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Japan in the ‘Global War for Talent’: Changing concepts of valuable foreign workers and their consequences


Chiavacci, David (2012). Japan in the ‘Global War for Talent’: Changing concepts of valuable foreign workers and their consequences. Asien: The German Journal of Contemporary Asia, (124):27-47.

Abstract

In recent years, under the influence of the “global war for talent,” labor immigration policies in more developed economies (MDE) have been characterized by a dichotomization regarding foreign workers’ skills. While the immigration of highly skilled foreign workers is now being actively promoted, low-skilled immigration is being curbed by increasingly restrictive regulations. According to official immigration policy, Japan is an example par excellence of this pattern among MDE. However, in contradiction to its official immigration policy and like many other MDE, Japan has been experiencing a continuous inflow of non-highly skilled foreign workers and is structurally dependent on them today. This paper analyzes changing concepts of valuable foreign workers in Japan over the last three decades and their consequences. Who exactly a “valuable” foreign worker is is a highly contested question. It lies at the heart of Japan’s immigration policy debates and is embedded in changing ideational perceptions of immigration. Three reform periods in immigration policy and their long-term consequences are analyzed here: (1) the plan for increasing the number of foreign students as part of Japan’s internationalization in the 1980s; (2) the first reform debate in reaction to new irregular immigration around 1990; and (3) the second reform debate in view of Japan’s long-term demographic development in recent years.

Abstract

In recent years, under the influence of the “global war for talent,” labor immigration policies in more developed economies (MDE) have been characterized by a dichotomization regarding foreign workers’ skills. While the immigration of highly skilled foreign workers is now being actively promoted, low-skilled immigration is being curbed by increasingly restrictive regulations. According to official immigration policy, Japan is an example par excellence of this pattern among MDE. However, in contradiction to its official immigration policy and like many other MDE, Japan has been experiencing a continuous inflow of non-highly skilled foreign workers and is structurally dependent on them today. This paper analyzes changing concepts of valuable foreign workers in Japan over the last three decades and their consequences. Who exactly a “valuable” foreign worker is is a highly contested question. It lies at the heart of Japan’s immigration policy debates and is embedded in changing ideational perceptions of immigration. Three reform periods in immigration policy and their long-term consequences are analyzed here: (1) the plan for increasing the number of foreign students as part of Japan’s internationalization in the 1980s; (2) the first reform debate in reaction to new irregular immigration around 1990; and (3) the second reform debate in view of Japan’s long-term demographic development in recent years.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies
08 University Research Priority Programs > Asia and Europe
Dewey Decimal Classification:950 History of Asia
180 Ancient, medieval & eastern philosophy
290 Other religions
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:17 Jan 2013 10:22
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 18:02
Publisher:Deutsche Gesellschaft für Asienkunde e.V
ISSN:0721-5231
Official URL:http://www.asienkunde.de/content/zeitschrift_asien/archiv/pdf/ASIEN_124_Chiavacci.pdf

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