A few weeks back, in a surprisingly unreflective blog post (for him at least) Adam Richards asked why Japan should be admitting more "foreigners" -- and laid out what to him seemed strong arguments against such a policy.
The arguments, that Japan can somehow compensate for a declining labor force by abandoning unprofitable activities or by making better use of female labor, senior citizens and technology, are either unworkable (yes, let's just abandon agriculture, small-scale manufacturing and retail) or nonsense (having the elderly work is a way of showing them "respect" - right).
The basic argument for increasing immigration into Japan is relatively simple: in order for the economy to remain the same size, much less grow, one has to, as workers retire, either radically improve output per worker or keep adding new workers. On a structural level, as an increasing amount of domestic labor is shifted into the eldercare industries arising from longer lifespans, and the number of children and young adults shrinks, the physical labor jobs and the non-touchey-feeley lower level service economy jobs will either a) have to be filled by non-Japanese or b) disappear - which means a deterioration in overall quality of life.
[A neat little shorthand economic argument for immigration, if you need one: every time a poor country immigrant, legal or illegal, crosses a border in order to work in a rich nation, World GDP rises by tens of thousands of dollars - making everyone better off. As for the strategic, moral and revitalizing consequences of a state's being open to immigrants, I do not think that these are even disputable.]
Ishizuka Masahiko has published a neat little thought piece in the Nikkei Weekly on the potential impact of the coming increase in immigration. He puts forth the radical yet eminently sensible proposition that immigration over the next few years and decades will be a third opening for Japan, comparable to the coming of the Black Ships and the Occupation.
If Ishizuka is right -- and I believe he is -- then everyone we should welcome the crashing in of this third wave. The two prior openings did much to improve the prestige, wealth, autonomy and security of Japan...and lot of the average Japanese citizen.
Thailand after King Bhumibol
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