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Home » Archives » July 2006 » Designing the International Society - The Justice Ministry Plans Future Immigration

Designing the International Society - The Justice Ministry Plans Future Immigration

Monday, July 17, 2006 Posted: 02:43 PM JST

(by Arudou Debito) - Last month, Dietmember and Senior Vice Minister of Justice Taro Kono publicized a new action plan for immigration. Entitled "Regarding Future Acceptance of Foreigners" (kongo no gaikokujin no ukeire ni tsuite), it offered several policy propositions for Japan's future as an international society. This column will summarize the proposal and offer a critique.

GLIMPSE THE FUTURE

The seven-page plan offers eight sections on: increasing the quality and qualification of imported foreign workers, Immigration and naturalization procedures, assimilation and secure working conditions, law enforcement, and international exchange. (More detailed quick translation)

It encourages a less random intake of low-wage Nikkei laborers, in favor of people with higher degrees of skill and qualification. It proposes the influx come from countries with more established guest worker systems, and go into job markets designated as needing foreign labor.

It requires workers have some degree of Japanese ability, with periodical evaluations. Continued employment would be contingent upon language improvement.

Likewise, children of foreign workers would have compulsory education, requiring attendance in school for continued residency of the family.

Pointing out the contributions of foreign residents to Japanese society, and the shortcomings of Japan at offering them secure jobs, the plan says the government should find out more about foreign residents' livelihoods.

Fortunately, it goes beyond mere platitudes to offer concrete prescriptions: Give foreign residents equal pay for equal skill levels of work. Cover them equally under pension and social welfare plans. Assist long-term foreign residents to stay longer.

It even recommends loosening requirements for Permanent Residency and naturalization.

But all is not carrots. Sticks: Immigration should rationalize its application and registration system. Government bodies dealing with foreigners should coordinate information. And foreigners of all stripes (including Permanent Residents) should be tracked more efficiently.

For example, foreigners (and their employers) should inform the government whenever they change jobs. This would nip overstaying in the bud.

Sagely, however, the plan demands punishing companies and "schools" that create and/or employ overstayers. It specifically mentions revising the "Entertainer Visa" category, and cracking down on abuses [like sexual slavery and human trafficking][1] in the water trades.

It concludes with old kokusaika chestnuts: increased tourism, exchange student programs with scholarships, and working holidays.

A CRITIQUE

Quite frankly, when I started reading this document, I braced myself for the typical policy rhetoric of "man the barricades, save our country from the alien hordes!"

After all, one of its recommendations, which made headlines last month, is to limit foreigners to 3% of the total population (excluding Zainichi Japan-born generational foreigners, such as the ethnic Koreans and Chinese).

But I have to admit, I found a lot of things to cheer.

The first is the proposal's tone. Instead of portraying immigration as a threat, the tack was more "protect and serve those who are here now, adjust filters for future intake, and recognize foreign labor's contributions to Japanese society".

Activists have been clamoring for these things for decades. Looks as though they're finally getting through.

For example, in Section Seven, "Providing the Basis for the Livelihood of Foreigners" (gaikokujin no seikatsu kibon no seibi), it brings up the need to "guarantee rational rights" (gouriteki na kenri no hoshou), particularly in terms of housing and living environment (juukyo tou seikatsu kankyou).

Not bad. Although it's unclear whether this means creating any anti-discrimination laws, it's better than having these issues not mentioned at all.

It even advocates recognizing the "Zainichi" generational foreigners as residents, the same as Japanese (although it stopped short of saying that foreigners should get a juuminhyou Residency Certificate, the same as Japanese).

YAH BOO BITS

But let's not get too Pollyanna. Plenty of proposals are problematic, and if not thought through, will ultimately undermine the effectiveness of future policy.

For example, the language requirement. I basically agree with the compulsory education of immigrants. Anyone who lives in Japan should become as fluent in Japanese as possible. The alternative--functional illiteracy and a lifetime of limited communication with society--will severely limit one's ability to control their fate.

