. Xenophobia is defined as the "hatred or fear of foreigners or strangers or of their politics or culture"
    Xenophobic societies tend not to be open to interactions from anything "outside" themselves, resulting in an isolationism that can further xenophobia

  23. The article says America stays "vibrant" with its liberal immigration policy. That's one word for it.

  24. Interesting but not new. I wonder what Japan plans to do about its labor shortage. I also think there is an imbalance of men and women and some men are having trouble finding a wife.

  25. The Japan story: a classic case of a country actually working against its own best interests. Barbara Tuchman ("The March of Folly") would have loved this story...

    Well, I suggest that Ms. Fransiska apply for a visa to the U.S. My guess (hope, anyway) is that she would find it much easier to gain entry into the country and that she would be welcomed in a sector that badly needs well-trained and motivated nurses like her.

  26. I have visited Japan 4 times in the past eight years, staying several days to several weeks. As far as I can tell, Japanese people still enjoys the best living environment and highest living standards in many aspects, noticeably better US and Europe.

    Do not be fooled by the low GDP growth in Japan.

  27. Japan will be ok. This notion that their survival is dependent on throwing away 3000+ years of their civilization by opening their doors to 10 million foreigners is comical.

    Not every country wants to or has to follow the International Left's multicultural dogma.

  28. Pick your poison:

    The world's biggest problems are caused by too many people using too many resources!

    The economies of the world need more people!

  29. The US is no different. Try getting a permanent VISA for an RN to immigrate to the US......I know people who have been waiting over 4 years, and no good news in sight. It is not just Japan that has an aging population, it's here in our own backyard. There are over 10,000 vacant RN positions in New York state alone. I've worked side by side with RNs from the Filopines who are terrific nurses. The speak excellent english, and want to make a home in the US. Beside needing many more nurses, we need more RNs with the work ethic these immigrants display. "In the July/August 2009 Health Affairs, Dr. Peter Buerhaus and coauthors found that despite the current easing of the nursing shortage due to the recession, the U.S. nursing shortage is projected to grow to 260,000 registered nurses by 2025. A shortage of this magnitude would be twice as large as any nursing shortage experienced in this country since the mid-1960s."

  30. The USA is increasingly going down the same anti immigrant track as Japan. Racism, jingoism and xenophobia are increasingly evident in the USA, Germany, Japan and among the British. Exploitation of labor resources has kept the western countries in particular as the world's top economic and military powerhouses during the 20th century. But now with increasingly better labor pools remaining in their home countries, the advantage the industrialized West had for attracting cheap hardworking labor is fading. Worse yet for the West is the fact that the developing world competition enjoys increasingly equally or better trained domestic labor for competing in the new world economy. It is hard to imagine a more self defeating policy than the current anti foreign, anti immigrant hysteria rising in the west and Japan.

  31. It's just a little unfair, despite the obvious unfairness exercised by the Japanese explained in this article, to put the "immigration" onus on Japan.

    Though it is a very complicated issue here, (books could be and have been written about about the ethnic purity that is deeply ingrained in the Japanese heart and mind), Japan just isn't America; Japan doesn't feel that it has to have a multi-ethnic society.

  32. While xenophobia is a real problem in Japan, the country would be wise to find ways to match its large population of "freeters" (young people who float from one temporary job to another) with opportunities in shortage occupations. Perhaps these young people would be more inclined to marry and have children if they had some economic security.

  33. "Despite facing an imminent labor shortage as its population ages, Japan has done little to open itself up to immigration..."
    ----
    I look forward to seeing them crash for such irrational non-adaptive behavior. It's like evolution, adapt or expire.

  34. Japan's government is going to have to decide whether it wants to admit qualified foreigners sufficient to serve the needs of its economy as its population ages. The country's other choice is to ignore the demographic crisis and continue with policies that have long been clearly designed to preserve Japan's cultural, linguiistic, and ethnic purity.
    If Japan wants to maintain it's social safety net for its elders, it must find a way for all of the costs related to such policies to be paid There will come a point when the country's shrinkig workforce will become too small to bear those costs. It is clear that perhaps the Ministry of Labor should be given the assignment of determining just how many foreign workers the country is going to need in order to maintain the strength of it's economy and the fiscal health of the country's social programs. Then the exercise is going to have to determine just how many of each profession and skilled trade must be recruited to assure that not only the required nuumbers of workers are admitted but also the required specialists are admiitted in the numbers the country needs.

  35. Good for Japan. They want to retain their culture, and they recognize that an influx of foreigners will change the place. The population increase has to stop at some point. May as well have it stop now.

    The US is vastly different: we have been a nation of immigrants from the get-go.

  36. The Japanese doesn't need an immigrant labor source. As it is, they outsource most of the manufacturing jobs to the Southeastern Asian countries already. The U.S. is heading in the same direction.

  37. It sounds like, au fond, Japan wants its population to be blood-Japanese more than it wants its population to increase. But Japan is too polite to say so, and the rest of the world is too politically correct.

    So we end up with long articles about crazy tests and impossible barriers. It would be easier for all concerned if Japan just said it did not want non-Japanese in the country, except perhaps as tourists. Then Malaysian nurses and technology men would not be striking their heads against concrete walls, trying to squeeze in where they are not wanted.

    If Japan does not want to dilute itself racially, then it doesn't. And it doesn't have to, does it? It is a sovereign nation, and if it wishes to preserve itself by race, who is to urge or order it otherwise?

  38. It's not all about growth, growth and growth. It's not all about who has the most people or biggest economy. The Japanese are well off, they can take care of all the people in their country and that's good enough for them. So let them be.

  39. It's amazing to me that the words "racism" and "xenophobia" do not appear anywhere in this article.

    Japanese anti-immigrant policy and sentiment is largely based on both, and yet, while this article describes in great detail what the policies are, why they are so detrimental to the Japanese and their future, it completely omits discussion of the root cause.

  40. Contrary to Germany, Japan limits immigration. Ultimately there is a hard period of adjustment and decline in economic output. But it also avoids problem of foreign religion, culture, and other nasty problems. Since it doesnot wish to be a super power, this is the right path to go. Germany however will see itself torn to pits because of large immigrant population that will not assimilate.

