Friday, December 20, 2013

The Korean Question (policy on legal status/citizenship)

The Korean population had doubled during the wartime, most working in the coalmining and construction sectors, from 1 million in 1939 to over 2 million by 1945 (Weiner 1994: 198).  After most of the voluntary repatriation was over, about 600,000-700,000 Koreans remained for various reasons including fear for their safety and economic well-being back in Korea, having grown up and lived in Japan most of their lives, having repatriated but returning illegally to Japan as family members remained (Morris-Suzuki 2010: 53, 64; Hwaji 2010: 333).

As the membership status of this group of former colonial subjects came into question, what form did labor protectionism take when its central basis of action was removed?   With membership status unclear, where would Koreans be placed in the pecking order of job entitlement?  As we will see, labor protectionism would morph into its 4th form: discrimination.

The legal status of Koreans in Japan has swung both ends of the pendulum, so to speak, twice over.  Koreans were full foreigners as the Japan-Korea Treaty of Amity was consummated in 1876, as excluded from certain jobs by Ordinance 352 and through their protectorate period by 1905.  As an annexed state from 1910 to 1945, Koreans became Japanese though not "true" Japanese but "colonial" Japanese (Iwasawa 1986 cited in Kearney 1998: 201) or those from Gaichi -- external territories -- who had family registers or Koseki that were separate from those of the Naichi Japanese - or those in Japan proper (Morris-Suzuki 2010: 43) - and whose citizenship rights were realized only to the extent that they helped in serving out their economic function as a colony (Weiner 1994: 47).   Koreans in Japan then reverted back to foreigner status by 1952 when the San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect but, through a special regulation, were allowed to stay indefinitely even without clear residence status (Morris-Suzuki 2010: 114).

By 1965 when the Treaty of Basic Relations between South Korea was signed, Koreans in Japan up to the second generation who chose South Korean nationality were granted permanent resident status.  By 1981, all Koreans were granted special resident status.  In summary, in terms of the pecking order of job entitlement, Koreans were foreigners until 1910, "almost" Japanese nationals until 1952, back to foreigners up to 1965 and finally settling in as special permanent resident by 1965/1981 onwards.

Labor protectionism as discrimination was seen primarily in the exclusion of foreigners from certain local jobs.  Morris-Suzuki (2010: 177) reports that throughout the 1950s and 1960s public sector jobs were reserved only for Japanese nationals.  This exclusion, Kearney (1998: 215) explains, isn't even based on actual restrictions explicitly stated in law but rather on the customary weight and deference given to "administrative guidance," or subsequent implementing rules and regulations issued by the bureaucracy.  As this "administrative" authority constituted itself into the formal bases of job exclusion for foreigners in the public sector, it was inevitable that discriminatory practices would spill over not just into non-public sector jobs but also into non-job related aspects of the lives of foreigners.  Morris-Suzuki (2010: 177) further cites that even private companies would not hire Koreans as permanent employees. Concurring with this, Hwaji (2010: 335-336) adds that Koreans were also excluded from bank loans, scholarships, government health and other social benefits.
That post-WWII labor protectionism, manifesting itself in the form of discrimination, was probably most felt by the Koreans was due in no small way to the fact that Koreans were the single, most pervasive foreigner presence in Japan for half a century after the end of WWII -- making up above 90% of foreigners up to 1959, above 80% up to 1985, dipping to below 50% only in 1995.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Labor Protectionism in Japan: 1868-1980

Considering the discussion above, we can now see that the subject of the “unskilled” concerns what host states view as their responsibility of labor protectionism – that is, ensuring that local workers have the rights of first refusal to on all available local jobs.  We saw that the process of defining the term “unskilled” involves a definition of which jobs the host state earmarks first for its local workers but it is precisely those “unskilled” jobs that are targeted by the potential migrant workers from source countries.

This section will now attempt to trace labor protectionism in Japan’s recent history so as to understand its present stances on “unskilled” migrant workers.

Contemporary labor protectionism in the context of international migration presupposes a threat by unskilled foreign workers for jobs reserved for a preferred sector of local workers.  In Japan, this labor threat was not always from external workers and not always for internal jobs.

Reverse Protectionism for Japanese Emigrant Workers.   

Although by 1941 Japanese nationals overseas reached roughly over one million and were found in almost all major continents doing jobs – which today would be referred to as blue-collar – ranging from agricultural (rice, sugar, coffee) labor to fishing to mining and in places as exotic as Siberia and Northern Borneo (Moriyama 1985: xvii), not all of them left the country primarily for work.  Imperial Japan had, by this time, overseas territories which necessarily housed long-term Japanese expatriates in the business of colonization.  Needless to say, total control under imperialism made labor protectionist policies irrelevant.  However, early precursors to Japan’s contemporary protectionist trend may be seen in the period before Japan’s surge of Empire though in the reverse sense:  not local laborers but Japanese migrant workers had to be protected not from foreign workers in Japan but from abuse and misrepresentation by fellow Japanese compatriots running the immigration companies that brought them overseas.

Indeed, what I argue to be Japan’s experience of reverse protectionism is unlike the experiences of foreign workers in Japan today – often dealing with sovereign Japan from a position of weakness, finding themselves on the receiving end of protectionist practices.  The Japan during the early imperial years struggled to protect its migrant workers from new groups of foreign workers making inroads into industries that were already mostly dominated by Japanese workers.  In this sense, forging its reverse protectionist policies from a position of strength showed Japan, first-hand, the conditions which, in turn, it is trying to preserve for its nationals in the homeland today – but with little success.

Emerging from the seclusion years of the Edo period, a handful of Japanese – who would come to be known as the Gannenmono (first-year people) – were brought to Hawaii as plantation workers in 1868 (Sugimoto 1978: 8; Van Sant 2000: 102-106), thus beginning Japan’s own brief interlude as a state-sanctioned, contract labor exporter.   This initial emigration spurt, however, didn’t immediately progress into a steady flow of Japanese migrant workers.  A seventeen-year re-ban on labor emigration ensued after the Gannenmono, the reasons for which I shall explore further in succeeding sections of this paper.  But by 1895 when Taiwan became a Japanese colony labor emigration was not only government-sponsored, private companies specializing on emigration further increased the outflow of workers so much so that just two years before the annexation of Korea in 1910 the 148 Gannenmono now totaled over 150,000 Keiyakuimin (contract immigrants) who had departed for Hawaii (Moriyama 1985, Ichioka 1988).

Hawaii was not the only destination country for Japanese contract workers, though it remained the largest and perhaps the most attractive, as it served as a stepping stone to the US mainland.  By the 1920s, over 60,000 Japanese contract workers had been sent to Mexico, Peru and Brazil (Moriyama 1985: 155).   Contract workers were also among the roughly 4,000 Japanese emigrants arriving in British Columbia between the years of 1905-1907 (Sugimoto 1978: 25).

To clarify, I use the concept of "position of strength" from the perspective of the Japanese worker, and with specific reference to Japanese migrant workers during the emigration era (1885-1924) to Hawaii.  I argue that this position of strength came from two contexts.

First, Japanese workers were sought after, as seen by requests for its nationals from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the U.S. as early as 1876 (Moriyama1985: 8).  The fact of the existence of these requests, however, didn't preclude the possibility that the same requesters were making the same representations with other countries, then taking in workers from those countries which responded first.  Moriyama (1985) also didn't indicate if the requests were accompanied by corresponding guarantees of exclusivity or of any sort of advantage for the Japanese workers.  The requests coming from Hawaii, however, were the clear manifestation of the position of strength of Japanese workers, at least to that destination country.  In the labor convention of 1886 between Japan and Hawaii, on top of Hawaii guaranteeing wage levels and a slew of benefits and perks including free transportation, housing, medical coverage, interpreters (Moriyama1985: 11-13), perhaps the most telling indication of the employees' market was that in the 3-year work contracts it was still the Japanese workers guaranteeing the number of hours they would work, a situation unimaginable in today's employers market where the tables are turned and it is the workers who seek guaranteed work duration.

