Saturday, July 25, 2020

Relaxed Immigration: The key to rejuvenate aging workforce of Japan

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Two Japanese people with briefcase and umbrella | Source: Bantersnaps via Unsplash

Late in 2018, a bill was passed in Japan to widen the entry of immigrant workers. The bill was to mitigate severe shortage of labor amidst an aging population and falling birth-rates. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the bill as a much-needed reform to ensure the smooth functioning of Japanese  economy. The bill makes it easier for immigrants to work for longer duration in Japan.

More than 20% of Japan’s population is over 65 years old which is the highest proportion in the world. It is projected that by 2030, one in every three people will be above 65 years or older and one in every five will be 75 years or older.

The fertility rate has fallen to 1.4 children per woman in Japan which has been attributed to a host of factors including changing lifestyles, people marrying late, not marrying at all, and the economic insecurity of the younger generation. It is projected that by 2050, Japan’s population will decline by twenty million while the world population is expected to increase by two billion.

Japan has traditionally been quite homogenous with  very little diversity to show. This trend now appears to be changing as today nearly three million migrants live in Japan which is three times more than the figures of 1990. As the country struggles with a rapidly aging population and severely declining domestic labor, the number in all likelihood is only going to increase.

Conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe based his support for the reforms in immigration policy on demographic arguments.The conservative section of the parliament has been a staunch supporter but the left opposition has been critical of the bill citing concerns about a lack of regulation on the employers which could lead to over-exploitation of the workers. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government promised to set up a hundred consultation centers nationwide for dealing with issues related to workplace abuse specifically for the migrant workers.

However, that’s as far as those resisting the bill have gone. Nationalist and xenophobic voices protesting the bill have failed to gather steam. In fact, according to a survey by Nikkei in January 2020, almost 70 percent of Japanese said it is “good” to see more foreigners in the country.

Japan’s aging population has made it difficult to find the workers and some companies have more than 120 job openings for every 100 job seekers nationwide. Quite evidently, immigration now appears to be the most feasible solution for Japan- a country that has traditionally been restrictive with its borders when it comes to ethnic diversity.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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