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.