Second, the Japanese workers in Hawaii constituted the heavy majority of plantation workers, as seen by the fact that by 1894 two out of every three plantation workers in Hawaii were Japanese (Patterson 1984, Moriyama 1985).

The forwardness of Japanese emigration policy and official actions showed that Japan was not oblivious to this key advantage, leveraging this position of strength to further grow this emigration regime yet only upon its approved specifications.   In order to manage more efficiently the increasing flows of workers to Hawaii, the government embarked on what essentially amounted to a privatization of the migration process, but one still under total regulation by the government.  Private companies, called imingaisha, were authorized under the Emigrant Protection Law of 1896 to take charge of the finding, processing, sending and subequent monitoring of Japanese workers for Hawaii (Moriyama1985).  In the first years of the 1900s, when the majority status of Japanese workers in Hawaii were threatened by newly-arriving Korean workers, Japan succeeded in blocking the arrival of more Korean workers through an intricate web of diplomatic and non-diplomatic moves designed to maintain what Patterson (1984, 1988, 2011) argued was still Japan's cooperative mode in its foreign policy, coming a few years before its ultimate annexation of Korea in 1910.

The point I would like to make at this point is that Japan's early protectionist tactics -- specifically as seen in the Hawaii case, and only during the years before its full imperial status (which I mark at the annexation of Korea in 1910) -- were applied in a reverse mode, that is, protection of its workers overseas.  These reverse protectionist tactics were implemented and experienced from a position of strength and were largely successful during the period 1885-1907.

The Origins of Local Protectionism  

While it may be argued that the history of Japan's immigration policy on foreign workers begins with the restriction of their residence and activities to be only within the confines of the foreigner settlements found in the major ports of entry after 1859 (Yamawaki 2000: 39), the more explicit evidence of local labor protectionism begins with Imperial Ordinance 352 of 1899.

Scholars agree that Imperial Ordinance 352 banned foreigners from jobs in farming, fishing, mining, construction, building, manufacturing, transport, hauling, longshore work (Totsuka 1974 cited in Weiner 1994, Yu-Jose 2002, Morris-Suzuki 2010) yet diverge on its purpose.  Totsuka declares the preservation of peace and order by reining over the potential of Chinese workers to cause trouble as the primary objective of the Ordinance.  Yu-Jose is silent on the degree of law-abidance of Chinese workers but indicates the value attributed to their manpower, citing the abatement of cheap Chinese labor as the Ordinance's aim.  Yamawaki (2000: 40) confirms both the fear of Chinese morals, highlighted by Totsuka, and their threat to industrial peace, cited by Yu-Jose, but goes on to locate the Ordinance within the larger debate on mixed-residence, or naichi-zakkyo, that raged in the years immediately preceding Ordinance 352, arguing that its main aim was to re-constrict the Chinese back to the previous foreigner settlement areas.  Morris-Suzuki does not attribute the Ordinance as targeting any specific nationality though she goes beyond a plain enumeration of the job types and into an assessment of their location on the skill continuum, identifying the banned jobs as "low-skilled" and further declaring which jobs were specifically allowed as doable by foreigners: cloth merchants, tailors, cooks, household servants and knife grinders.

My take on the varying interpretations by scholars of the aims of Ordinance 352 is that it mirrored the highly-charged environment of change enveloping the country at the turn of the 19th century.  It will be recalled that Japan had, just a few decades earlier, "re-opened" its doors to the world starting in 1859 with the establishment of trading ports in Yokohama and Kobe.  The First Sino-Japanese war had just been won in 1895, Japan then getting its first colony in Taiwan.  Rural poverty continued to impinge upon urban areas - a persisting consequence of all-encompassing agrarian and tax reforms instituted by the Meiji restoration government (Duus 1976, Yamamura 1986, Yamawaki 2000) -- and jobs were hard to come by.  Emigration of Japanese workers was in full-swing.  It didn't help that Chinese workers were so visible, making up nearly half of the population of all foreigners combined, becoming the majority nationality group for the next two decades up to 1915 (Weiner 1989: 53; Yamawaki 2000:39).

Indeed, that the kind of labor protectionism spawned was marked by multi-faceted, even conflicted objectives can be understood as an almost logical outcome of that particular junction in time.  On the one hand, aiming for peace and order based on specific concerns on a single nationality but acting through blanket job prohibitions across all nationalities risked aggravating labor shortages in selected industries.  On the other hand, the effect of the converse -- having no restrictions on foreign labor in areas where they were needed -- may have been viewed as less desirable by the government.

Imperialist Protectionism, 1910-pre-World War II  

Ordinance 352 and the jobs it attempted to cordon-off for Japanese nationals were soon overtaken by Japan's annexation of Korea in 1910.  The Korea case is significant because annexation turned Koreans from external job seekers that local protectionism sought to exclude into the national workers that the government was mandated to protect.  How could labor protectionism now protect Japanese workers from previously-Korean-now-turned-Japanese workers?  Put simply, what form did labor protectionism take in an imperial Japan?

World War I rendered immaterial the job prohibitions set out in Ordinance 352.  The sudden spike in economic activity due to war-related production had wiped out all job shortages, in fact creating labor shortages across multiple industries.  The rapid increase in the number of mid-sized factories resulted in the near doubling of their workers from 850,000 in 1914 to 1.5million by 1919 (Duus 1989: 49-52; Lin & Rajapakse 1984: 264).  By the end of WWI, Japan had become a creditor nation with a 2billion yen surplus, a far cry from being in nation in debt by 1.1billion yen on the eve of the war (Nakamura 1998: 47, Smith 2001: 45).  By the end of WWI in 1919, and well into the Taisho period, Koreans were to be found toiling away as farm workers, dyeing workers, navvies, stevedores, coal miners, timber/leather/printing workers, textile workers, cotton spinners, glass workers -- exactly the industries previously banned to foreigners by Ordinance 352 (Weiner 1989: 64-69).  

For once in history, consummated through imperialism and borne out of a war economy, a confluence of factors conspired to create an employees market within a migration regime, if only briefly.  Weiner (1989) argues that sharp labor shortages felt during the war-induced economic boom could also be explained by the Japanese's own albeit tepid commitment to industrial labor (Taira 1962 cited in Weiner 1989: 50).  It was typical of rural folk to supplement farm income with a host of other side activities such as cash cropping, sericulture and wage work and since the resulting aggregate income was comparatively higher, this served as a disincentive to just readily embracing industrial factory work (Saito 1986: 419, Smith 1988: 71-100).  The implication of this argument was to clarify that labor shortages during 1914-1919 may have been artificial.  A dormant labor supply of nationals in rural areas could have been present but hesitated to grab new, wartime-created jobs in the urban areas.  These were instead filled quickly with newly-subjugated and docile Korean workers - willing to work longer hours for 33% lesser pay (Weiner 1989: 82).

This employees' market of 1914-1918, it would seem, had earlier roots.  Taira (1970: 2-4) describes a pervasive, self-employment ethic as early as the 1870s, evidenced by the low labor market participation rate of only 8.6%, that spawned a pre-war Japan filled with micro-entrepreneurs even at the household level.  What is significant here is not only that this situation logically resulted in an employees' market but that it may have been the earliest manifestation of the concept of the relative value -- first seen as a dichotomy and eventually as a continuum -- of skill level depending on the available supply of workers.  Taira explains that businesses with more strategic foresight, or which were more determined to succeed, were more than willing to pay a steep premium in salaries just to secure workers with the needed skills among the few available for hire or unwiling to be hired as they themselves were also looking to hire the same types of skilled workers.  The converse of this situation was that those businesses unable or unwilling to bear that premium cost for quality labor had to contend with the low- or non-quality, low- or non- or un-skilled labor.

As we saw, the flip side of the early lesson that few willing workers increases wages didn't register as it should have.  When the WWI boom increased greatly the demand for labor and the annexation of Korea a few years earlier provided a steady supply of workers to offset the lackluster embrace by the surplus Japanese agricultural workforce of the plentiful industrial jobs, wages for Korean workers did not in fact increase relative to those of the Japanese.  Imperialism then cooperated with protectionism, instilling the lesson in the Japanese policymaker's mind that foreign labor force units located in the Japanese labor market are not necessarily governed by the same market rules that impose themselves on national workers.

