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Open doors more widely for foreign workers

Ⅰ.  Introduction
 Introducing more foreign workers is viewed as the most urgent and important
issue for Abe administration.
   Toward the end of last year(2018), the law which amends the entry control and
refugee recognition law was enacted. This amendment introduced the new categories to authorize foreign workers to work in Japan. Since the amendment
was carried out hurriedly, there remain many problems to be clarified or decided
to make the revised law work properly when it becomes effective at the beginning
of April 1, 2020.
   In this essay, I would like to explain in some detail the content of the amendment of the entry control and refugee recognition law, discuss its meaning with some
historical perspective and finally present my personal view as to what the legal and
policy system for Japan should take to handle the issue of foreign workers properly
for national interest.
Ⅱ.  New legislation for expanding introduction of foreign workers
   In the very early morning of Dec 8, 2018, the bill to amend the entry control
and refugee recognition law passed the House of Councilors and enacted as the
revised law of the entry control and refugee recognition law. Needless to say,
the bill passed the general assembly of the House of Commons earlier so that
the passage at the House of Councilors finalizes the process of legislation.
   The thrusts of the revised law may be summarized as the following:
 (1) To create the two new categories to authorize the stay of foreign workers including some unskilled workers, namely, “specific skill of type 1” and “specific skill of type 2.”
 (2) To review the revised law 2years after the enforcement taking into account opinions of local governments and others.
 (3) To establish “Entry-Exit Control Agency” to manage the control of entry, stay and exit of foreign workers.
 
   The gist of the new system is the new two categories for workers who can stay and work in Japan.
   One is “Specific skill category 1.” Workers in this category are expected to work in one of the proposed 14 jobs such as agriculture, construction, old age nursing etc. They can work at longest 5 years. They are not allowed to bring their family. There are basically two sources for this category: one is those who spent 3 years of experience in the system of “Training and Working, “ which I will explain in some detail later. The other is those who wish to work in Japan and passed exams of
Japanese language and skill aptitude.
   The other is “Specific skill category 2.” Workers classified in this category are
skilled workers. They can bring their family. The limit of their stay is 5 years but they can extend it. Eventually, they could practically be permanent resident. While Japanese prospective employers are looking forward for category 1, they are somewhat less enthusiastic to category 2.  The workers who experienced stay as
category 1 can be upgraded to category 2 if they pass the the required test.
   Let me show here the number of foreign people who work in Japan. As of
July 2018, the total number is approx. 1.28 millions. Of which, permanent residents
and those who marry the Japanese are 459 000, working students are 297000,
trainees under “Training and Work System” are 258000, highly skilled such as
medical doctors and lawyers are 238000, and others.
   Incidentally, the number of foreigners staying in Japan as of the end of June 2018 is 263, 7251, increased by 7,5403 relative to last year. Of this total, permanent residents are 75,9135, special permanent residents are 32, 6000, students are
32,4000, and trainees enrolled in “Train and Work Program” are 28, 5000persons.
   The government wishes to bring in eventually some 340000 workers utilizing the framework of newly created two categories. The government expects to introduce
in the first year, namely, from April 2019 to March 2020, 47550 workers into jobs of 14 selected industries: namely, agriculture, bldg cleaning, food processing, construction, old age nursing, restaurants, metal fabrication, ship building, manufacturing machines, hotels and inns, car repairs, fishing, electronics and
information, and airport and air craft services.
   In the first 5 years, the government expects to accept 18000 to 36000 foreigners for agriculture and 7300 for FY2019 7300, 28000~37000 for bldg cleaning and 2000 to 7000 for 2019, 26000~34000 for food processing  and 5200 to 6800 for 2019, 30000 to 40000 for construction and 5000 to 6000 for 2019, 50000 to 60000 for old age nursing and 5000 for 2019, 41000 to 21500 for metal fabrication and 3400 to 4300 for 2019, etc.
   The government plans to conclude agreement of accepting workers by March
2019 with governments of 8 prospective countries such as Vietnam, China,
Phillipines, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar、Cambodia.
   Prior to April 1, 2020, when the revised law will be made effective, there are
many things which the government will have to clarify or decide. They include,
for example, (1) basic principles to implement the system. The government will
have to decide policies as to avoid excessive concentration of foreign workers in
major cities such as Tokyo, and programs to restrain activities of bad brokers etc.