However, who provides and evaluates this language education? If it is the employer, alarm bells. Any nasty boss could report "insufficient Japanese" to Immigration as a means of sanction or firing (something I have personally experienced). Standards should be made clear even at this early stage. I recommend free government language classes and independent evaluation (such as through the nihongo kentei shiken).

Also, about the compulsory education of foreign children. What systems are in place for those who face bullying at school, and cannot for psychological reasons attend? Will whole families be kicked out of Japan just because their kids got a raw draw of classmates or teacher? I suggest the Ministry of Education offer educational alternatives (by accrediting more ethnic schools), and promote counseling (with ethnic counselors) for children who have trouble fitting in.

On that note, let's hope these proposals will avoid bad habits. Education was used as a weapon a century ago, a la the douka seisaku, where "Japanization" was an attempt to eliminate cultures (such as Ainu, Okinawan, and Korean). With recent moves to enforce patriotism in Japanese schools, it is unclear how multiculturalism can coexist.

Probably better if the government ensures all children have an education, not force all children to have specifically a "Japanese education".

Also, we must keep a flinty eye on the new policing proposals. As the Community Page has frequently pointed out, the National Police Agency has used any policy drive regarding foreigners as an excuse for bent laws, public denigration, racial profiling, snitch websites, even forensic research based upon racist premises (January 13, 2004).

A clearer system of civil-rights checks and balances must be established to stop police overstepping their authority, encouraging xenophobia and harassment under the pretense of law enforcement.

And of course, the arbitrary 3% foreign population cap is sky pie. Not only does it apparently assume that current foreign residents will not reproduce, but it also flies in the face of the enormous pressures on Japan, both economic and demographic, to reckon with a future of immigration in the first place.

Under present average rates of foreigner growth, I calculate it will take 30 years for the "newcomer" foreign population to break 3%. (This assumes, erroneously, that neither the Japanese nor the Zainichi populations will drop.)

Japan's multiculturalization will happen. But neither as a tsunami nor in a way so conveniently calculated. And not within the political lives of current politicians.

So lose the cap. Stop making sops to the sweaty heads. You might undo all good intentions by creating abusive policy based upon eugenics (as history indicates happens in these situations).

FINAL ADVICE--KEEP IT SIMPLE!

If our mandarins are truly interested in getting feedback from the general public, particularly from the international residents whom this policy will affect, they should render the Japanese as simply as possible. Japanese with furigana at a minimum, translation into an official U.N. language as a courtesy. At least use touyou kanji. Instead, we got a flowery introduction with obscure words. Put it in plain language, and you'll get plain speaking.

Still, all in all, I believe this policy trial balloon is a step in the right direction. What do readers think? This policy will affect you, so let the MOJ know how you feel (see Sidebar). By this Saturday, July 15.

Text with full links at http://www.debito.org/japantimes071106.html

Keywords: opinion_item

*   *   *



2 comments so far post your own

1 | At 10:31pm on Jul 24 2006, Teddy Allanah wrote:
Dear Sir,

I think this is a drive in the right direction.

Many people look to Japan for their laudable archievemnts,not only in Technology,humanity at large.

As the second richest country in the world,we look forward to their kind contribution to the less priviledged and promoting the good name of Japan to the outside world.

Many thanks,

Teddy Allanah
2 | At 05:32pm on Aug 06 2006, chetan sharma wrote:
Being an Indian, I request you to read this mail to the end...

PLEASE DON'T BREAK THE ONWARD MOVEMENT OF THIS MAIL. WE SEND ANY SILLY
MAILS TO OUR FRIENDS WHICH COMPEL ONE TO FORWARD BY SAYING THAT IT MAY
HARM YOU IF YOU WON'T DO SO. BUT HERE IT IS NOTHING LIKE THAT, IT WILL
ONLY BE YOU WHO WILL FEEL SATISFIED IF YOU WILL CONTRIBUTE TO THE
CAUSE.