Returning to the original question, we can see thus that imperialism then turned protectionism from a strategic into a tactical response.  Whereas in 1899 Ordinance 352 aimed to preserve limited jobs in selected industries for a burgeoning labor surplus of Japanese workers by banning competing foreign workers, the annexation of Korea opened the floodgates, so to speak, for Korean workers into Japan and the primary issue now became one of short-term facilitation: how best to bring the most Koreans to fill plentiful, war-induced jobs.  Problems arose not during the boom war years when the sheer power of market forces impelled wanting Korean workers into waiting Japanese jobs, causing the Korean population in Japan to shoot up nearly ten-fold -- from roughly 4,000 in 1913 to 33,000 by 1920, not even counting yet the additional 21,000 Koreans who after working in Japan chose to return to Korea. (Weiner 1989: 53,63),

Instead, with the end of WWI in 1919, the problem suddenly became one of stopping or restricting Korean entry, so as not to revert back to the undersirable labor suplus situation given the war's end when war jobs vanished even faster than they had appeared.
But now, having effectively extended national territory through the act of annexation, Japan could implement a resurgent labor protectionism on two fronts: at Pusan, the primary point of exit of Korean workers and at Japan's entry ports.  First at the tail end of 1918 and then thru 1919, the Japanese Colonial administration thru its Government-General implemented various procedural and documentary requirements for departing Korean workers that had the intended effect of putting the break on previously unabated entry of Korean workers (Weiner 1989: 52).

In 1925, a heightened restriction drive against Korean workers was again set in motion in Pusan but since the US Immigration Act of 1924 - which effectively banned Japanese from entering the US - had just been passed the previous year, Japan found itself, on the one hand, having to implement protectionist policy against Korean workers to quell rising local tensions but without looking guilty of the same unilateral, exclusionist actions which the U.S. applied against the Japanese (Weiner 1994: 120).

In summary, imperial Japan saw labor protectionism morph into several forms.  First, from a proactive strategy of labor management, it was relegated to a reactive, administrative role of shepherding needed manpower from the newly-opened, annexed territory of Korea.  Second, the expanded territory in the colonies functioned as an added layer from where protectionist policies could be applied.  Third, this added location for policy application also functioned as a smokescreen for conflicting policies, allowing Japan to project consistency in their objection to the discriminatory policies its own nationals suffered under overseas.

In the end, labor protectionism even in an imperial Japan seemed to have failed miserably - at least in terms of the Korean influx - as their numbers continued to rise, reaching almost 900,000 by 1938 (Weiner 1994: 122).

Post-WWII Protectionism  

Labor protectionism is thought to exist only during economic downturns when jobs become scarce.  As we saw in the discussion above, protectionism took any form it was given by policy makers, switching from a protector role to being a competitive advantage depending on the exigencies of the times.  In this sub-section I thus explore how a number of overriding themes punctuated labor protectionism in relation to foreign workers in Japan after World War II.  Various scholars, depending on the topic they are investigating, discuss the period after 1945 in a number of ways, highlighting several streams of interpretations which may be a good starting point for our purpose of now looking through this same period but with an interest in labor protectionism.

In exploring the journey of Japanese identity thru the lens of globalization, Morris-Suzuki (1998: 161-184) sees three phases: Japan as a colonial state (1890-1945), Post-WWII Japan (1945-1990) and Age of Signs (1990s).  In essence, Morris-Suzuki argues as follows: when globalization was defined as a subsuming of peripheral states into the mother states of the colonial powers, a colonial Japan saw itself as "super Asian" with a regional role to fulfill; in a globalization experienced through Japan's re-entry into the world system as an economic powerhouse after the post-WWII rebuilding phase, nihonjinron was about a gradual coalescing of the individual or traditional Japaneseness with global or western norms; in a globalization now seen as an incorporation into the world system of knowledge, Japaneseness came under various multi-national influences, locally through the influx of foreigners, and externally through its national exports of both hard power and soft power.
Morris-Suzuki's thoughts are helpful in our own reflections on labor protectionism as they emphasize that deeper motivations or expressions of identity may lie underneath policy.

Indeed, when policy involves putting into law matters which may be viewed by others as "obvious" it may be interpreted as institutionalizing differences, thereby making visible a boundary which heretofore had remained at a symbolic, or non-concrete, level.  Morris-Suzuki's thoughts on Japanese identity then becomes a starting point to see labor protectionism as a visible boundary or "the element which embodies/allows the discrimination/the capacity to see the similarities and differences” (Cohen 1985).

Moreover, labor protectionist policies of post-war Japan weren't formulated in a vaccum.  They took place vis-a-vis other policy areas relating to the same migrant groups, assuming a lesser or greater level of importance or urgency depending on the socio-political events occurring at those uniquely-challenged times.

Indeed, I would venture to say that Japan's immigration journey thus far is still at a training, adolescent period.  Its six-decade history since the maiden version of its immigration law in 1951 is virtually just an introductory yawn when compared to the centuries-old immigration traditions of other  major destination countries.  The US, for example, from the 1790s onwards was already refusing entry to those with criminal records and by 1890s had already legislated deportation as an immigration penalty (Stumpf 2012: 45-47).  

Still, it may be argued that Japan's migration learning curve actually started even before 1951, going back almost a century earlier.  The Tokugawa shogunate issued the earliest passports in 1866 (Moriyama 1985) and the basis of the inclusion or exclusion rules of the current immigration regime was set as early as 1899 with the first Nationality Act (Morris-Suzuki 2010: 42).  Not unlike the cycles of forced-open-restricted migration around the globe that dotted the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Hatton & Williamson 1994), Japan had sufficient competence even prior to 1951 in the deft calibration of entry and exit through its borders via policy and legal methods (some of which I discussed above), that is, to summarize:

1. open entry for foreigners but restricted residence areas from 1859 to 1899
  (Yamawaki 2000);
2. a total ban on emigration of Japanese workers between 1868-1885 (Moriyama
  1985; Van Sant 2000);
3. the Emigrant Protection Law of 1894;
4. Ordinance 352 of 1899;
5. Open entry of Korean workers between 1914-1918;
6. by January 1918 passports are required for entering foreigners (Morris-Suzuki
  2010: 44; Yu-Jose 2002: 7);
7. in December 1918 thru early 1919 entry restrictions enforced at Korean exit
  point (Weiner 1989)
8. by 1924 visas are now a requirement for entry for foreigners (with some
  country exceptions) (Yu-Jose 2002: 8);
9. in 1925 entry restrictions intensified at Korean exit point (Weiner 1994);

Nevertheless, I suggest here that this accumulated migration expertise of Japan was negated -- or reset to zero, if you will -- with the advent of the 1951 Immigration Control Ordinance.  Influenced in no small way by the Occupation forces in a defeated nation, Morris-Suzuki (2010: 108-115) argues that the resulting 1951 migration law reversed the decentralized migration management tradition in pre-WWII Japan and ultimately mirrored the cold-war concerns on subversion and infiltration.

But beyond these external impositions -- which, for now, I concede to the Occupation forces to have been done in good faith -  the 1951 migration law represented a critical discontinuity in the migration endemic learning processes of Japan.  This discontinuity manifested itself in what can be interpreted as "learning mistakes" or "dichotomies," at best, and incongruities or paradoxes, at worst, as seen in the migration policies in the six decades since 1951.

To be sure, it was precisely the ultimate trajectory of what I postulate to have been Japan's "migration endemic learning processes" -- packaged as the Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere --  which the Occupation forces intended to completely obliterate.  It is not the purpose of this paper to debate the merits or demerits of the objectives of the Occupation forces.  But I find that this learning discontinuity is key in fully contextualizing post-WWII labor protectionism, and thereby reaching a more critical understanding of the paradigm of the unskilled in Japan.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

“Unskilled” Labor in Japan vs. Selected Host Countries

The Government of Japan (henceforth, GOJ), in point of fact, has not issued an ordinance or any formal directive banning the acceptance of unskilled foreign workers.  Instead, it formally declares the specific types of work that it allows, as seen through the categories of “Status of Residence” which define the approved scope of activities of foreigners.  Work that doesn’t fall into any of these categories can be viewed as unskilled.