(2) guide lines for managing the system for 14 industries such as control of the numbers, contents of qualification exams, and specific rules, (3) comprehensive
policies for acceptance of foreign workers such as consolidating receptions,
enriching introductory Japanese language education, and (4) guidance and rules
such as comparable wages relative to Japanese, and other relevant rules.
     There remain a whole host of problems, tasks and hurdles to be solved or overcome not only by the government and municipalities but much more so by
employers who wish to hire foreign workers and local communities in order to accept foreign workers under the newly legislated categories before the law will be enforced at the beginning of April 2020.
 
Ⅲ.   Development of discussions for introducing foreign workers
   Let me briefly review how Japan has been handling the issue of accepting foreign workers in the recent history, and examine somewhat more closely the recent development of handling the issue under the leadership of Abe administration.
The recent action of Abe administration to introduce foreign workers including unskilled or simple skilled categories is perceived to be the major change of the
policy stance of the Japanese government on this issue, particularly by international
community, since the Japanese government has been regarded as having preserved “seclusion” on this issue.
    While Japanese government has resorted to mobilize foreign workers soliciting
from Asian countries particularly of Korea and China during the period of Japan China war and the Pacific war for about a decade prior to Japan’s defeat in 1945. this issue should be discussed separately in the different context from our discussion
of foreign workers of this essay.
   During the postwar economic development period since the mid-1950s, Japan has faced at least three phases in which the need to introduce foreign workers was keenly felt.
1.  The first phase: 1960s
    The first was the 1960s when Japanese economy grew rapidly as often quoted ad Japan’s economic miracle in international community. The economy grew by in average 10% for more than a decade from the beginning of the 1960s until 1973
when the economy collapsed by the “oil shock.” During this period of rapid economic growth, labor demand expanded dramatically to supersede even the
ample supply of young labor force at the time. The need for introduction of foreign workers was voiced strongly from industrial community.
   The government took the situation not lightly and seriously examined whether Japan should accept foreign workers. The conclusion reached particularly at the
summit of Labor Minister Hirohide Ishida and relevant ministers was not to open
the country for foreign workers.
    I happened to have been working closely with government experts on this issue as a young scholar of labor economics shortly after returning from the US where I took PhD in labor studies. I was assigned as chairperson of the task force to examine and make a policy proposal. The task force was comprised of responsible officers of 4 ministries, namely, Labor, Justice, Foreign Affairs and Trade and
Industry. At the end of study period, we proposed a policy entitled, “Train and Work
Program.” This has been the prototype of the policy scheme which has been used to control the foreign workers until now. And our task force has become the core of the subsequent body, JITCO or Japan International Training Cooperation Organization, to administer the operation of the program. The operation of JITCO
started toward the end of the 1960s.
   I, as chairperson, drafted the initial paper for the policy. In my mind, I had a keen feeling of caution not let employers to abuse foreign workers. Before drafting policy proposal, I visited many countries both of sending workers such as Philippines and accepting workers such as West Germany. West Germany was well known for having accepted a large number of foreign workers from Turkey and other countries, but they suffered serious problems subsequently of their social integration and financial burden of social spending to take care of them.
   In my view, if Japanese employers who want to make use of foreign workers can easily hire them, they may well abuse them by poor working conditions and low payment. This is because these employers want to use foreign workers because they cannot afford good working conditions for even to Japanese workers. To minimize such problems, I proposed to impose the employer to pay for 2 years to train the trainees and then can make them work by the expression of letting them experience the real work. With these conditions imposed, the employers who dare to participate to the program would be quite limited, and this is exactly my intention to eliminate unqualified employers.“Training and Work Program” for foreign workers  which the Japanese government adopted by our recommendation has been quite
stringent, perhaps the most stringent in the world.
2. The second phase: 1980s
   Second was in the 1980s. Japanese economy grew rapidly after having emerged from the damage of the oil shock. Particularly after the mid-1980s, the economy
expanded by the wave of the “bubble.” The bubble has its root by the notorious Plaza accord. This was imposed by Mr.Nicholas Brady, who later became treasury secretary of the US by which Japan was forced to increase exchange rate of the yen. Fearing for its depressive effect on export, Japanese government massively increased fiscal spending and BoJ decreased interest rate to create the domestic demand. This created the bubble since the liquidity created was too large for the
economy to absorb. The bubble economy inflated pseudo labor demand which
solicited the argument of introduction of foreign workers.
