Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Our Wombs Against the Foreign Hordes

Wow is all I can say.

In an edition of Seiron that reads like a greatest hits compilation of the finest of rightwing nutcase literature* (the main article is a Sakurai Yoshiko taidan with Abe Shinzō, for Amaterasu's sake) Nishio Kanji's anti-immigration increase screed "Aratamete chokugen suru 'rodo sakoku no susume'" ("I will once again speak frankly of 'a suggestion for a country closed to labor'") sets new standards for sheer repulsiveness.

Given the argument that in the long run declining birthrates will lead to a labor shortage, which in turn will put pressure on the country to accept a greater number of immigrant workers (Dirty little secret: we are already there. Go to Minato-ku in Tokyo. The only Japanese working in retail are the barristas at Starbucks) Nishio decides that there is only one solution: more 100% Made In Japan babies.

And how does one make more 100% Made In Japan babies? Nishio has some ideas!

Not namby-pamby supplementary payments and paid leave for parents like they have in Sweden. They won't work (ah, how great to not have to explain why). In France, or so he's heard, these kind of social welfare payments have only increased the breeding among immigrants (more on that later).

No, what Japan needs is both "sweets and whips" (ame mo muchi mo ryōhō hitsuyō de aru). Like:

- criminalizing abortion. Just like in the Christian Countries! Honestly, abortion was soooo postwar-food-shortage-driven. We do not need it anymore**

- eliminating ambition and higher education for women (just be a normal daughter and a normal woman, getting married and bearing children...nothing could be finer)

- repeal the Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society (Danjo Kyōdō Shakai Sankaku Kihonhō).

Few realize that the Basic Law created such-childbirth suppressing notions and institution as

1) nuclear familes rather than multi-generational families,
2) love-for-love's sake and
3) a search for personal happiness.

All of which did not exist prior to the passage of the Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society...which happened in...um...1999.

Nishio does make a valid point -- and again (I love this line) a valid point in rightwing literature is notable for its lonesomeness -- Japan's traditional society does have a hard time meshing with the philosophical concepts that underpin the Basic Law. But like any conservative, he manages to come to the diametrically wrong conclusions from the results of research. Modernity and equality do not suppress childbirth; modernity and traditional, inflexible gender and social roles do.

So there would seem to be two models for achieving higher fertility: the neosocialist Scandinavian system and the laissez-faire American one. Aassve put it to me this way: “You might say that in order to promote fertility, your society needs to be generous or flexible. The U.S. isn’t very generous, but it is flexible. Italy is not generous in terms of social services and it’s not flexible. There is also a social stigma in countries like Italy, where it is seen as less socially accepted for women with children to work. In the U.S., that is very accepted.”

By this logic, the worst sort of system is one that partly buys into the modern world — expanding educational and employment opportunities for women — but keeps its traditional mind-set. This would seem to define the demographic crisis that Italy, Spain and Greece find themselves in — and, perhaps, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of the world. Indeed, demographers have been surprised to find rapid fertility changes in the third world, as more and more women work and modern birth-control methods become standard options. “The earlier distinct fertility regimes, ‘developed’ and ‘developing,’ are increasingly disappearing in global comparisons of fertility levels,” according to Edward Jow-Ching Tu, a sociologist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. According to the United Nations, the birthrate in 25 developing countries — including Cuba, Costa Rica, Iran, Sri Lanka and China — now stands at or below the replacement level. In some cases — notably China — the drop is explained by a concentrated effort at containing the population. In the rest, something else is happening. The lesson of southern Europe is perhaps operative: embrace the modern only partway and you put your society — women in particular — in a vise. Something has to give, and that turns out to be the future...
And where in Nishio's dire reproductive world view are we to fit the births last year of 35,641 children where at least one of the parents was a foreign national...meaning that some 2.0% of the inhabitants are producing 3.3% of the future pension fund contributors? For the most part they are 100% Made in Japan babies...and yet they are somehow...tantalizingly...different.

Makes me want to ask: who really loves this country, baby?


* Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times I am sure will be thrilled at the lengthy attack on him in which Sheryl Wu-Dunn is described as Kristof's shinajin spouse.

** And in the next month's essay, without a batting an eyelid over the inconsistency, how imported food makes Japan a target for future Chinese blackmail!


Janne Morén said...

Yes, repressive birth control policies and and lousy career options for women seems to do wonders for the birthrate of Italy doesn't it.

Overall a pretty good article though; every time something like this gets published it gives liberal, modern ideas another bump in credibility.

the french reader said...

I do agree with you, Monsieur Shisaku. And truth be told, 75% of the births in France are due to nationals, while 25% are due to immigrants, according to a national study published in May 2005. In fact, the immigrants tend to adopt the "French way of life" when they settle down and can't have more babies than the average because of economic and social constraints. Also, since 1993, there is a political consensus for the government to do whatever it can to support numerous families, and while a 2-children family is already a "norm", the government would like to reach a 3-children standard. Even the conservative President Sarkozy's attempt to suppress a costly support to big families traveling on train faced a public (and very conservative!) uproar. It is also worth adding that, unlike Japan, Germany or Italy, France does not see women who work and raise kids both at the same time as irresponsible -- quite the contrary, in fact. Those may be key elements to explain why France is one of the few European countries where population actually grows -- like Sweden and Ireland, if I am correct.
The ill-informed, ill-conceived Monsieur Nishio's views are so primitive that, were they to be applied, the birth rate would fall even lower. Reading his ideas let me think that his ideal Japan is a Japan still ruled by the 1890 Meiji Constitution. Unfortunately for Japan (and Japanese women first and foremost), I rarely heard a Japanese politician willing to express different views, nor a Prime minister offering big ideas to change the demographic trends.

Anonymous said...

Dirty little secret: we are already there. Go to Minato-ku in Tokyo.

This is totally true.

Also, Seiron is not that "nutty fringe" and yet the fundamental ideas here are so absolutely mind-bogglingly loathsome. Not really a vote for "the Japanese right wing aren't that bad!" position.


Jun Okumura said...

Seiron for Sankei is what Asahi Jaanaru used to be for Asahi.

I've looked at the 3.3% birth rate as well and begun looking at the reasons for it. Some hints: among non-Japanese residents, Koreans, Chinese, Filipinos and Thais are predominantly female, while you North Americans and West Europeans go in the other direction. Latin America on the whole tends to balance out; I suspect that the bulk of the latter are Japanese-LatAm families, many of whom are Catholics of child-bearing age.

It has the makings of a good MA thesis.

MTC said...


Have you seen this month's Seiron, though? It is something special, a 9++ on the Richter scale. First it has every member of the club contributing something. Second, they all seem to be on their worst behavior.

Aso Tarō's the kanjichō you guys and gals! Mrs. Nakayama is a Minister of State for Abductee Issues! Be joyful!

MTC said...


Sorry, the subject of conversation is the September issue of Seiron...technically next month's issue, available now.