Another way to get a glimpse into what types of unskilled work GOJ does not want foreigners doing in Japan is through the listing of jobs held by foreigners before they were arrested for illegal work, that is, engaging in work for which they had no prior authorization to do.  Table 18 below lists the work activities or job titles in what is deduced to be the skilled and unskilled labor dichotomy in Japan.

Table 18: Skilled/Unskilled Work Categories in Japan
To be sure, being arrested for illegal work doesn’t automatically mean that one was doing unskilled work.  Building an indicative range of salaries between the lowest paying, unskilled job and the highest paying, skilled job may help to corroborate or invalidate my tagging of the jobs listed as illegal work in Table 18 above as unskilled.  While GOJ refrains from explicitly using the term “unskilled,” it spares no effort in expounding on the value of “skills.”  But by doing so, that is, by belaboring its preference for skilled labor, GOJ necessarily sets the measuring scale for the entire range of skill sets, including the unskilled.   By quantifying the detailed characteristics of the highly-skilled, GOJ unavoidably concretizes the features of the unskilled.

Not only is the possession of “skills” one of the requirements for foreigners to gain permanent residence in Japan (ICRRA, Article 22,2,ii)   but those with more of it are not simply preferred but vigorously pursued.  A points-based system  installs a virtual hierarchy even among the skilled, rewarding the highly-skilled with what the GOJ calculates to be effective motivators, hoping to convince those already in Japan to stay longer, and enticing new talents to choose Japan over its competitors.  The skilled with more education, more experience, higher salaries, younger in age, proven research experience, officially-recognized licenses and higher executive positions are allowed to have multiple sources of income from a wider range of authorized activities, twice-faster tracks to permanent residence, unrestricted work hours even for the spouse, and the privilege of bringing in a parent or domestic servant for the married-skilled with children.

This new system of the GOJ is not short on innovation, even grit, undoubtedly building upon lessons from similar points-based systems of its closest rivals,  hoping to lock in on the super skilled selling his wares to the highest bidder.

Figure 16:  Skilled and Unskilled Foreign Workers by Income and Age (Derived) 
But while a detailed comparison between points-based systems of other destination countries is beyond the scope of this paper, it will be sufficient for now to focus on the annual income criteria which it combines directly with age criteria, an innovation unique to the Japan’s points-based system.  The way points are awarded to annual income levels of the highly-skilled  is quite revealing when juxtaposed against the monthly pittances of the desperately unskilled,   as shown in Figure 16 above.
The poorest among the pinnacle of the highly-skilled earns forty-two times more (30 million yen annually, or higher) than the richest among the underbelly of the unskilled (720,000yen  annually, or lower).   The lowest annual income group of the skilled (4-5 million) which is rewarded points is out of reach by nine out of ten of the unskilled (93% earn below 2.4m) by at least a factor of two.   The GOJ is willing to reward the older among the highly-skilled only if they earn higher incomes as they age – but only up to age forty.  And since roughly two of every three unskilled workers are over 30 years of age, the disparity in rewarded income levels gets wider (since after age 30 rewarded income targets increase) as the unskilled get older (adding the hypothesis that the older one gets, the lesser one earns).

At this point, I must discuss one possible flaw to the logic and thus validity of arguments drawn from Figure 16.  It may be argued that the annual income ranges in the points-based system are purely indicative, or theoretical and intended for policy purposes and, as such, should not be compared with the declared income declarations of those arrested for illegal work.  While the points-based system is indeed policy-based, it must be noted that its stated objectives are to attract new talent or motivate existing ones to stay longer or permanently.  If this is so, then it is reasonable to assume that the annual income ranges reflect reality to the degree of accuracy that GOJ targets to achieve.  If income ranges higher than current average incomes are used, then the points-based system will attract fewer applicants as only the highest-paid, highly-skilled workers may apply.  If the income ranges are set lower than the current averages, the system may attract more applicants.  I thus use the income ranges in the points-based system based on the assumption that GOJ targets more applicants.

Indeed, the income-based rewards of the points-based preferential scheme have, quite tellingly, exposed GOJ’s intense preference for younger, richer, smarter, more influential, highly-skilled foreign workers, thus also confirming its anathema, the unskilled workers.

Japan may think that it is competing with other destination countries only for highly-skilled migrants, yet why do Australia,  the United Kingdom  and Canada  have explicit, formal and institutionalized immigration processes (see Table 19 below) that allow entry to foreign workers who in Japan would be viewed as unskilled?
Table 19: "Unskilled" Worker Entry Options in Other Host Countries
To be fair, these jobs are not easily taken by just any Tom, Dick and Harry.   Formidable requirements are in place precisely to ensure that skills are legitimate and that they hit the ground running, so to speak, upon arrival with a job already waiting for them.  Nevertheless, the point I would like to stress here is that unlike other destination countries which have developed systems to tap into the pool of foreign workers of all skill sets, Japan has persistently maintained a monolithic immigration regime exemplified by its policy or “non-policy” on unskilled workers.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Defining the "Unskilled"

We begin first by discussing the multiple perspectives from which the term “unskilled” may be interpreted within the subject of international migration.   The term may take on different meanings and implications when used by either the host state or the source state, and it is this varying application of the term by the three actors in migration (the host state, the source state, and the migrant) that we can find its significance to migrant “illegality.”

The implied meaning of the term “skilled” as it is used in migration is clear in that those who possess it are desired by destination countries because it guarantees that they will have jobs (read alternatively as “thus being productive members of society” or “not becoming charges of the state or perceived “burdens” to its social welfare system”).  The “highly-skilled” are not only desired but actively pursued as the perspective of value, and thus the skill’s primary beneficiary, shifts from the possessor to its utilizer:  while skill powers the migrant’s stability and financial future, “high-skill” ensures that the state stays relevant or globally-competitive or even the leader in key industries.

Almost intuitively, the “unskilled” worker is thought to be the opposite of the “skilled” worker, reducing the variable to a simple dichotomy.  Others see skill as a continuum, thus going beyond the skilled-unskilled dyad and into a low-, mid- and high-skilled range of worker classifications.

Yet the multi-faceted problematic of the term “unskilled” begins when we see that beyond just possession or non-possession of a skill (dichotomy view) or possession of a skill to a certain degree (continuum view), we also wonder who assigns the classification or, more accurately, whose assignment of classification matters?  In migration, the answer to this question is, of course, the State.  The migrant’s view of himself as a skilled worker matters only insofar as the State concurs with him.  Local certifications of skill presented by the migrant are accepted only if these local certifying bodies are, in turn, recognized or accredited by the State.  Others recognize skill and thus assign to it corresponding value in one’s application for entry when only its designated third-party certifies the skill.

The problematic which began as a question of a presence or absence or amount of skill is now a question of whose valuation of it sticks.  There may be other forces at work.  Looking more closely at how Australia, Canada and the UK attract foreign workers may provide some clues.

While innovative terms such as distinguished/exceptional/fresh talent or high-value migrants unsuccessfully distract us from the central consideration being that of skill (even without direct use of the word), recently-implemented initiatives seem to introduce an additional (almost inevitable) variable to now act in confluence with the variable of Destination State-recognized skill.   This is the market variable or, more specifically, the demand-supply variable.

Let’s take the supply side first.  It has long been the practice that State-recognized migrant skills are fully consummated, as it were, only with the additional requirement of a sponsor.  Simply put, skills actualize into benefit only with an offer of employment even before entry into the destination country.  How sponsorship was secured was determined by various intermediaries between the skilled migrant and the employer.  Now the skilled migrant can go directly to the market and get himself counted as part of the supply of willing labor,  even without sponsorship.  While a number of key benefits of this middle-man-free transaction undoubtedly accrue to the skilled migrant, full control remains in the hands of the State.  Ultimately, this new, direct worker-to-employer system is not unlike the State-recognized skill system, further entrenching the employer’s market status quo that marks the migration industry.