  41. One part of the population that is underused here in Japan is the female labour force. There are so many talented and creative women with university degrees here now but they are made to be subservient to the males who dominate the management class. By treating women as equals and end ageism here Japan could change rather significantly. The larger underlying question for all advanced economies seems to me to be what are the limits to growth? Can we expect three and four percent GDP growth annually in a realistic way? Predictions are that with China, India and south America expanding greatly this economic system will require two planets like Earth for us to supply the necessary resources. Population decline in fact might be a good long-term strategy. Or is the economy the most important thing in life?

  42. I first came here more than twenty-five years ago. Then, the foreign population was about 1.7% of the total-
    it still is! As a previous poster notes, Japan is too proud of itself. But it's an increasingly sad sort of pride, based on nothing more than merely maintaining the status quo. Japan may yet, many years hence, come out of its centuries old 'pride spell' ... but by then it will be way too late, this nation will be certifiably second rate.

    And of course I, my Japanese wife and children will be long gone. (I'm amazed some foreigners in 2011 still opt to educate their kids in Japanese local schools : the very definition of wasting one's mind. Critical thinking not a part of learning here.) And no, in relative terms, very few overseas study Japanese anymore. Japan's best days are behind it.

    The foreign workers profiled in this article are merely attempting to gain BASIC employment, the nurses actually hoping to continue acting as glorified elder day care workers - and Japan says NO to them, despite the fact that elderly folks in need of such care grow by the day. This reality is all you need to know about the attitude of most Japanese toward foreign workers.

  43. I've met many Japanese in my years of teaching in the US. Japanese young people are extremely open-minded and loved learning to speak Chinese (what I teach). Yet Japan's governments are totally opposed to dealing with the reality that their population is aging, and, if nothing is done, they will be left with too few younger Japanese to meet the financial needs of those who have retired. It's what happens when a country is so ethno-centric that its citizens truly believe no other ethnic group is as good as they are.

    Many Americans also want to keep immigrants out, but for different reasons. We are not as prejudiced against foreigners as the Japanese have been taught to be (not yet, anyway), but we have started down that path by forgetting that we are ALL foreigners; we are ALL immigrants to this great land. My parents and grandparents - and yours, too - were immigrants. They started here with nothing, but produced children who got a decent education and became teachers, nurses, businessmen and women and patriotic Americans.

    Japan is probably doomed to become a third-rate country faster than we become a second-rate one because they absolutely refuse to accept the idea that immigrants have anything to contribute to their country. This is very sad, because the Japanese are basically very decent and hard-working people who have, unfortunately, been taught for centuries to believe what their leaders tell them.

    We Americans may have a chance because we basically distrust authority. We might be able to accept the fact that immigrants have something to contribute to keeping us a country where our children's dreams have a chance to come true. The best way to do this is to tell the Rushes, the Glenns, and the Seans of our country that we are ALL immigrants. This is something that the Japanese can not do, because it' not true.

  44. If the Republican have their way, American will resemble Europe in the not too distant future. An aging population, fewer children to take the places of retired workers, and a large cohort of immigrants that have not been assimilated into American culture and with no loyalties to the US. The only major difference will be the American seniors will be much poorer than their European counterparts as a result of conservative economic policies that will beggar the middle class of America.

  45. I find it hard to believe someone could go to Japan and say there aren't enough people.

    Furthermore, anyone who appreciates Japanese culture, and that includes most Japanese people, would fail to understand how 10 million gaijin citizens would improve it.

  46. Japan is pride itself on xenophobia as a strength, the national government carries a huge deficits whereby nearly all its debts are to the citizens of Japan.

    Perhaps it needs to adopt a new policy of nationalism: Japanese products are for Japanese only, not for export. Let's see how long can it last.

  47. Wow, a government valuing the quality of life and employment opportunities of the citizens of its own country over strangers, what a novel idea.

  48. I've been to Japan and marveled at the tiny houses in Osaka, wondering how it is that anybody could accept such cramped living conditions. Japan's population density is 337 per square kilometer, compared to 139 in China and 32 per square kilometer in the US.

    So it is quite natural that Japan would want to limit its population growth and decrease its population slowly over time if possible. After all, being so densely populated, Japan is heavily dependent on importing of increasingly scarce natural resources, such as oil.

    To suggest that Japan faces a labor shortage makes no sense; after all, where do you put the extra people? Moreover, the NY Times seems to be arguing the conventional wisdom that economic growth is the way out of Japan's current economic woes, without realizing that the world has entered a new era in which economic stability will be recognized as more desirable.

    Consider the fact that Japan's unemployment rate is roughly half that of the US. Consider the fact that the Japanese have a universal health care system with citizens paying 30% of the cost that is far more effective than in the US.

    Americans tend to hold the unexamined and false belief that economic growth solves all problems, and immigration is always good because it increases the size of the workforce. The typical Japanese has a different viewpoint. And the illegal immigrants entering the US are not highly skilled and their demand for social services is sinking the fragile US safety net.

    Unskilled American workers see their wages plummet because they compete with illegal immigrants and the increasing population strains the educational system. The result is that Americans in the next generation will be less prepared to compete in the global economy. Immigration is also contributing to the growing disparity between rich and poor in the US. In a very real sense, too many are trying to climb aboard a limited number of lifeboats, causing many Americans to lose their jobs, lose their homes, and lose their lives in cases where they have chronic health conditions which diminished economic circumstances mean they have no way of paying for them.

    The bottom line is: Why should Americans be paying to rescue Mexico's citizens from poverty, when it cannot provide its own citizens with sound jobs?

    Japan has a far better solution to this problem. It shows a certain chauvinism for the NY Times to criticize an aspect of Japanese culture that works far better than our own.


  49. Typical pro-immigration hit-piece from the Times, short on facts, long on unsupported clichés and short-term capitalist thinking, and without any quotes from those on the side of the Japanese majority who don't want to see their homeland turn into another California or Brazil.

  50. Citizens of our nation identify with the principles enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. We don't seek a homogeneous racial or religious identity. During times of economic challenge it is all too easy to lose sight of our great blessing as a free people and focus on the bickering between the left and the right.

