Japan Real Time Charts and Data

Edward Hugh is only able to update this blog from time to time, but he does run a lively Twitter account with plenty of Japan related comment. He also maintains a collection of constantly updated Japan data charts with short updates on a Storify dedicated page Is Japan Once More Back in Deflation?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Immigration In Japan

Since the Japanese labour market is tightening all the time, and this process must have a limit given the declining labour force issue, I thought I'd take a look at the Japan immigration situation, and I found the graph I am posting below, which makes pretty sombre viewing. I think it shows what they call "flatlining".

Net Migration Compared. EU, USA and Japan

Source: OECD, Labour Force Statistics.
The vertical axis shows inward migration in thousands.
Click over image to enlarge

Net migration here is measured as the difference between the total population on 1 January and 31 December for a given calendar year, minus the difference between births and deaths.

Searching around for more info on the situation I found this useful article one migration information source: Japanese Immigration Policy: Responding to Conflicting Pressures, by Chikako Kashiwazaki, Keio University and Tsuneo Akaha, Monterey Institute of International Studies:

As of the end of 2004, 1.97 million foreign nationals were registered in Japan, accounting for about 1.6 percent of the total population (127.69 million) and representing a 1.3 percent increase from 1.7 million in 2000. (See Table 1.)

Koreans composed the largest group (607,000), followed by Chinese (488,000), Brazilians (287,000), and Filipinos (199,000). Well over 90 percent of resident foreigners came from either Asia (74 percent) or South America (18 percent).

Approximately 41 percent of registered foreigners are permanent residents, including 466,000 "special permanent residents," or former colonial migrants and their descendants.

The overall trend toward the settlement of newcomer immigrants is also indicated by the rise in the annual number of permanent resident authorizations, from less than 10,000 in 1996 to nearly 20,000 in 1999 and to 48,000 in 2004. The "permanent resident" status, for which there is no limit to the length of stay in the country, differs from the long-term resident status noted above. Meanwhile, approximately 15,000 people, mainly Koreans and Chinese, have been naturalized every year.

Among Koreans, many were students; the Chinese were generally trainees and students; and nearly 40 percent of the Filipinos arrived with "entertainer" visas. The "entertainer" status is given to actors, singers, dancers, and professional athletes; it permits an individuals to work in Japan for three months, six months, or up to one year.

One visa category that has received public scrutiny in recent years is that of "entertainer." This classification has been used by known and suspected criminal groups in Japan and abroad to bring prostitutes into the country. The government has begun enforcing stricter procedures for screening employers and employees in the "entertainment" industry and heavier punitive measures against violators.

the ageing of the population — and the beginning in 2005 of a population decline — have raised the urgency with which Japan must alleviate labor shortages and fiscal burdens resulting from these demographic trends. In particular, the business community has stepped up its call for a relaxation of labor-import control.

In response, the government has begun to consider relaxing restrictions on employment of certain categories of workers for which there are serious labor shortages, such as medical doctors and nurses. Foreign doctors and nurses must pass Japan's national examinations (ie written exams in Japanese) in their respective fields before they are allowed to practice.

I think the last point especially - about the exams for nurses - gives some idea of just how grave this situation is, and is likely to become, in the context of the severe demographic challenges Japan is facing.

This extract from an April 2007 issue of migration news is also informative:

Japan had two million foreign residents in 2005, up from 1.4 million in 1995. Two-thirds of the foreign residents are permanent residents, including Koreans who have been living in Japan for decades; there are 519,000 Chinese. The number of foreign workers was 180,000 in 2005, up from 155,000 in 2000 and 68,000 in 1990.

The sharpest increases have been in categories of foreigners who work but are not considered workers under labor law. The number of foreign trainees was 3,300 in 1990, 30,000 in 2000, and 87,300 in 2005. Most were Chinese, and many paid brokers $2,000 to $3,000 to get three-year jobs in small firms that pay $500 a month; trainees are also supposed to receive training. Some trainees leave the employers to whom they are assigned, citing long hours or abusive treatment, which subjects them to deportation.

JITCO, which administers the trainee program, says that it knows there are abuses, but says it lacks the authority to make unannounced inspections of Japanese firms with trainees. A 2005-06 study that relied on unannounced inspections found violations at 80 percent of the firms inspected.

The number of foreign students working part time rose from 11,000 in 1990 to 59,000 in 2000 and 100,000 in 2005.

The nikkeijin are descendents of Japanese migrants to Brazil and Peru. They began to receive three-year residence visas in 1990, and their number in Japan was 71,800 in 1990, 221,000 in 2000, and 240,000 in 2005. They do not have to work and can extend their three-year permits and change employers in Japan, and some of the jobs they abandon are filled by foreign trainees. Their children, born in Japan as well as abroad, are having difficulty integrating into Japanese society- many are neither employed nor in school.

The number of foreign overstayers was 106,500 in 1990, 232,000 in 2000, and 194,000 in 2005.

The first 15 Filipino nurses arrived in Japan to begin training to be health-care workers under a free-trade agreement between the countries. However, implementation of the broader free-trade agreement that is expected to increase migration has been delayed until Spring 2008.

The Japanese government continues to struggle to develop a migration policy. It seems clear that the foreign workers with the fewest rights, foreign trainees, often subsidize small firms that might be forced to close if low-wage workers were not available. The Neikejian, with more mobility, are able to find jobs shunned by local workers with the subcontractors of major firms.