Next on the demand side, what we are seeing are further enhancements that make employers less constrained by State policies that protect local labor from what would otherwise be a deluge of foreign workers in an unregulated migration industry.    Employers typically must prove that foreign workers they wish to hire will fill jobs for which they can’t find locals to do.   Now area-specific or industry-specific forces, possibly driven by demographic or business competition variables, enable two demand fine-tunings:  1) justify area-based pilot projects with less-stringent migrant-hiring rules  and 2) rationalize an advanced listing of jobs with a lack of hirable local workers.    These enhancements improve the demand side, ensuring that special conditions in each specific demand area are addressed thus maintaining the equitable use of State-controlled supply of State-recognized skills of migrant workers.

Let’s get back to the problematic of the “unskilled” worker and see how it now looks, thus far.  After questioning the existence or amount of skill we challenged its valuation as its final legitimization rests with the State, not with the migrant.   After hurdling skill validation by the sovereign, the unskilled migrant then competes in a market where supply units are defined and controlled by the employer and demand units are fine-tuned to industry- or area-specific exigencies.

This migration-nuanced problematic of the “unskilled” translates to at least two real, practical concerns for the unskilled wishing to find work overseas:

First, the “unskilled” migrant worker in a source country will have to go through another round of certification and testing to secure a quantification, validation, recognition and legitimization of his skill by the destination sovereign.

Second, the “unskilled” migrant worker who can’t find employment locally and who thus desires to try his luck abroad faces tougher, more intense competition from a now better, directly-recruited, better-consolidated pool of willing and qualified workers from which employers may pick.  Migration complexifies competition among the “unskilled.”

The unskilled then, even after moving heaven and earth just to gather enough money for plane fare and other documentary requirements of travelling overseas, are faced with two more seemingly insurmountable roadblocks: they have to prove their skills and they have to get hired even before they leave.

It is not difficult then to understand why a segment (undoubtedly a larger percentage) of the unskilled takes a different route to a destination country.  Since the certification and sponsorship requirements pit the unskilled worker against global talent/competitors, the most realistic option for him, and probably the only advantage within his reach, is to gain entry into a destination country by whatever means and, once there, thus positioning himself better for jobs because he is able to respond quicker to more temporary, more seasonal, more informal jobs.  By complying less he survives more.  Indeed, the unskilled overstayer becomes more by confirming that he is less.  

There seems to be then a sea of unskilled workers inhabiting regions beyond the scope of the recruiting policies ostensibly designed to recruit them.  Whether this mis-targeting is done by design or by policy oversight is a question beyond the scope of this paper.  But empirical evidence from my interviews with Filipino overstayers in Japan (to be discussed in more detail in later portions of this paper) lends credence to this possibility, pointing to an alternative definition of the unskilled, which I tentatively name “truly unskilled,” as those who:

First, are, in fact, skilled in trades (before their departure from the source country and after their entry into the destination country) but are, for various reasons, unable or unwilling to go through certification or sponsorship requirements;

Second, were unskilled (before their departure) but are now currently skilled, having learned everything on-the-job on the strength of, first, initial recommendations from their social networks to get themselves hired and then subsequently, second, by virtue of opportunities given to them by their Japanese employers on the strength of goodwill earned through hard work, 24x7 availability on short notice, unbeatable docility and discipline,  and most importantly, unquestioning subservience and non-objection to low pay.

That being without skills is a step before becoming skilled rather than a final condition or outcome or consequence from which there is no redemption can be seen by the Japanese practice of mijukuren rodo, or skilled labor-to-be (Yamanaka 1993: 75), where large companies manage new recruits with the strategic objective of training them, of inculcating the specific skills for which the value of their employment will be fully realized (Inagami & Whittaker 2005: 25-26).   However, the “truly unskilled” subsist in a domain that is several times removed from the practice of mijikuren rodo.  Smaller companies cannot afford the administrative overhead (extra manpower) costs that mijikuren rodo produces, often resorting to on-demand or seasonal hiring practices that are the turbines of unskilled labor demand.  While mijikuren rodo recognizes potential to learn, the trainee must demonstrate proof or guarantees of this potential such as formal education, technical training completed and solid recommendations – precisely what the “truly unskilled” do not have.

In summary, our understanding of the term “unskilled” worker must necessarily encompass the following components:

a. A range of classifications of skill;
b. Perceived negative impact on destination society (safety/security/way of life-
  standard of living);
c. Skill is measured against standard of destination society;
d. Value is subjected to supply-demand forces both defined and thus controlled
  by employers and the State; and,
e. Inevitable fall-out of mis-targeted workers going into easier entry routes

“Unskilled” refers as much to the persons on which a range of skills reside as it does to the perceptions (judgments or fears) of those who utilize them.  “Unskilled” constitutes the actions taken by the State to preserve and protect the first rights of its locals to a specific group of jobs.  “Unskilled” encompasses the impending gap between increasingly specific controls of a persistent and ever-expanding resource.

I thus propose a core definition of the term “unskilled” worker:

The unskilled are those located, at any given point in time, on a group of jobs specifically reserved by the State for a particular sector of workers.

Note that in my formulation unskilled jobs are “reserved” and are thus ready for the taking by the willing while high-skilled jobs are “offered” only to the qualified.  Imputed into the reserved-offered distinction is the supply-demand dynamic in that the reserved jobs have a bigger group of takers and thus needs State regulation while the offered jobs have few takers and are thus largely left to private interests to manage.  The number of takers is predicted by a combination of factors the major ones of which are skill required (and thus education or training level), prestige and work-time (whether part- or full-time).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Basic Plan on Immigration Control (1st Edition), 1994

Guys, am just sharing here below some salient features of the 1st edition of the Basic Plan on Immigration Control of 1994.  For some reason, this translation of the 1st edition is not available in the Bureau of Immigration website ( which lists only the 2nd to the 5th editions.  I got my printed copy of this 1st edition from a high-ranking official of the immigration bureau.

The items below are quoted verbatim with their corresponding page number references.  Some notes of mine begin with the symbol "(e)" and are highlighted in red.  I am happy to share the actual pages of the book itself with anyone who needs them.  Please email me at for further inquiries/clarifications.

Immigration Bureau, Japan, Basic Plan on Immigration Control (1st Edition), Ministry of Justice (Translated by Japan Immigration Association), 1994




    - the entry into, residence in, and departure from Japan of foreign nationals are controlled on the basis of the status of residence system.
    status or position of person + authorized activities =status of residence system.

    - to achieve the "equitable control over the entry into and departure from Japan." which is the purpose of the Imigration Act.


    - with the rise of Japan's international position has led to an increase in the number of people entering Japan for various reasons.

    - there are increasing demands for employment of foreign nationals from various industries.

    > (e) while this may be an admission of the need for foreign workers by Japan it doesn't necessarily mean that MOJ admits to a labor shortage.

    - increase of foreigners disguised to be tourists to be admitted into Japan and be illegally employed.


    - this increased entry of foreign nationals: effect on Japan:
    >influencing national economy and life of the Japanese
    >how Japan deals with its foreign population influences its own international relations because of Japan's greater role in the world.


    (e) INTERESTING. the way discussion on the status of residence is organized shows that the primary objective of the classification was the control of employment, or labor protectionism.  It divides the 27 statuses into the following categories:

    A.  Status of Residence with which Employment is Authorized
    1. Investor/Business Manager
    2. Legal/Accounting Services
    3. Medical Services
    4. Researcher
    5. Instructor
    6. Engineer
    7. Specialists in Humanities/International Services
    8. Intracompany Transferee
    9. Entertainer
    - this category is missing from the printed document
    10. Skilled Labor
    - Mostly Chinese nationals to be working as Cooks.

    2. Status of Residence Prohibiting Employment [(e) that is, a permit is needed in order to legally do work subject to the restrictions in hours).
    11. Temporary Visitor
    12. College Student
    13. Pre-College Student
    - mentions that many enter in this category with the hidden intention to work.
    14. Trainee
    15. Dependent

    3. Status of Residence on the Basis of Civil Status and Position
    16. Permanent Resident
    - refers to the Koreans and Taiwanese
    - refers to those other than the above who are awarded permanent residence due to tenure or merit
    17. Spouse or Child of a Japanese National
    18. Spouse or Child of a Permanent Resident
    19.  Long-Term Resident
    - refers to the Nikkei.  Spouses and children with Japanese descent.