    In this new year let's commit ourselves to remembering why we love our country and every member of our society that in some way helps to make it possible; whether they share, or do not, our preferences for lower taxes or more government.

    We have big challenges to face in the years ahead. Jobs, budget woes, terrorism, etc. are not going away. But at least they are our challenges, not the prerogative of some King. Celebrate your neighbor that bothers to disagree. They care about our democracy enough to have a point of view. Maybe we can start by acknowledging that...

  51. Why can we not see the forest for the trees. The Japanese mentality of "Japan for the Japanese" is one of the key factors in its economic and political malaise; a malaise which has hampered the government for the past thirty years. What does that have to do with forests and trees you ask. If you want to see the continued decline of the United States economically, politically and intellectually, then continue to vote for those politicians who will continue to lead us by following our mass of the uninformed.

    I tell you that there is nothing you can do about this decline. We will continue in this state of denial so long as we believe the same doctrine, "America for Americans". This reality is stuck in reverse gear because the majority of us prefer the bliss which comes through atrophied ignorance; a belief that we don't need 'others'.

  52. Am I the only one who thinks that if we are welcoming their workers, they should welcome ours? These East Asian countries do not want a level playing field, but yet they still want entrepreneurial opportunities that preserve the huge trade deficit.

    Diversity is important, but Europe and America face the same problems. They can play by their own rules, but only if the UN and the rest of the world lets them suffer the consequences of their decisions without a bailout increased military subsidies when the eventual crisis hits them.

  53. What, they dont want millions of immigrants speaking a foreign language and demanding rights? How un-American....but then they arent American, are they?

  54. Kudos to the Japanese policy and its stands for traditional values to maintain the homogeneous race, language and culture. Why should any country adopt American immigration policy (if we have any) to weaken the labor force and education level by letting everyone come in.

    Not every country in the globe is embracing America's "anything goes" liberal leftist lifestyle, same sex marriage, disrespecting parents and elders, preoccupation with self-endulgence, drugs, and the melting pot of races, ethnic groups, languages, and culture.

  55. to bimmer in # 7 - while i don't know about china, but india is home to millions of illegal immigrants from neighboring countries like, bangladesh and nepal.

  56. It always amazes me that some people believe somehow being a "democray" can solve all the problems or should escape from criticism. I am pleased to read this report--by a very fair-minded reporter--which is critical of Japan's outdated immigration policy. Some commenters here are right, Japan is one of the most anti-foreigner countries. Yet, because it is a democracy, many people in the US often let it pass. Can you imagine if this were China? Incidentally, China is more open and welcoming to foreigners both working and living there, those of us have been to both countries will testify.

  57. In recent times the only 'nation-states' that have been FOUNDED by immigration (having wiped out the indigenous people) are US, Canada, and Australia/ New Zealand. All others are quite 'xenophobic' ... minor exceptions being the major colonial powers, UK, France, and to some extent the Netherlands and Italy. The latter get immigrants from the former colonies. Japan has long been xenophobic, and so self-centered that it is unlikely to accept immigration a la US. Unless it does it will indeed be a 'lost' civilization very soon; having westernized its cultural so much yet living with the xenophobia that it just doesnt work out.

  58. poor Japanese -- they have so many strange issues in their culture, and hold on to them so tightly! They can easily be made to feel societal shame to an incredible extreme, embarrassment, phobias. Perhaps the younger generations can just hope that when the bulk of today's old people die off, they'll be able to fix the backwards policies they left.

    Maybe there are lessons for our own country too? Postwar demographics unwilling to give up cushy jobs and make way for more innovative young people? Hmm?

  59. Japan has always been a homogeneous society that has never really been hospitable to immigration. Given their present situation, it would appear that their immigration policies are almost as out of touch as ours. They make it impossible for legal immigrants to stay and be productive while we do nothing to stop the flood of illegal immigrants who allegedly "will do the jobs that Americans won't do."

  60. As always 'demography rules'. For decades the Japanese leaders, and more astute members of the population, have known they face two extremes. One extreme is to let in a flood of foreign workers to make transfer payments in support of pension obligations. This is seen, correctly, as 'giving the country away'. The other extreme is to effectively raise the retirement age and reduce the pension payouts, thereby allowing Japan to remain Japanese. Anyone who has spent time there knows which one they will choose. And since their work ethic is stronger than their consumption ethic, it will work out quite well.

  61. It's a little bit sad what's happening to Japan, but it's a proud and resilient country, it needs leaders who will "open" it again before it fades to irrelevancy

  62. What I see, in this article, is exactly what the TP'ers and conservatives have long wanted for the USA. It amazes me that we Americans seem to be unable to see that (1) Religious dogma leads to zealots and intolerance. Kinda of odd when you stop to think about the new search techniques at the Airports. I could go on. (2) America is not tolerant of other races nor nationalities. While once it was crying for immigrants it now has built a wall along the south border! I seem to recall the outcry of disgusted politicians when Israel built it's wall.

    When I moved to France, I had young people, fresh out of school, tell me they wanted to go to America. When I asked why the answer was: Because it has opportunity for anyone who will work hard. 10 years later not one person in the past 6 years has told me they want to move to the USA. I think the last administration and the current TP'ers have pretty much let everyone know that they are not accepting applications for well educated and motivated young people.

  63. Curiously, do you think Japanese policy makers (responsible for this decision) realize that the Japanese would be unable or unwilling to accomodate immigrants?

    Some countries, such as the US and Canada, can handle the sometimes slow assimilation process of immigrants. Other countries, notably European countries, do it poorly.

    Maybe, the Japanese understand that the consequences of accepting immigrants which are going to be rejected by mainstream Japanese society are worse than other problems they face (such as population decline and worker related shortages), or, at the least, cannot solve the problems presented (in the article) without mainstream society accepting them.

    Maybe, also, if European countries were able to understand that they, too, are seemingly too racist and/or xenophobic to accept immigrants, they would be better off. That is, if Europeans had been able to access themselves honestly, that they are not tolerant but deeply petty and closed-minded, they would be better off: fewer ghettos, less ethnic tension, and likely fewer far-right political parties.

