Monday, August 23, 2004

Japan blocks needed immigration

Another good article in the Japan Times about Japan's unpleasant attitude towards immigrants.
...Asian countries are interested in sending nurses and nursing-care workers to Japan. Thailand is hoping for the employment of Thai-style masseuses, cooks and baby sitters; the Philippines is looking for baby-sitting jobs.

Japanese policies regarding foreign workers are based on the ninth basic plan for employment measures, endorsed by the Cabinet in August 1999. These policies call for the employment of more foreign workers with professional knowledge and skills but recommend caution regarding the introduction of unskilled workers. However, most of the illegal workers in Japan, totaling more than 200,000, are engaged in construction work and other manual labor, showing a glaring gap between policy guidelines and reality.

Foreign graduates of local nursing schools are allowed to undergo four years of on-the-job training in Japan, but only permanent residents may sit for national examinations to become licensed nurses. Only a limited number of foreign nurses work in Japan. Caregivers and masseuses may not work here legally. Japan has no plans to allow the employment of foreign baby sitters.

Yet, taking into account the progress in FTA negotiations, the government's council on comprehensive regulatory reform recommended in its third report published last December that foreigners be allowed to sit for national examinations for licensed nurses. The report also said licensed foreign nurses should be permitted to work anywhere in Japan for an extended period, and that consideration should be given to employing foreign caregivers and masseuses.

The recommendations stirred opposition from groups in those and related professions as well as from some members of the governing Liberal Democratic Party. Basic policies on economic and fiscal management and structural reform, adopted by the Cabinet in June, said vaguely that the introduction of foreign nurses and caregivers should be considered from an "overall viewpoint," leaving the issue to future FTA negotiations.

According to a 1996 health ministry survey, only 73 percent of public hospitals and 43 percent of private hospitals in Japan had sufficient nursing staff, indicating a chronic shortage of nurses. ...
There are a few complications that the article doesn't note. Japanese women are often forced out of work when they marry or simply because they have reached their mid to late twenties. I'm not suggesting that Japanese women should become nurses, of course: the point is that the Japanese workforce could be expanded by introducing real legislation against sexual discrimination so that women who want to work--in whatever job--could do so.
A second complication is that arguably Japan should not take nurses from poor countries like the Philippines. Ironically its racist immigration policy has stopped it from contributing to the drain of key workers away from poorer countries, in contrast to the US, the UK and other European counties.
One final point: there are a lot of young Filipino women in Japan, and women from other parts of Asia, working illegally as bar girls and prostitutes in (I suspect) most parts of Japan, including small remote rural towns. This couldn't happen on such a large scale without cooperation with the gangsters involved from the police and some parts of government, so the restrictions on legal immigration are at best hypocrisy. It's not inconceivable that the current situation is deliberately maintained. It suits Japanese elites fine to deny labour rights, residency and citizenship to these women while using them to keep the huge Japanese sex industry running with less impact on Japanese people.
A report from a US governmental body recently caused mock outrage in Japan (and Singapore) by naming them as countries which do little about human trafficking.

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