“It’s almost taboo to raise the issue of mass immigration here,” [Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau] says.
“Japan has no experience of this, only of sending people abroad. Modern Japan almost totally shuts out foreigners and the only people who debate the issue are specialists. Nobody is even researching it.”
Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of the influential Japan Business Federation, said Monday Japan should accept foreign laborers “in all business categories” to cope with a shortage of labor in the near future.
As Japan’s labor population will begin to decrease by 1 million a year after 2010, it will be difficult to overcome a resultant labor shortage…
About 1.9 million foreigners are registered in Japan. Combined with illegal entries, non-Japanese make up 1.5 percent of Japan?s population, a tiny proportion compared to immigrant populations in Europe and North America. The challenges so familiar to officials in the US, Europe and Australia are thus relatively new in Japan.
Official policy has not come to terms with the labor deficit, and without government action, employers will meet the growing demand for workers with illegal immigrants. Business voices, such as the Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda, have called for importing foreign labor. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and legislators must decide whether to open the gates to mass immigration or prepare for a markedly shrunken economy. Yet recent central government initiatives focus on controlling or expelling those foreigners already here. In June, to better monitor foreign residents, officials announced a plan that could require them to carry IC chip identification.
Mr Nakatani is worried because Japanese are living longer, yet having fewer children. The result is a shrinking workforce which threatens economic growth.
In recognition, the government is thinking of loosening its restrictive immigration policy.
But any changes may come as a shock to a nation where registered foreigners make up just over 1% of its population.
The revised Nationality Law cleared the Diet Friday but only after lawmakers at the last minute managed to have a clause inserted to prevent what they claimed would be a surge in bogus paternal recognition cases.
The revised law cleared the Upper House with the nonbinding clause, which calls for applicants to submit pictures of offspring and fathers taken together to prevent false paternal recognition.
Whether a DNA test should be applied to applicants was debated by lawmakers at length during the deliberations, including by Yasuo Tanaka, leader of New Party Nippon, who strongly advocated the need for such a test.
Other lawmakers said that since the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to discriminate against children based on whether their parents are married or not, it would be further discrimination to include DNA tests to the revision.
Fukushima of the SDP said it is important to prevent false recognition, but warned that if the debate focuses too much on that issue, it might shy away from cases of true recognition.
The Justice Ministry opposes the DNA test, claiming it would send the wrong signal by promoting the concept of a family based purely on biological ties.
In the nationality acquisition process, the ministry official said the ministry will carry out thorough and varied checks to prevent false recognition. For instance, it plans to ask how the couples met, why they applied for nationality and whether the fathers plan to support the children.