    Immigration, I think, is a solution to some and a problem for others. The evidence is clear. Cultural bias, in the US, and the delusion of a tolerant, welcoming society, in Europe, prevents this obvious reality from being understood.

  64. The issue should be broken down more carefully. In the health care field there may be some argument for immigration -- trained professionals are needed, and it would be tough to slot unemployed Japanese into those jobs. However, many (healthy) Japanese people say they would prefer robots to foreign care workers. For financial services, the situation is quite different: Japan's isolation from many of the financial trends of the past 10 years actually made it a much better place to live now than what the NYT will lead you to believe. There are plenty of Japanese financial services people; losing some of the "talented" opportunistic foreigners might be a good thing, on balance.

    Certainly there are reactionary elements, especially in the Japanese bureaucracies, who create obstacles to immigration. On the other hand, any country that encourages immigration solely for economic reasons exposes itself to political danger. That's especially true in Northeast Asia, where the most likely economic immigrants also come from countries (particularly China) that whip up anti-Japanese sentiment when it's politicaly expedient. If immigrants could be encouraged to come to Japan in order to become part of Japanese society, rather than for economic opportunism, that might be a better foundation. Unfortunately, the current generation of politicians in Japan lack the vision for such a project.

  65. Japan is a very small, overpopulated country with limited resources. I am astounded that there would even be an article suggesting that they increase their immigration. Their aging population is not a burden to a culture that honors the elderly. They will find a way to care for the aged, and it is really none of our business to judge their decision to retain a homogenous society. I envy the idea that their politicians actually listen to the populace rather than cave in to the businessmen who would, no doubt, love to drag in cheap labor.

  66. There are enormous benefits in the long run for a society to shrink when its land and resources are as limited as Japan's. The islands are only so big and many people simply couldn't afford to have children or live a comfortable life. A rational solution is shrinking the population and future japanese will be thankful for it because they'll still have forests and affordable food. America has not solved the problems of immigration, it has simply refused to adress them and allowed for a dog eats dog society among its lower classes. Japan has quietly chosen to avoid all that and roll back the clock on the enormous crowding its been suffering for years.

  67. In the long run, Japan's shrinking population will be good for the environment. There will be less pollution, less fishing of near extinct fish like blue fin tuna, etc.

    It might seem like a good thing to see populations to keep on increasing but in actuality the world would be better off with a lot less people since its resources are not infinite.

    If anything, its overpopulation like you see in China, India and even the USA that will lead to future wars for ever dwindling resources.

  68. Can't people just cross the border and start working there?
    If not, I suspect racism, or something more sinister!

  69. Just a note to the journalist...Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien are not different languages. Cantonese and Hokkien are dialects with their root from the various regions in China. Mandarin is the official 'language' but there are many dialects. So that guy from Malaysia could speak 3 languages supplemented by 2 chinese dialects. I'm being picky but the whole chinese dialect versus language thing is always a little confusing.

  70. "Experts" say? Quoted are people who profit from sponsoring immigrants. Now the Times is telling OTHER countries to open their borders? Honestly, it's up to Japan to make its immigration policy, just as it's up to the US to make its own.

  71. The United States needs to turn away immigrants and eject millions of illegal immigrants right now.

  72. For those who continue to chastise those Americans who reject ILLEGAL immigration, remember, it is ILLEGAL immigrations that we reject. Most of us have little or no problem with legal immigrants. Our nation must maintain LEGAL immigration in order to provide the necessary future workforce. Our nation, is truly, made stronger by our diversity. NO other nation on Earth has the diversity that the United States has. Do we have problems. Yes, but our population and immigration problems are minor when compared to China, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, etc. These nations, are the ones that many people, in their never ending attempt to discredit the United States, attempt to portray as accepting of immigrants, are in reality, less than stellar in their acceptance of immigrants. Japan has immense population problems. It is their decision how they deal with it. Time will tell whether they were right or wrong.

  73. This is China's future as well: it is next to impossible to immigrate to China and become a Chinese citizen. China too has a collapsing birth rate, and will in the next 50 years look a lot like Japan: too many old people, too few young people, and no logical immigration policy to stem the demographic decline.

    For this reason, and several others, the United States is unique among major industrialized nations: it has a national history of successful immigration, and even though we are in the midst of an anti-immigrant phase (like the 1920s), this too shall pass.

    Long term, the United States will continue to grow faster than other industrial nations, thanks in part to our ability to welcome immigrants (other positive factors: huge landmass, the highest energy reserves of any industrial nation, and a political system that's still better than most at negotiating change).

    Japan is collapsing. China is following a similar growth curve.

    And we are not.

  74. @1. America has always been a place for the rejects.. who were thankful to have that chance to prove the world wrong. Whatever you are trying to say, it comes across as bitter, nasty and ungrateful.

  75. Around the world people harbor xenophobic, if not completely racist, opinions. Japan is no different. Many in Japan dislike foreigners, while many others there enjoy other cultures. Looks like the haters run things.

  76. This article outlines a convincing need in Japan for nurses and then unconvincingly generalizes it as a homogeneous labor shortage in Japan across all industries. How is it that Japan has both a labor shortage AND their college graduates cant find jobs? What I understand is that Japan has a nursing shortage (not unlike we do in the US) and a large population of people moving into retirement (again not unlike we do in the US). If Japan (or the US) wants my opinion, the smart thing to do would be to open the borders to qualified nurses, particularly because the Japanese themselves (and the US) are not willing to fill the need. I don't see how - we need nurses, therefore we should let everyone and anyone in - makes any sense.

  77. Before I graduated I would constantly tell friends 'Don't go to Japan for a career, go there just so that you can tell American, Chinese and European companies you have international experience'. With problems ranging from a criminal justice system that favors prosecution and makes it difficult for immigrants, political stagnation, an unwillingness to change corporate models that don't work and deeply entrenched sexism I can't think of any reason to want to live in Japan.
    On another note, to the people who question why Japan would want to encourage immigration I have to ask you 'where do you think the power of America's economy comes from'? Low paid immigrant workers perform much of the needed labor in factories and farms and high paid expert immigrants come to this country with degrees in physics, medicine, business and engineering, also bringing with them new ideas for those fields. If we established a ban on immigrants of the sort that some far right politicians have suggested we'd quickly see massive backlash in the economy.