Lt. Saurabh Kalia of 4 JAT Regiment of the Indian Army laid down his
life at the young age of 22 for the nation while guarding the frontiers
at Kargil. His parents, indeed the Indian Army and nation itself, lost
a
dedicated, honest and brave son. He was the first officer to detect and
inform about Pakistani intrusion. Pakistan captured him and his patrol
party of 5 brave men alive on May 15, 1999 from the Indian side of LOC.

They were kept in captivity for three weeks and subjected to
unprecedented brutal torture, evident from their bodies handed over by
Pakistan
Army on June 9, 1999. The Pakistanis indulged in dastardly acts of
inflicting burns on the Indians with cigarettes, piercing their ears
with
hot rods, removing their eyes befor e! puncturing them and breaking
most
of the bones and teeth. They even chopped off various limbs and private
organs of the Indian soldiers besides inflicting unimaginable physical
and mental torture.

After 22 days of torture, the brave soldiers were ultimately shot dead.
A detailed post-mortem report is with the Indian Army. Pakistan dared
to humiliate India this way flouting all international norms. They
proved the extent to which they can degrade humanity. However, the
Indian
soldiers did not break while undergoing all this unimaginable
barbarism,
which speaks volumes of their patriotism, grit, determination, tenacity
and valour - something all of India should be proud of. Sacrificing
oneself for the nation is an honou! r every soldier would be proud of,
but
no parent, army or nation can accept what happened to these brave sons
of India. I am afraid every parent may think twice to send their child
in the armed forces if we all fall short of our duty in safeguar d! ing
the PRISONERS OF WAR AND LET THEM MEET THE FATE OF LT. SAURABH KALIA.
It may also send a demoralizing signal to the army personnel fighting
for the Nation that our POWs in
Pak cannot be taken care of. It is a matter of shame and disgust that
most of Indian Human Rights Organisations by and large, showed apathy
in
this matter. Through this humble submission, may I appeal to all the
civilized people irrespective of colour, caste, region, religion and
political lineage to stir their conscience and rise to take this! as a
NATIONAL ISSUE?

International Human Rights Organisations must be approached to expose
and pressure Pakistan to identify, book and punish all those who
perpetrated this heinous crime to our men in uniform. If Pakistan is
allowed
to go unpunished in this case, we can imagine the consequences. Below
is
the list of 5 other soldiers who preferred to die for the country
rather than open their mouths in front of enemy.

1. Sep. Arjun Ram s/o Sh. Cho k! ka Ram; Village & PO Gudi. Teh. &
Dist.Nagaur, (Rajasthan)
2. Sep. Bhanwar Lal Bagaria h/o Smt. Santosh Devi; Village
Sivelara;Teh.& Dist. Sikar (Rajasthan)
3. Sep. Bhikaram h/o Smt. Bhawri Devi; Village Patasar; Teh. Pachpatva;
Distt. Barmer (Rajasthan)
4. Sep. Moola Ram h/o Smt. Rameshwari Devi; Village Katori; Teh. Jayal;
Dist. Nagaur (Rajasthan)
5. Sep. Naresh Singh h/o Smt. Kalpana Devi; Village Chhoti Tallam;
Teh.Iglas; Dist.Aligarh (UP)

Yours truly,
Dr. N.K. Kalia (Lt. Saurabh Kalia's father).

Saurabh Nagar,
Palampur-176061 Himachal Pradesh Tel: +91 (01894) 32065

Please sign in by writing your name and then copy and paste it again to
forward it to your friends and relatives. Let us give some supporting
hand to Dr. Kalia in his efforts to get justice.

Remember, Lt Kalia and his colleagues died on the front so that we
could sleep peacefully in our home.

PLEASE DON'T BREAK THE ONWARD MOVEMENT OF THIS MAIL. WE SEND ANY SILLY
MAILS TO OUR FRIENDS WHICH COMPEL ONE TO FORWARD BY SAYING THAT IT MAY
HARM YOU IF YOU WON'T DO SO. BUT HERE IT IS NOTHING LIKE THAT, IT WILL
ONLY BE YOU WHO WILL FEEL SATISFIED IF YOU WILL CONTRIBUTE TO THE
CAUSE.
sir only we need your support.thanx for reading and giving your valuable time.
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