Japan Pays Its Foreign Labor to Leave


Back in 2003, The New York Times reported that Japan needs more immigrants, as its society was rapidly aging and not producing enough children. The newspaper reported that demographers say that by 2050, the population of Japan will be cut by 30 percent, and that by 2100, Japan would have 60 million — that’s just half of what it has now.

According to the United Nations, Japan would need 17 million new immigrants before the middle of the century.

However, a new article today notes that Japan is actually sending immigrant workers home because of economic pressure from the global financial crisis. Specifically, many of the nearly 400,000 Peruvian and Brazilians of Japanese descent, who came to Japan in the 1990s.

As the newspaper wrote:

Under the emergency program, introduced this month, the country’s Brazilian and other Latin American guest workers are offered $3,000 toward air fare, plus $2,000 for each dependent — attractive lump sums for many immigrants here. Workers who leave have been told they can pocket any change.

But those who travel home on Japan’s dime will not be allowed to reapply for a special “Nikkei” work visa. Stripped of that status, most Japanese-Brazilian workers who left would find it all but impossible to return to work here under Japan’s strict immigration laws.

The plan to fly immigrants out of Japan has come as a shock to many here, especially after the Japanese government introduced a number of measures in recent months to help jobless foreigners, including free Japanese-language courses, vocational training and job counseling. Guest workers are eligible for limited cash unemployment benefits, provided they have paid monthly premiums.

This rejection of immigrants is not only due to the economic conditions on the ground, but also is part of the fact that many view Japan as Jeff Kingston does: “… a multiethnic society largely in denial about its diversity,” as he wrote in his recent review of the 1997 book Japan’s Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity by Michael Weiner.

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