Japan needs, but does not welcome, migrant help

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.