    4. Indo-Chinese and Other Refugees
    > Indo-Chinese Refugees for Long-Term Residence
    >Boat People


    - reasons for denial:
    >false statements made by foreign nationals about their purpose of enty (by pretending to be a temporary visitor with a hidden intention to work illegally in Japan) - 83% of total denied
    >non possession of a valid passport (because passports or visas held were discovered to be counterfieted or forged).

    a. General View
    - reasons for deportation:
    >illegal extention of stay (INTERESTING:  first time I heared of this.  Early name of OVERSTAYER).
    >illegal entry
    >unauthorized activities (meaning legal migrants but discovered to be working when they are not authorized to be working).- among total deported of 32,647, 29,884 or 82.4% were illegally working.

    - 54 employers arrested in 1990; 306 in 1991.

    b. Illegal Work/Employment
    - from 58 countries (39 in 1989)
    - In order of number:
    >Bangladesh, 5,925
    >South Korea, 5,534
    >Malaysia, 4,465
    >Philippines, 4,402
    >Pakistan, 3,886
    >Thailand: 1,450 (see table 10 attached)

    - types of jobs:
    see table 12:
    > construction workers
    >Factory Worker
    >Host, Hostess
    >Other Worker
    >Other Service
    >Transport worker

    3. Reasons for Illegal Work/Employment

    Four reasons are given:  (but is unclear what the source of these stated reasons are).

    a. Difference in Economic Conditions
    -cited comparative per capita GNP figures
    -cited comparative nominal wages

    b. Employment Situation in Foreign Countries
    - cited comparative unemployment figures
    - cited laborers returning from Middle east after oil crisis of 1973

    c. Domestic Employment Situation
    -cited ratio of seekers to job offers - showing employees market - being 1:2 in june 1988 and 1.14 in dec 1988, 1.27 in 1989, 1.33 in 1989 and 1.41 in june 1991.
    - cited labor shortage as being caused by:
    >restructuring of operations of businesses after two oil shocks, especially among small and medium sized businesses.
    >change in way of thinking of employers - desire to hire foreign workers.

    d. Intermediation from Brokers or Agents
    - acknowledged a "foothold" of foreign workers... that they cannot enter without any connection or link in the country whether this be relatives [network theory], or an agent or broker who helped them with the arrangements.
    - acknowledge that it is also the illegal workers themselves who refer relatives or other friends to the companies they are already working for, and then brokers step in to facilitate the travel of these recommended relatives [(e) through the available means: tourist then overstay].

    4. Overstay
    -8 out of 10 overstayers previously held the temporary visitor visa.


    1. General View
    -recent increase in international mobility
    -greater role that Japan must play given her behavior is always followed by the international community.
    -ROLE OF IMMIGRATION SERVICES:  to contribute to facilitating international cooperation and international exchange AT THE SAME TIME securing the system for peroperly admitting foreign nationals for the sound development of Japanese society.
    -GOAL OF IMMIGRATION SERVICES: to eliminate or prevent the entry of criminals - SUCH AS NARCOTIC DRUG DEALERS AND ILLEGAL WORKERS, so as to maintain order in the society.
    - FOUR TASKS that will achieve this:
    a. Rationalize and expedite immigration and residence examination.
    b. Have precise data about residence of foreign nationals
    c. Study means of further improving effectiveness of training, including establishment of new system.
    d. Dealing with illegal workers who hinder the sound development of Japanese society, to prevent settlement with appication of strict guidance and procedures with due respect to human rights.

    2. Encouragement of Smooth Personnel Exchange

    3. Policy on the Issue of Foreign Workers
    - Skilled workers, AS LONG AS THEY CANNOT BE SUBSTITUTED BY JAPANESE, wouldn't likely cause adverse effect on the domestic labor market and other social problems, but is expected to promote and develop Japanese economy.  Will admit as many skilled foreigners as possible

    - "But will further carry out careful studies from various points of view in regard to unskilled  workers who are to be engaged in so-called unskilled labor."

    -"The Immigration Control Act was revised in 1989 by Law No. 79 in accordance with such policy (stated above) to reorganize and expand the status of residence so as to accept more foreign nationals having expert technology, skills or knowledge and wishing to work in Japan."

    -"acceptance of foreign workers who enter and reside in Japan to be engaged in unskilled work (hereinafter, referred to as "Unskilled Worker", is likely to greatley influence the Japanese society and economy bearing in mind similar situation epxerience in other countries, it is necessary to continue to carry out careful studies.

    3.1 Entry of Foreign Nationals for the Purpose of Employment under the Present Categories of Status of Residence

    3.2 Question of Foreign "Unskilled" Workers

    3.2.1 Aspects of the Problem Viewpoints on which Opinions in Favor of Acceptance are Based

    >1.  Viewpoint of countering labor shortage
    >2. Viewpoint of International Contribution and Cooperation
    >3. Viewpoint of so-called "Domestic" Internationalization  Issues Pointed out as Negative Aspects
    >1. Risk of identifying such kinds of jobs in which Japanese are reluctant to be employed and consequent division of labor market.
    >2. Risk of unemployment problem of foreign workers at the time of economic recession, and probable deterioration of the entire employment situation of Japan.
    >3. Risk of preventing the improvement of working conditions including wage level of Japanese workers.
    >4. Adverse effect on modernization and rationalization of Japanese industries, as well as improvement of the industrial structure.
    >5. Expansion of domestic production, which contradicts efforts being made to reduce surplus, so as to correct the imbalance of trade between Japan and foreign countries and consequent increase of exports.
    >6. Improbability of expecting contribution to economic development of their home countries with remittance by foreign workers, which, instead, is apt to result in non-productive consumption.
    >7. Burden of social costs incurred in widely ranging fields such as education, housing, health, and sanitation as a result of long-stay and settlement of foreign workers.
    >8. Social friction in communities because of difference in languages, ways of living and customs, etc.
    >9. Possible increase of misbehavior and crimes of foreign nationals.

    further point stressed:  "In addition to the above-mentioned aspects, the following question is also raised.  Once Japan decides to admit so-called unskilled workers, there would be a big inflow of foreign workers into Jaan, which may lead to change of policy exactly because of obvious and serious problems caused in conjuction with their lodgement and settlement.  Then, it would not be easy to invalidate their residence and the residence of their families who have already been settled in Japanese society and to ask them to leave Japan for their home countries..  It is therefore pointed out that  the question whether or not to accept unskilled foreign workers needs careful consideration with the perspective bearing in mind where the national consensus especially lies.

    p.34 Problems with regard to Immigration Control (if unskilled workers are accepted).

    Decision making process to accept "Unskilled workers":
    economic reasons + employment situation of individual industries + modality of acceptance

    >1. Problems of Immigration control.
    - if unskilled are accepted, status of residence system has to be reorganized to now create categories for the unskilled "taking into account circumstance of the industries and national life of Japan"
    - if a quota system for each industry needing unskilled workers is put in place (or skill-based quota system), it is not easy to judge precisely the desirable number of foreign individuals for every branch of domestic industry to be admitted and set limits to the number of such workers.

    (e) the issue seems to be, first, a lack of best practices and experience in models of acceptance or if they had models, they were only based on what they perceived to be failed models of germany.  second, because a top-down approach seems to be the assumption, the problem is a heavy one.  but if a bottom-up approach is taken, the problem would be more equitably shared, adn the solution more widely owned.

    >2. problems of residence control and departure from Japan.
    - depdnding on the balance of supply and demand, "unskilled workers" would be subject to regulation after their acceptance if there is a recession, as is seen in the experience of European countries (Germany, France, and who else?). During economic recession, it is highly probable that the home countries of "unskilled" foreign workers are also liable to similar situation (meaning if Japan will be in an economic recession, then so will the economies of hte home countries of the unskilled workers in Japan.) Therefore if Japan will send the unemployed unskilled workers back to their home countries, "will constitute an export of unemployment, causing deterioration of not only the employment condition of their countries, but also the relations between accepting countries and home countries."

