Race-based policy misses the mark
Debito Arudou has written a very interesting and eye-opening article for the Japan Times. In his article, he sheds light on the plight of cheap foreign labor and the race-based policies that initially took root over a century ago. Debito is also organizing a nationwide screenings of “Sour Strawberries” in late August and early September. Please feel free to contact him at debito[at]debito.org to arrange a screening.
Japan’s employment situation has gotten pretty dire, especially for non-Japanese workers. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry reports that between last November and January, more than 9,000 foreigners asked the Hello Work unemployment agency for assistance — 11 times the figure for the same period a year earlier.
The ministry also claims that non-Japanese don’t know Japan’s language and corporate culture, concluding that they’re largely unemployable. So select regions are offering information centers, language training, and some degree of job placement. Good.
But read the small print: Not only does this plan only target 5,000 people, but the government is also trying to physically remove the only people they can from unemployment rosters — the foreigners.
Under an emergency measure drawn up by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party only last month, from April 1 the Japanese government is offering nikkei — i.e. workers of Japanese descent on “long-term resident” visas — a repatriation bribe. Applicants get ¥300,000, plus ¥200,000 for each family dependent, if they “return to their own country,” and bonuses if they go back sooner (see www.mhlw.go.jp/houdou/2009/03/dl/h0331-10a.pdf ).
History is repeating itself, in a sense. These nikkei beneficiaries are the descendants of beneficiaries of another of Japan’s schemes to export its unemployed. A century ago, Japan sent farmers to Brazil, America, Canada, Peru and other South American countries. Over the past two decades, however, Japan has brought nikkei back under yet another wheeze to utilize their cheap labor. This time, however, if they take the ticket back “home,” they can’t return — at least not under the same preferential work visa.
Let this scheme sink in for a minute. We now have close to half a million nikkei living here, some of whom have been here up to 20 years, paying in their taxes and social security. They worked long hours at low wages to keep our factories competitive in the world economy. Although these policies have doubled Japan’s foreign population since 1990, few foreigners have been assimilated. Now that markets have soured, foreigners are the first to be laid off, and their unassimilated status has made them unmarketable in the government’s eyes. So now policy has become, “Train 1 percent (5,000) to stay, bribe the rest to be gone and become some other country’s problem.”
Sound a bit odd? Now consider this: This scheme only applies to nikkei, not to other non-Japanese workers also here at Japan’s invitation. Thus it’s the ultimate failure of a “returnee visa” regime founded upon racist paradigms.
How did this all come to pass? Time for a little background. Click here to read the rest of this article.