  78. The Japanese can run their country any way they want and if they want to run their country right into the ground, that is their prerogative. Japan is a prime example of a decrepit, jury rigged political system that does not want to make the tough decisions that need to be made so that the country can survive let alone prosper. We witnessed the Liberal Democratic Party - in fact, neither Democratic nor Liberal - squander Japan's cash reserves - trillions of dollars' worth of it - on gleaming but unneeded public works projects in order to shore up employment and buy votes with taxpayer money. Now, with a demographic winter about to occur, Japan blithely continues its anti immigration policies, shutting out the very individuals who could help.

    Japan's perennial problem throughout her history has been political leadership that is as mediocre, cautious, inward looking as it is arrogant. And that institutionalizes these characteristics at every opportunity. The Meiji Restortion was an aberration as well as a flash in the pan. The Japanese people is a great people but they are done in by their own political leadership.

    I am critizing Japan as a friend. Because I believe that friends are not friends if they don't criticize something that is seriously wrong. We Americans have our own problem with our short-sighted, vote trolling, pandering political leadership and I have no doubt that some Japanese will tell me to mind my own business. As I had said earlier, Japan is their country not mine and that is the bottom line.

  79. @19 Are we really in a position to tell other countries how to run themselves. Lets take another look at ourselves before we do that next time. We really need to shed the misbelief, that we are open to all ideas but ours are the best.

  80. Unless the elderly are to work until they die, with declining birth rates, nations like Japan are dependent upon immigrants, or, like the Middle Eastern emirates, indentured servitude.

    I remind you that that type of locked future is precisely what drew our forebears to the US (recent or long ago) which threw off those shackles in 1776.

  81. " fall of Japan "
    i have heard of it since ancient times.
    how long should we wait for that happens.
    in fact, whenever crisis happened, Japan was able to shift its course to overcome.
    Japanese history just amazes me.

    Japan is not xenophobia.
    Japan is a responsible nation. It is so responsible that they feel that it is difficult for non Japanese to take care of or inherit its culture and customs.
    Japan would gladly welcome anyone that willingly inherits its tradition.
    but Japan would reject anyone that disrespects it.

  82. These exams are designed to fail nursing students. The whole scheme is designed to pull young nurses (which is a lower class job in most of Asia) into Japan with promises of a new and better life only to extract their labor and then discard them for the next younger crowd of nursing aspirants. Why else would a country, which counts a person as fully employed when one day in any four month period is worked, import nurse labor? Why" B/C the local folks would rather NOT do the job!!

    On this issue Japan needs to face demographic and economic reality. If these young ladies are good enough to care for your elders and sick then they are good enough to immigrate and settle in Japan!!!

    For all of Japan's admirable points, their hostility toward non-Japanese, not always apparent, hovers just under the surface especially when immigration is at issue!!!

    As an old Asian hand it must be said, the Japanese deflation and de-population should be a huge flashing warning sign to all countries seeking to stem the tide of human talent.

    Robert
    Washington, DC

  83. Japan has a ready source of highly-educated, native speakers who are pushed out of the labor force -- mothers. Between the tax subsidies to families of stay-at-home mothers; the acute lack of day-care which keeps women at home until their skills are too old; and a corporate culture which requires insane hours for most workers, making it too difficult for mothers and holding their husbands hostage at the office, meaning they are unable to help, Japanese culture pretty much requires that women quit work and stay home when they have children.

  84. Kudos to the Japanese policy and its stands for traditional values to maintain the homogeneous race, language and culture.

  85. In an area smaller than California's Japan has three times as many people. Why should they try to stop that number from shrinking? Why should they encourage immigrants? Better to learn to cope with an aging population than to cram still more people into their overcrowded islands.

    The number of people in the world cannot be permitted to grow forever. Eventually we will all be in the same situation as Japan

  86. If Japan supported allowing married women with children to continue working, they would *have* a population problem!

    The reason young people don't want to marry and have children in Japan is the tremendous pressure on the woman to quit work after children. So young women live at home, reject marriage and children, and spend their time in their careers and shopping.

    Hence the populating shrinks.

    They don't need immigration - they need *children*. And until they realize that, they'll continue to dwindle as a people.

  87. One reason Japan should consider allowing more immmigrants is to lower costs for consumers.

    Immigration has been a tremendous source of vitality in the U.S. economy and benefits us all, right-wing rhetoric notwithstanding.

  88. Perhaps Japan recognizes that global oil production has peaked and that nations that downsize pro-actively will be most viable in the new reality.

    I came across a 2002-03 Colorado School of Mines report that cited 2010 as the likely year for peak oil. Some say we peaked in 2006.

    As production has peaked, consumption in the U.S. has continued to rise while Japan's consumption has been flat for the past decade.

    All of the industrialized nations could be facing social dislocations as our access to energy declines.

    It took hundreds of millions of years for oil to form and only two centuries to burn it up. We may need to renew our acquaintance with the horse.

  89. So Japan's shrinking population is bad news, is it? Leave it to the media to highlight the negative aspects of every trend.

    Perhaps if Indonesia (and China and India and Mexico, etc) would control their own population growth, their people wouldn't have to emigrate to find jobs. Maybe other countries should follow Japan's example.

  90. Japan is protecting its own workers. The US should do the same. Those arguing against this probably have never had to depend on wages to survive. Or have forgotten those years.

  91. It seems like letting in more immigrants is a bad short term solution anyway. You just need more and more in order to grow and grow, it's unsustainable in the long run!

  92. To all those posting here praising the homogenous Asian cultures that don't easily embrace immigrants, along with a rebuke of America's "melting pot", please recognize that many of those societies are centuries old.
    There is actually a distinct culture.
    Unlike the USA, which is a young country, built on the foundation of immigration. If America had to be homogenous, only the Native Americans would be legitimate residents.
    Everyone else - back to the Mayflower descendants - would have to head back.