    If this is so then Japan cannot send them back, and it is inevitable that most of them will remain unemployed in Japan, and thus will "constitute one of thei factors of their long stay and settlement."

    "Rotation system" - system where duration, number, job area, etc are controlled in detail
    -text states that employers tend to take negative attitude toward sending home workers who are already accustomed to the job requirements and environment and language and replacing them with new ones.  even the workers will be unwilling to return home.

    - such situation would result in the prolonged stay in Japan.  at which point humanitarian conditions would now have to be considered - such as accepting their families.  they would then become a permanent part of the community despite the original intention being that they remain a temporary labor force.

    - thus rotation system will not be considered.

    3.2.2 Future policy with regard to Foreign "Unskilled" workers
    POLICY STATEMENT:  the admittance of "unskilled" foreign workers is not a mere introduction of labor force into Japan but acceptance of human beings having their own cultures and ways of living, and there are many problems resulting therefrom that cannot be judged by economic principles.  It is also closely related to various Japanese administrative fields such as industry, labor, international cooperation, education, welfare, health, sanitation and public security, etc.  and the degree of indluence it would have on the national life in general is considered to be great."

    -"admittance of "unskilled" foreign workers would require safeguarding their economic and social rights and their families, and necessary measures must be taken for that purpose, which would require large scale rearrangement (so is this lazyness?) and review of the official systems, high social costs, a substantial long period of time and a arge amount of effort.  The social costs incurred for the admittance of "unskilled" foreign workers have to be borne by all the people of Japan."

    - "For all these reasons, the study to decide whether or not to admit "unskilled" foreign workers need to take into account magnitude of the problem.  This is an issue of the whole nation and is not limited to one company or one industry. This is also an issue of a future society

    (e) -why is the retraining option like what they did to their own workers in the boom years of wwII never considered?  or if it is considered, why is it never attempted?

    4. Ways of Acceptance of Foreign Nationals who intend to earn and Aquire Technical Skills in Japan (this section skipped by me.)

    5. To cope with the Issue of Illegal Foreign Workers


    >"the fact that many foreign nationals are illegally employed as "unskilled" workers results likely in preventing the improvement of working conditions of domestic workers"

    >"results in the division of the labor market due to the consolidation of low wage labor .. STOP. SEE BELOW.


    - delaying modernization and rationalization of industries.
    - disturbing the improvement of employment structure
    - threatening the aged, who suffer from less employment opportunities, by taking away the opportunities that would otherwise be given to them (well NATURALLY!: an employer will choose the younger, foreign worker to the older local worker. so what's the problem here?).
    - causing other problems influencing the national economy.

    - amnesty is a measure to legalize the stay and empoyment of those illegal foreign workers conforming to certain standards if they apply within a period of time.
    - amnesty will not necessarily lead to reduction of illegal foreign workers because:
    >1. There is a tremendous amount of surplus labor force in neighboring countries.  And thus amnesty only serves as a motivation for more illegal foreign workers to enter, knowing that an amnesty program is available.
    >2. when an unskilled worker is legalized, the employer will be faced with higher costs in maintaining that now-legal unskilled worker: income taxes, social welfare, etc.  and thus it is doubtful that the employer will want to continue employing that legalized worker.

    - thus it cannot be expected that the demand for employing illegal foreign workers will disappear.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Structural Conditioning of Migrant "Illegality" in Japan

As a quick recap, I employ the case of the Status of Residence (SRS) system, first instituted in 1981, to highlight how the “control” objective of Japan as the host country is operationalized into the two axes of the SRS, that is, duration and productivity.  I consequently argue that the SRS is the foundation on which ethnic pockets draw their legal status from where they, in turn, anchor the sustenance of migrant “illegality.”  This then helps us understand the divergence of conceptions of “Illegality” as status and the convergence of conceptions of “Illegality” as systemic.

I will now cite one point on the structural conditioning – Necessary Complementarity – that may better contextualize why conceptions of “Illegality” converge and diverge as I contend that they do and not otherwise.

Archer (1995) explains Necessary Complementarity as part of the structural conditioning with which agency operates.  When two or more structural factors – which may or may not have developed in conjuction with one another – find their interests and goals mutually in support of or in alignment with one another a situation of Necessary Complementarity is argued to exist.

Three structural variables, I contend, formed a Necessary Complementarity that conditioned the convergence and divergence of conceptions of “Illegality.”  

These three variables are:

First, Japan’s immigration law, first called the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (ICRRA) in 1981 in order to recognize and formalize the status of refugees (Mori 1997), provided a much needed boost of legitimacy to Japan as a full-fledged member of the international community and as being compliant with international standards on human rights.  I say “much needed” because how Japan prior to 1981  dealt with its Korean and Chinese ethnic population that carried over from WWII exposed its prioritization of national interests over human rights.  Called “contradictions and citizenship politics” (Chung 2010), Japan essentially kept what should have been a deeply intimate ethnic population – given its role providing wartime labor during Japan’s aggressive imperial years – at arm’s length, first keeping the legal status of their descendants unclear for decades and then indecisively acting on multiple instances of human rights issues.  From this ICRRA then arose the SRS which became the legal basis of the immigration control of the succeeding decades.

Second, at about the same period as the immigration control act came to be rebranded as the ICRRA, certain trends in the crime and security situation – as culled out from a detailed scanning of annual police reports from 1973-2011 – showed a noticeable shift to "internationalization of crime" (National Police Agency 1973-2011).  In the 1970s Korean and Chinese crimes were regular staple and were classified the chapter heading called "activities and investigation."  In the 1980s crimes by "visiting foreign nationals," referring to foreign visitors on short-term stays, began to be reported.  Illegal immigrant statistics were now found more frequently under the heading "maintenance of public safety."  The 1987 police report focused heavily on globalization, citing new-comer crimes by Filipinos, Nigerians and Pakistanis.  By 1990 the whole of chapter 1 discussed the problems of foreign workers, linking work in the sex industry and unskilled labor with migrant illegality.  This noticeable shift in police action and reporting, needless to say, were based on corresponding changes in the legal framework against illegal migrants

Third, in the mid 1980s and early 1990s, stocks and flows of foreigner groups increased substantially in response to various immigration initiatives (recall Figure 17: Japan Labor Protectionism Matrix) including the return of Japanese descendants, the entry of technical trainees, the recruitment of more foreign students.  The entry of these "new-comers," as they would often be called (in contrast the Koreans and Taiwanese "old-comers"), coincided with a watershed of sorts for migrant illegality in Japan.  As I argue above, this period starting in early 1980s and continuing for most of the next two decades gave Filipinos in Japan one of its distinct and decidedly characteristic features (at least in the perspective of the Japanese):  an ethnic group of mostly brides or female entertainers, or both, to the Japanese.  And naturally this feature found parallels in the gender composition of overstayers in Japan with the Philippines having the highest percentages of women overstayers (67%-71% in the year 2005-2010) compared to the top 10 nationalities of overstayers (see Annex 2).

How do these three variables form a Necessary Complementarity that explain the particular convergence and divergence of conceptions of “Illegality” by the three vested interests?

The ICRRA (first variable) formalized the basis of an immigration control infrastructure and its accompanying legitimacy boost emboldened other parts of the government to reorient its existing programs, such as that of the national police agency (second variable), to what, I contend, is tantamount to a strategy of fear.  Without the legal basis now provided by the ICRRA, the crime strategy of the Japan police would not have been as pervasive and fully sanctioned as it was.  This first variable also provided the impetus to the massive influx of newcomer migrants who then, paradoxically, become the object of the control of the first and second variables.