  Employers of construction and low skill services wished cheap foreign labor. In
fact, the number of illegal foreign workers has grown large to the order of even a million although there were not accurate and reliable estimates. Debate on the issue of foreign workers was heated. Some argued that Japan should open its labor market for foreign workers, while others warned about demerits of hasty introduction. The bubble collapsed at the beginning of the 1990s, and the debate and even interest on the issue of foreign workers diminished accordingly.
 Incidentally, I wrote a book “Japan’s Guest Workers” published in 1994 by University of Tokyo Press to explain my thought partly to participate to this debate. I was and still am a part of the proponents of opening the market for foreign workers. However, I emphasized that the country should provide full fledged
human rights as a precondition of accepting foreign workers. I will discus my
view in some detail later. If you are interested to know what I assert, please look up my book.
3. The third phase: 2010s
   Third has been the more fundamental interest and concern about introduction
of foreign workers which emerged gradually and grew increasingly keen in the 2010s, largely reflecting the intensifying labor shortage stemming from increased labor demand arising from reconstruction of devastated area by the gigantic earthquake and Tsunami in Northeastern Japan in 2013 and also preparing for the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics on the one hand, and long-term demographic change
of Japanese diminishing population on the other. It is in this context under which
Abe administration proposed to create a new system of introducing foreign workers.
4. The process of legislation by Abe administration
   Shortly after Abe administration started, the government held a conference of
related ministers on the issue of introducing foreign workers in April 2014 and
decided emergent measures to extend the period of authorized stay in Japan from
3 years up to 6 years. To do so the government proposed to expand the “Train and
Work Program” which has been practiced for 40 years.
  In September 2015, private sector advisors of the government committee of
Economic and Fiscal Policies prepared a plan to extend the authorized period
of stay up to 8 years.
  In November 2016, the entry control and refugee recognition law was amended
to add a category of old age nursing service and expanded the restriction of “Training and Work Program.”
  In February 2018, prime minister Shinzo Abe declared in the committee on economic and fiscal policies that he wants to show by summer the direction to
expand acceptance of foreign workers.
  In the report of the government committee on  Economic and Fiscal Policies
which was disclosed in June 5, 2018, new directions have been written that
the number of foreign workers who work in Japan and possibly stay for a long period should be increased, and legal arrangement should be made to enable
this goal. This statement in the report became the official starting point to
expand the acceptance of foreign workers by amending the current “the entry control and refugee recognition law.”
   In October 24, prime minister Shinzo Abe emphasized the need to introduce
foreign workers who can be productive force right away. Following prime minister’s
strong message, the issue was debated intensively in the general affairs committee of Liberal Democratic Party and finally agreed that the entrance control law should be amended.
    On November 11, 2018, the issue was debated in the budget committee of the House of Commons. In that committee, Mr. Nagatsuma, the deputy representative
of Constitutional Democratic Party asked the prime minister if the amendment he
proposes is to assimilate foreigners to the Japanese. Prime minister Abe answered
sternly that he never think of “immigration” policy.
    Opposition parties proposed various alternative plans for introducing foreign
workers. It took about a month for the debate in the Diet. At one point, it was
revealed that one of the reports prepared by Ministry of Justice on the issue of
disappeared trainees due to poor working conditions had some mistakes, and
the debate has been suspended for some time. Nevertheless, LDP has never
changed their basic assertion throughout the process. And eventually, in the very
early morning of December 2018, the bill was passed in the general assembly of the
House of Councilors and enacted as a law to amend the previous law of the entry
control and refugee recognition as noted at the beginning of this essay.
    As can be seen well in the above, the process of this legislation was short and the debate was not thorough or sufficient, which opposition parties criticized repeatedly.
But the law was enacted hurriedly within a short period. The process was hasty and the discussion was not comprehensive nor deep in spite of the nature of the proposed amendment which is effectively change the basic stance of the government in the postwar period. Abe administration must have had a special reason to hasten the process, possibly to appeal to the voters of the forthcoming House of Councilors election in July 2019.
Ⅳ.   Remaining issues and Shimada’s proposal.