  93. Brazil did not send the Japanese back to Japan in the last century!So much for gratitude...Fortunately,there are more opportunities now in Brazil than in Japan. And a better weather! Things do change, don't they?

  94. What you are going to read may appear to be racist and in US it is politically incorrect. I am in total agreement with Japanese people and government to make immigration into their country restrictive.

    The rational of such policy, like in Japan’s historical past, is to keep ethnic homogeneity intact. The country even though hasn’t put that policy in black and white, its motivation force is as strong as it is weak in lacking human moral obligation to love all people. The silence on such policy nevertheless is translated fully in action.

    It is understandable Japan would become a laughing stock in wanting to keep its ethnicity pure when the rest of the world is going global that is including immigration. Japan picks what serves the country and discard the rest. Again, historically, Japan always had done that. A resource scare place runs their life practically and efficiently.

    It is this kind of rationality that bases on practicality and efficiency one must admire Japan’s seemingly counter moves. The country needs workforce working in farm, factory and hospital in the continuing decline in its growth in population. Japan still wants to maintain quality as always.

    The fiercely guarded quality control mentality infuses into all aspects of life – from being a baker that subjects to most stringent training in both technical and attitude to building a car. The quality of goods and service pay off for Japan’s survival. In fact rest of the world welcomes what Japan has to offer and making it the second largest world economy for decades. The real economic power is earning per capita which Japan still ranks first.

    Japanese seems to be never loss in sight of in one of the principles being human – striving for the best. The adherence to quality will continue the survival of Japan. It is easy to overlook Japan’s preparation of using artificial intelligence and robots to filling the vacancy at workplaces.

    On the other end of spectrum in migration policy that across the Pacific Ocean, US’s modern immigration policy, opening its door wide open which we can witness the very quick decline from its strength since the 50s of the last century. It is good to be politically correct, but immigration is about others from other places. A country exists upon similar values that behold by its people.

    A porous border with ‘others’ -- rich and poor come and go or stay, is gambling on wishing the country would become better. Unfortunately US’s gamble has loss its quality and strength.

    At least, Japan is doing correctly. Its people and culture will survive and we the rest of the world will gain from its uniqueness in culture and innovations as well. How envy we must be.

    John Yuan
    January 3, 2011

  95. If only the U.S. would adopt a similar policy, we might have a shot at saving the middle class. Immigration doesn't have to be stopped completely but H1B visas need to go away. And we need to significantly decrease the number of immigrants, period. We need a policy similar to Canada's, where immigrants are allowed into the country based on what they can do for the country.

  96. Imagine that - a country standing up for the interests of its citizens and workers. A country that puts its policy where its mouth is when it comes to keeping workplace pay and conditions high. It sounds almost quaint here in the U.S., where we allow large corporations to dictate our guest worker and immigration policies. Something tells me that Japan will do just fine without "needed" foreign workers. If demand for workers gets high enough its young people might just get paid enough to move out of their parents home and start families of their own.

  97. Japan is certainly desperately short of nurses, especially in rural areas, and will become more so in the future. Personally, as long as he or she is a good nurse, I don't care where they're from. The restrictions don't help anyone, and the effect on nurses' wages of this rather limited immigration is hugely exaggerated by the Japanese nurses union.

  98. I have to disagree slightly with number 25. The Chinese may be an exception. the ease with which work permits are allowed for Americans and Europeans indicates a certain openness in their society. They also seem more willing to intermarry. If China is to gain world influence it must become less insular and welcome the rest of the world. to some degree china seems to be doing so.

  99. Having travelled to Japan, I don't see why they need to open their doors up to massive immigration. I didn't see any of the poor ethnic ghettos that are all too common to those western countries that have opened themselves up to mass immigration. Besides, Japan is a very densely populated country - it's probably better that it's population shrinks a bit. More is not always better, especially with dwindling natural resources and massive overpopulation around the world.

  100. They want to stay Japanese.. is that really so bad? Imagine a whole world where everyone ate Mcdonalds and spoke English....

  101. The Japanese are not dumb, they understand what is happening; but they feel conflicted on how to resolve it. They feel by allowing their population to decline they are helping themselves in the long run and solving one of the countries major problems. they also feel that by having too many foreigners they are weakening their own place in the world (not just politically but also as an identity). I feel that they simple haven’t decided on how to solve it yet and until they do their not going to simply relax on both social and economic issues. Their best chance is immigration, but until they absolutely have no choice they will continue to look for other solutions to a growing problem.

  102. I was able to drive the first year I came to Japan on an international driver's license, with no accidents or tickets. But when I tried to convert my license to a Japanese license, I was unable to pass the driving test, twice, and then I ran out of time to do the conversion, so now it would cost me, literally, thousands of dollars to get my license, just as it does Japanese citizens. I'm a good driver, with no traffic violations or serious accidents in the U.S. Luckily, the big cities have excellent public transportation.

    There is some racism here, but it's usually subtle (like the occasional person getting up and moving when you sit down on the subway) and most people are polite. I've only had one, probably drunken, person, who overheard me speaking to one of my students in English, yell at me to speak Japanese (and I told him, in Japanese, that my Japanese is not very good, but I'm learning - which shut him right up).

    Many Japanese people are very open to foreign things and people, at least on a superficial level. Jazz, western food, western clothing, golf, beer, and even foreign cars, are very popular. Don't expect a stranger to start a conversation with you though...

    I assume, just as in the U.S., that most of the jobs done by foreign workers here are high turnover jobs that most native workers don't want, due to low wages or poor working conditions. That seems to be the case, and this includes taking care of people in nursing homes, like the nurse in the article.

  103. Japan is losing population, and the population is aging. Birth rates are very low because young Japanese women aren't real interested in traditional roles. They like working and having control of their lives, and it is still the case that they are generally expected to become housewives once married. Yes, there are unemployed, but a much smaller percentage than in many places right now - a little over 5%. They need skilled medical labor, but are turning it away. That's self-defeating. Even if you don't want to let immigrants in forever, it makes sense to keep them at least until some of the unemployed people are trained. Or Japanese students graduate with appropriate degrees. Whose going to feed Matsumaru-san his gruel?

