The country has to do more to assimilate foreigners and offset population decline.
Noah Smith writes: The U.S. has been roiled by debates over immigration. Japan has the opposite problem — not enough debate. Immigration is happening, and no one is talking about it or preparing to deal with it.
Americans tend to use Japan as an example of a country that doesn’t take in immigrants. For example, my Bloomberg View colleague Justin Fox recently wrote that “politicians have so far been unwilling to allow immigration to take up the slack” of an aging population. It’s true that Japan has a small foreign-born population compared to other countries.
But this image of Japan as a closed country gets two things wrong.
First of all, Japan doesn’t actually do much to keep out immigrants. The country has no legal limits on either the number of people who can get work visas there, the number of people who can get permanent residency, or the number who can become naturalized citizens. This stands in contrast to the U.S., which still imposes legal limits on immigration. And Japan, unlike most countries, doesn’t require permanent residency as a prerequisite for becoming a naturalized citizen. It’s true that Japan, like most countries, doesn’t have birthright citizenship. Japan also takes very few refugees. But in general, Japan has unusually lax immigration controls. The reason for Japan’s low immigration levels is that relatively few foreigners have chosen to move there.
Walking around Tokyo these days, the change is palpable … (read more)