Doors wide shut? The current discourse on labor migration to Japan

Vogt, Gabriele GND

Does Japan need labor migration? The current public and political discourse on this issue juxtaposes two alternatives: It seems Japan must choose between either saving the national economy from the negative impacts of an ever shrinking workforce, a function of recent demographic changes in the country, or preventing foreign crime and international terrorism from occuring within its national boundaries. In other words, the debate revolves primarily around two issues: First, is labor migration to Japan a national security issue? Second, should labor migration to Japan include unskilled workers or be limited to a smaller scale migration composed exclusively of skilled professionals? This working paper maps the positions of the following four actors in the current discourse: the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Japan’s business federation (Nippon Keidanren) and the United Nations (UN). I argue that the traditional rivalry between political and economical elites on the one side vs. international organizations and non-state actors on the other breaks down with regard to the issue of labor migration. Instead, there is a possibility for new forms of coalition building among interest groups. Further research on this topic will evaluate what kind of impact this development will have on the structure of interdependence between state- and non-stateactors in Japan’s political system.

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