  104. They have lot of problems of their own on jobs, old age and marriages which is known to all. They must now allow highly skilled persons and young labors from countries who know visibly the meanings of "Peaceful Co-existence". Japanese are well mannered and morally good people. We do not see any visible human rights issue in their country so they deserve and must accept foreign labor. Remember, before it was all Made in Germany, Made in Japan and now it is Made in China. Japan surely needs outsiders to boost their goods.

  105. There have been recent movements in Japan (Net Group in general, Zaitokukai in particular) that are extremely and openly anti-foreign. They remain fringe groups as of this posting.

    On October 3, 2009, Zaitokukai staged a protest over foreigners wearing Halloween costumes. The sign said in Japanese “This is not a white country.” It has become a sort of tradition in Tokyo for ex-pats to dress up and ride the Yamanote train during Halloween.

    In August of 2010, four members of the same group were arrested for harassing a Korean student outside a school in Kyoto.

    Matoko Sakurai (an assumed name and not his real one) is the president and leader of the Zaitokukai. He has publically stated that the movement is not racist. He and his followers have modeled their group ironically after a similar foreign movement – the Tea party in the US.

    Sakurai said he had studied videos of Tea Party protests and shared with the Tea Party an angry sense that his nation had gone in the wrong direction because it had fallen into the hands of leftist politicians, liberal media as well as foreigners.

  106. gbalasubnyt: You are sadly misinformed. I'm an American who has been living and working in China for 5 years now, and have traveled extensively throughout Asia. 1) There is a severe job shortage in China; most university graduates cannot find jobs, and when they do, it's low-end jobs often not related to their majors. China still operates on a system of "guanxi": If you are connected to a powerful person, you will get an okay job. That is to say, it is not a system of merit at all. 2) The Chinese education system does not reward nor recognize talent, critical thinking, or innovation. China's "best and brightest" are those who have one skill in common: the ability to pass tests, the ability to memorize and to regurgitate information. That is, these are people who have climbed the ladder exactly *because* they are uncritical and not innovative or creative thinkers. Meanwhile, American universities are filled with those Chinese who are eager to experience something new, and who are open to new concepts.

    The sad thing is, so many in America (particularly the right wing) want to restructure and model the US education system on China's, when *everyone* in China knows that theirs is a failure and must become like America's.

  107. Just as building more freeway landes does not solve traffic congestion (because studies have shown that cars will fill up new lanes as soon as they are built), turning on full the spigot of immigrants does not guarantee panacea to Japan (or any other nation, for that matter).

    Take a look at Germany, Norway and Sweden. The three nations continue to thrive as industrial powerhouses (they still manufacture stuff for export) with highest per capita income in the world, whose women just aren't willing to bear children, despite governmental incentives. In fact, post-9/11, these nations are actively examining new policies that will shut off the spigot going forward AND reduce the few that they did receive in the past decades.

    In researching for her article, why the author did not compare and contrast Japan to these more-comparable nations, I have no explanation.

    As for the United States, simply because something worked at one time or another does not mean it will always work. To think otherwise is to worship false gods. We are not as young or as sparsely populated as we once were 200 years ago.

  108. Open borders and the free movement of peoples is the future. Japanese intransigence just guarantees they will be further left behind that they already have been. There is no such thing as illegal immigration, it is a human birthright since time immemorial to move anywhere one wants if they've got the means to do so. Governments just get in the way of this due to their people's racism and xenophobia.

  109. I am so glad that a significant majority of readers is recommending the comments, e.g. (so far), #s 3,7,10,12,14, 15,16,20 ... which, for various good reasons, have expressed appreciation for Japan's existing immigration policy. Bravo, Japan!

  110. All and all I wish we would emulate Japan, but we have no chance to do that with Wall Street money calling the shots.

  111. Despite of stagnant economy, Japan remains one of the most technologically advanced country in the world. It has ceded the title of second largest economy to China, primarily due to its population size. Otherwise China is not expected to catch up Japan in innovation in foreseeable future.

    I am sure Japan will take aging population and workers shortage problem as opportunity and make herself even more technologically advanced. Increasing use of robots by the elderly japanese is an example.
    In USA, if the farm workers are barred from immigration, I am sure it will spawn waves of innovation resulting in greater mechanization and automation in the farms.

  112. Good for Japan! Let us copy them, for a change...

  113. Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien are all dialects of one language--Chinese.

  114. The Japanese approach seems like a desirable one if nations are to survive the globalization of corporations. It is globalized corporations that are causing most of the problems in the USA, apart from the two wars of course. But we don’t mention the wars do we?
    National sovereignty is at risk. Global corporations in the USA are naturally enough pursuing profits so they outsource low and mid-level jobs to countries where wages are lower. This means that the USA loses jobs and infrastructure investment, which move elsewhere, to China for instance.
    This suits only those wealthy Americans that own the corporations and politicians that have been bought by the corporations. Eventually this globalization will presumably result in global equality. As jobs are exported from America wages drop in the USA and rise in China. Things will even out but it will be a long and difficult time of adjustment for the USA and other wealthy nations. It is particularly difficult for the USA, wealthy socialist nations like Canada and Australia find it easier because they have social safety nets in place.
    Of course national hegemony will diminish; America and every other nation will eventually be ruled by the global corporations, who pay the politicians.
    In the meantime America look forward to a long and hard decline to the global average unless you want to try what Japan is doing, but the global corporations, some of which are Japanese, will not like that.

  115. Why do people assume that an economy is of a fixed size? To a large degree, more people = more demand = more potential jobs to be created filling it. And heterogeneity of demand helps too, because there are more total things the economy can make. This idea that an additional worker automatically takes a job from someone else ignores the processes by which jobs are created. For goodness sake, more local demand is good. Every major economy in the world can't rely on America supplying its demand. China has been moving rather aggressively to fill that role anyhow, so it your economy is export dominated and based upon selling largely to the US, you'd better start rethinking your position in the world ASAP. Unless you think China's just going to magically disappear, of course.

