Japan’s Immigration System: A Precedent For The West

Many pundits and political analysts continue to predict a bleak future lying ahead for Japan and also predict that their economy will suffer an inevitable recession. They repeatedly insist that Japan needs to diversify its economy and accept multiculturalism if the Japanese are to thwart the inevitable.

Yet, unlike the West, which has suffered from the effects of multiculturalism over the last few years, Japan has maintained a very unified society with incredibly high standards of living, in which the average household disposable income is $27,323. It is a modern country with no economic or communal crisis whatsoever.

It is not out of the question to then suggest that Japan’s success has been the outcome of a strict immigration system. Their immigration policy enables the government to carefully screen both foreigners entering the country and those who hope to acquire citizenship. Japan has perhaps the world’s toughest immigration system, which has paid significant dividends over the years.

For anyone persistent enough to acquire Japanese citizenship, a five year process of integration or naturalization is required before the Minister of Justice gives approval for citizenship.

In some cases, immigration officials even inspected the homes and workplaces of applicants in order to verify the facts of the applicant’s paperwork. Even the paperwork approval time takes somewhere from six months to a year.

Unlike the U.S., Japan does not have a birthright citizenship law. People who work on visas pass them on to their children, unless their children go through the process of naturalization and acquire citizenship. The process to obtain permanent residency is even longer, although they do not have to renounce their other citizenship.

Apart from the citizenship process, Japan has an ever tougher asylum guarantee approval process for refugees.

As quoted in 2015, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said,

“I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees, we need to have more activities by women, elderly people and we must raise our birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants.”

Quite simply, Japan looks after her own people before taking care of refugees.

Despite the 1951 Refugee Convention, which obligates Japan to guarantee an easy path to documentation and naturalization for asylum seekers, Japan has recently taken strong measures to limit such successful claims for asylum.

In 2014, Japan took a mere 11 asylum seekers, and that number didn’t grow by much in 2016, as Japan admitted only 28 that year. The number of applicants, however, was much larger than that. There were 1829 asylum applicants from Indonesia, 1412 from The Philippines, 1143 from Turkey, and 1072 from Vietnam. Of those accepted, seven came from Afghanistan, four from Ethiopia, three from Eritrea, and two from Bangladesh.

All this occurred in the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Japan, however, has blamed the lack of refugee intake on the misrepresentation of status by the asylum seekers and the fact that some of them come to the country with the intention of doing work rather than escaping persecution.

However, the actual reason lies in the Japanese strategy to complicate the documentation process which involves the submission of thick packets of documentation in Japanese.

In order to overshadow this abysmally low number of refugees granted asylum, Japan gives generous donations to the U.N. refugee programs. In 2016, Japan donated $164 million to these programs, the third-highest donation from a country behind the U.S. and Germany.

While many criticize Japan for its harsh immigration policies, conservative politicians in control of Japan’s government are unwilling to act otherwise.

Besides, this anti-immigration policy has no bearing on the country’s future. There is no relation between a country’s economic growth and population growth. According to a study in Sheffield Political Economy Research institute, the link between economic growth and population has weakened significantly. For Japan, there had been times when a booming population had been aided by a sluggish growth ratemost notably in the post-recession period of 2009, when the growth rate hit the negatives.

Japan provides an ideal immigration model for Western European and North American countries to keep a stranglehold on the migrant intake.

They do not provisionally ban countries, yet their policies serve the purpose of protecting their people from foreign terrorism.


Follow the author on Facebook: @amritangshubandyopadhyay


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