     Since the discussion was not enough and the period given for the debate in
the Diet was rather short, there naturally remain many problems to be examined further and necessary remedies or policies need to be given or formulated. Some
of those problems will be taken up and taken care of, hopefully, during the remaining period until April 2020 when the amended law will be enforced. Or
one may hope that such remaining problems will be picked up and discussed
by April 2022 when the law prescribes to be reviewed.
   Without going into details of these issues, let me conclude this essay by
introducing my own idea about the fundamental and basic problem of Japan’s
way of handling the issue of foreign workers. That is, in short, the absence of
immigration law in Japan.
   Instead, Japan currently has only two pieces of laws to control and govern the issue of foreign workers, namely, the entry control law and refugee recognition law.
The former is a law which prescribes the procedural rules and has nothing to do
to the basic principle or spirit of accepting foreigners who would like to come to Japan to become citizens of the country, and the latter is a law which prescribes
rules to handle refugees for largely humanitarian viewpoint.
   The current amendment of the entry control and refugee recognition law is
practically the expansion of the government program of “Train and Work,” which
I myself have involved in writing the preliminary draft as I mentioned earlier.
The important point about this program is that it deals with foreign workers as
a temporary help and not the permanent resident. The readers of this essay may
have been noticed that I never used the word “immigration” or “immigrant” to express entering foreign people or workers. This is because the foreign worker
discussed in the process of legislation were “worker for temporary help” and
not an immigrant, namely a candidate for the permanent resident or a member of Japanese society.
   In a Diet session, prime minister Abe decisively answered to the question of Mr.
Nagatsuma that by this amendment he never means to permit “immigration.”
   What I would like to propose is that Japan must accept those who want to work
and stay long in Japan and become permanent resident as “Japanese citizens” and
the member of Japanese society.
   To accomplish this goal, there are two basic prerequisites: One is appropriate
qualifications for them to become Japanese citizens and the other is to provide them with full-fledged human rights for them.
   On the question of qualification, it is natural that any country which accepts foreign people want them to have possibly highest qualification such as skills,
abilities, academic achievements, special talents and assets etc. This is because the nation state is not a social welfare organization. For the country to accept foreign people as the members of the country, the incumbent citizens must be prepared that
they marry with them or their children so that the blood will mix and they occupy
part of the assets of the nation or inherit assets of the incumbent citizens, therefore,
they naturally wish to share such rights and opportunities as citizens of the country with the possibly highest qualified people.
   On the question of human rights, I would like to emphasize that incoming foreign people should be provided full-fledged human rights, for example, right to receive unemployment benefits, receive injury compensation, pension benefits, rights not to be discriminated in obtaining housing, no discrimination at the workshop and not for children’s education, and voting right in local elections etc. If any one of these rights are unavailable, one cannot enjoy the life of an ordinary citizen. Only right which may not be given without relevant conditions is voting right for national elections.
    It is my view that when these rights and qualification requirements are evidently written in the comprehensive law of immigration, many issues left without resolved
about introducing foreign workers will be solved and clarified. The current law of
entrance control is only a law of procedures without any philosophy or strategy
to deal with foreign workers. What Japan needs now is to have national consensus
as to what kind of country we should create and what kind of people and workers
we wish to invite from from foreign countries. To form such consensus the whole population of Japan should spend enough time to discuss and experience ample
opportunity to associate foreign people. This is perhaps much more important
task for the government should lead than a topic like amending article 9 of the
current constitution which Abe administration is sticking to.
     It is curious that why Japan does not have immigration law which many
advanced nations have. Incidentally, Ms.Min Jeong Lee, Bloomberg News, kindly informed me that Korea does not seem to have the immigration law either. I do not know why Korea does not have it and have no idea to assess the reasons why for
Korea. For Japan, there has been no need to have immigration law as such
during the early period of industrial development of the country until the mid-
20th century because Japan has been a country having excessive population
and kept sending people to such countries as the US, Brazil and Manchuria
in China. It was only after the beginning of the 1960s when Japan began to
need foreign workers to support the economic growth and more recently to supplement labor supply which has been shrinking due to a long term
population decline.
    There may be multiple reasons why Japan does not have, or not even intend to
have as prime minister stated in the Diet debate. Cultural resistance may be one
reason, which is also seen recently in many European countries where people resist acceptance of foreign immigrants or refugees. In Japan, I wonder if people after the defeat of the WWII has a psychological resistance against
grading people because of their historical trauma of war time control of foreign people by Japanese military. This is an important issue to be studied for the future.

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