    And yes, America's immigrants *do* keep it vibrant. In fact, there was just a great article in the NY Times within the last year about how some of the areas in the US that see the most job growth are those with the most immigration (and not just the "highly skilled" ones). It's easy to fall into zero-sum thinking if you're not careful, but it's also very easy to be flat out wrong.

    Besides, warning of the supposed perils of having mixed populations is such late 19th century European thought. Really, the world doesn't cease to function the moment one has different ethnicities present alongside them. Even Germany, the symbol of the racial/ethnic purity ideal during WWII, relied on a VERY large pool of immigrant workers to power its economic expansion afterward.

  116. As Americans' standard of living plummets, with it's pro-immigration, race to the bottom approach, we criticize a country whose policies boast a wonderful standard of living, a still thriving manufacturing base, and an infrastructure that we should envy. Oh, and lest we forget that their health care system makes ours look like an utter and complete joke. What's wrong with this picture and where do we get the nerve? I'd give my right arm to live in a society like Japan's. But they won't have me and I don't blame them. They take care of their own first.

  117. This is a serious and ongoing problem! If this continue ....not only will it affect manufacturing, social/medical services but also the economy that sustains Japan. It is possible they might wait decades before trying to fix the problem(open their borders) by that time the damage toward the essence of Japan may be partially irreversible. Some of the cultural aspects of Japan maybe lost if this trend continues. Since you're asking 1 person to do the job of multiple people in decades to come.
    Other countries like China also has serious problems in decades as millions of male children will lack brides ....thus the influx of immigrants girls will be enormous. Plus in Africa ....a large amount of children are growing up without parents due to AIDS. We do not fully understand how these event will affect everything globaly in the next century or so.

  118. We should NOT talk harshly about Japanese decisions on their workforce and criticizing them as a falling empires has 1 finger pointing at them and 4 fingers from our own hand point back at our American empire.

    Remember, we helped them frame their Constitutions. They are like us in a sense.

  119. Japan has a unique culture, and take pride in being a 'pure' society and people. Personally not my cup of tea but then I'm not Japanese. Quit thinking Japan is apart of the West or a little America. Evidently the Japanese want nothing to do with the multiculturalism that is awash in the world today, from sports to music to the workplace. To my knowledge Japan is the only country that successfully exterminated its Christian population because of its foreign origins so they can remain Japanese. That's some resolve, and doomsday warnings of a 'stagnant' economy, or declining standard of living won't change their minds. We'll see what history decides for them, but Westerners shouldn't whine about Japan not wanting 'to be like us'.

  120. Let's see - America already has virtually unlimited immigration. How has that worked out for our economy? Oh yeah, record unempolyment and a rotten economy. I'll bet Paul Krugman would agree - immigration solves all problems.

  121. Japan automatically removes Japanese citizenship from its nationals who have acquired citizenship in another country like the US. This discourages these individuals from returning to Japan even if they want to because they will be considered foreigners. One way Japan could address its declining population is to allow dual citizenship to encourage these Japanese nationals to return.

  122. Japan may not feel a multi-ethnic society is necessary to maintain itself as a viable economic power or as a vibrant nation, and indeed may choose, over the long term, to take the smaller-is-better route. But so far, the country's leaders have failed to demonstrate that they can make that a viable model for their shrinking society, either. The immigration discussion is predicated on an assumption that a certain manufacturing/productivity and economic status quo must be maintained, but is that really the case?

    With regards to the nursing situation in particular, clearly there is a great deal of obstructionism going on--but the fact is, the national nursing exam has not grown in difficulty in response to attempts by various groups to bring in foreign nurses. It is pretty much what it's always been (and, actually, is slated to become a bit easier in the next couple of years); the difficulty arises with candidates lacking adequate ability with the Japanese language itself, often coming from cultures where advanced Japanese language education with a focus on the medical professions is not widely available. This is still primarily a monolingual society, and those caring for the growing elderly population that will be the main target of care must be able to communicate in the Japanese language. This is not obstructionist, or anti-immigration--it's a simple fact. Our NPO here works with nursing schools at major universities in China, helping to develop a curriculum that incorporates Japanese language training in 4- and 5-year nursing programs; by the time the students graduate, they have already passed the top level of the Japanese language proficiency test, and can then focus on a 12 to 18-month curriculum focused specifically on the national nursing exam. Chinese candidates have an obvious advantage with reading and writing the language, though speaking Japanese is no less challenging, but 90% of the nurse trainees we have brought over in the past three years have passed the national exam on their first try, and are now on long-term contracts with hospitals here (the government has also recently announced it will relax the maximum-stay restrictions that prevented nurses and other medical professionals from working beyond a three-year contract). So there is some positive news.

  123. Japan is like an aging and ailing Aristocrat who refuses to marry his daughters to anyone below their status, i.e. commoners, despite the fact that his family is dying out.

    He hopes to marry them to mechanical robots, alas, that way it is less threatening to him.

    Humans will be humans, some rather die in fear than facing the hard truths.

  124. Japan's fear of immigrants is quite understandable as everyone can see how Europe is struggling to deal with its Muslim population, and Israel's demographic existential angst deepens with growing Palestinian population stats both inside and outside of its borders. Even Canada continues to have the spectacle of devout Quebec separatists having a seat in parliament at the Federal level.

    China is not as xenophobic as the Japanese for many reasons. With China's huge population a trickle of immigrants will be readily absorbed into the mainstream. Chinese also demonstrated a readiness to adopt imported goods and cultures through her long history, earning a higher self-confidence.

  125. @Michael in Hokkaido Mountains

    Just b/c children shout "Gaijin" or stare, it's not necessarily out of spite and is often more out of curiosity/excitement.

    And sure there is some xenophobia/anti-foreigner sentiment in Japan, but let's get real, non-Japanese Asians (Chinese, Viets, etc.) and blacks generally get treated WORSE than whites.

    @mark

    The Koreans and Han Chinese have some of the highest outmarriage rates (mostly to Asians of other ethnicities).

    The US had long been a mix of various European ethnicities, much less blacks, native Americans and even some Asians (a group of Fil sailors ended up settling in New Orleans during the 1700s).

    And oh, according to the "enlightened" far-right, there isn't much difference among the various (East) Asian ethnicities.