This Necessary Complementarity produced by the three variables conditioned the varying conceptions of “Illegality” as status and “Illegality” as systemic as it heightened the opposing stances of the three vested interests – making respective interests farther from the other in terms of common ground.  New rules on resident categories started in the ICRRA of 1981 and enforced to the letter by the National Police Agency provided a rallying point, a common “enemy” so to speak for embedded ethnic groups.  This provided the crystallization of embedded ethnic groups into what I call the “Compatriot Mechanism” that plays four key roles in the sustenance of migrant illegality in Japan.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

(Convergence) "Illegalitiy" as Being Systemic

While on the one hand there is divergence in conceptions of “Illegality” as status, there is, on the other hand, convergence in conceptions of “Illegality” as being systemic.  This convergence in “illegality” as being systemic, however, diverges when we consider what each vested party considers as actionable.

As discussed, the host state recognizes that overstayers’ continued existence is inseparable from the ethnic pockets within which they primarily exist and among whom they are unavoidably integrated.  Those that employ overstayers do so based on the strength of endorsements or vouching from a trusted link to the overstayer’s ethnic group.  Source states recognize that the norm of “illegality” as a matter of course can be mitigated only by addressing the more foundational societal forces at work that produce it.  And, as learned from respondent interviews narrated in Textboxes 1-5, a migrant’s decision to become an overstayer is never made in a vacuum, and always factors in his first point of refuge and succeeding points of sustenance (job referrals, remittance systems, etc).

Unlike the divergence in “Illegality” as status being almost a foregone conclusion, the convergence in conceptions of “Illegality” as being systemic is exceptional.  This is because, as discussed in this section, what emerges from this convergence of views that “Illegality” is systemic reflects the divergence of what each vested party views as actionable.   The host state, for example, forges ahead in implementing “illegality” as a control mechanism through its anti-crime program even if its effects are detrimental to the long-term well being of embedded ethnic groups, given the distrust fomented by the encouragement of snitching of overstayers to authorities.  In the purview of the host state then, as we saw in the discussion, “Illegality” is systemic but the goal of control trumps all other consequences of the achievement of control.  On the other hand, those whose interests are in opposition to the interests of the host state, leverage “Illegality” as being systemic in order to further their respective interests.

In summary, “Illegality” as systemic means that it is not trivial, arising from some societal component in a vacuum – if this were at all possible; it is not isolated, untraceable to some prior event or social component and their accompanying intricacies.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

(Divergence) "Illegality" as Legal Status

Japan’s stance (as the host state actor) on the role of human mobility (international migration into Japan) as a threat rather than a catalyst to its long-term viability given its impending demographic liabilities operationalizes “illegality” as a status used to mitigate this perceived threat.  Thus “Illegality” as a status becomes a control mechanism formalized in the SRS that, in turn, legitimizes control in society-wide, structural manifestations such as the APCCRS.

The Philippine stance (as source state actor) on “illegality” as legal status is that it is essentially a handicap or consequence that the migrant alone assumes, and for which accountability is only to the host state.  The unbridled exodus of Filipina entertainers for nearly two decades, resulting in the Philippines having the highest percentage of female overstayers among the top countries with overstayers in Japan; the discontinuity of the relevance of the status “overstayer” immediately upon deportation (unlike in the case of traditional crimes with penalties recognized and implemented regardless of national boundaries); even the unmitigated re-entry of previously deported overstayers given the relative ease in acquiring bogus documentation – all show a utilitarian approach to “illegality” as status, that is, that any and all remittances from migrants are welcome regardless of the legal status under which they were earned.

Employers of overstayers, even if located in the host state, are classified in the same side as the source state in the sense that “Illegality” as status is transacted for their commercial benefit.
Lastly, how the migrant appropriates “Illegality” as status is defined by his/her “initialization” or “configuration,” if you will, within the local ethnic community.  As members of differentiated ethnic pockets with legal status, the “illegal” label on compatriots is essentially a benign status.  As discussed, members of these long-entrenched ethnic pockets even catalyze the sustenance of “illegality” through various roles.  For the overstaying migrant – the majority of whom belong to Group 2: Non-Compliant Migrants  – “illegality” as status is far from benign (as it constitutes an omnipresent threat to their continued presence in Japan) but hardly deters them from working towards their economic goals.  This non-deterence, as my overstayer respondents stress, is not due to overwhelming courage nor preference for the difficult but rather due to the fact that “Illegality” as status is simply a point of no return for them.

Thus, the divergence in conceptions of “Illegality” as status brought about by the vested interests of the three main actors in migration can be said to be non-exeptional, even predictable.  The host state transacts “illegality” as a control strategy which is understandably flaunted by vested interests that are in opposition with the interests of the host state.  This is because, in their view, the immediate/short-term economic benefits (remittances for the source state, manpower savings for employers, absolute earnings for overstayers) justify risks taken in this flaunting.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bilog Savings: Empirical Data on Saving and Spending Patterns

How does lack of legal status affect migrant savings?   The case of Bingo (not my respondent's real name) may help shed some light on the issue.

Bingo overstayed in Japan for 19 years, surrendering in May 2008.  In May 15, 2001, he opened a bank account at the Metrobank Head Office in Manila but did this through the Metrobank Osaka branch.   This enabled him (through a representative) to deposit money in Yen and this would be remitted automatically in Philippine Pesos to his bank account in Manila.  He could not make withdrawals.
Bingo in 2011
Bingo's deposits totaled approximately P700,000 in 7 years.  By September 2009, Bingo made the last withdrawal of P5,000 pesos, and the account was closed.

A number of questions quickly come to mind.

- How does one assess P700,000 savings in Japan in 7 years; that is, is this a small amount or a large amount to have saved up?  To answer this we will have to look at Bingo's deposits relative to his salary and, more importantly, relative to his expenses.

- How could P700,000 evaporate so quickly in just over a year after Bingo's return to Manila?  To answer this we will have to tackle the issue of whether or not migrant savings get converted into productive, sustainable income sources after their return home, or do savings just get used up for living expenses?

[Big thanks to Bingo because he kept his old bank account passbooks - two of them - and allowed me to photograph them, and to share the data with others.]

Let's begin by taking a closer look at Bingo's deposits and withdrawals from May 15, 2001 (first deposit) to September 9, 2011 (last withdrawal).  Below are eleven pages of two bank books of Bingo.

Eleven Pages of Bingo's Bank Account
Since some amounts are not entered clearly I made a pdf file of the bank transactions for your easy reference.  I made the following observations:

- Frequency of deposits is 58% or 7 out of 12 months in a year.
(computation method: 85 months of savings in Japan from May 15, 2001 to May 10, 2008 divided by 49 deposits made in that period)

- Average amount per deposit is P14,000.
Note that deposits were made in Yen and converted to Pesos.  The JPY-to-Peso exchange rate during the period 2001-2008 thus becomes relevant to assess the magnitude of the P14,000 relative to Bingo's salary level.  Converted to Yen, average deposit amount is ¥30,000 and total deposited amount in 7 years is ¥1,500,000.

- P350,000 was withdrawn from the Philippines in 2007 when Bingo was still in Japan.  Bingo explained that he had authorized this withdrawal for the purpose of starting a computer rental business to be run by his family, specifically his eldest son.  More below on how this business venture fared.

- Bingo then had not P700,000 but only P350,000 as savings upon his return to Manila in May 2008.  He made 10 withdrawals in quick succession over a period of just two months totaling P355,000.

- Deposits from Japan continued even after Bingo returned to Manila.  Eleven deposits totaling roughly P350,000 were made monthly starting June 2008 up to June 2009.  More below on who these deposits were from.

Remittances versus Savings

Bingo differentiated between money he would remit for the living expenses of his wife and kids in the Philippines and the money he deposited in his Metrobank account as savings.

He would turn over his daily salary of ¥15,000 to Cathy(not her real name), his live-in partner, who would then give him back ¥5,000 for his daily expenses.  Adding her own salary to their combined finances, Cathy would then take charge of paying all their monthly bills and food expenses and any money left would then be split between remittances to both their families and to savings deposits.

As Cathy had legal status, she would be in charge of transacting with the bank, depositing Bingo's savings into his account, and their remittances for their families into her account.  Cathy's niece in Manila would then send word to Bingo's family that a remittance had arrived.  Bingo's mother would go to Cathy's niece's house and together they would go to the bank and withdraw the remittance from Cathy's account. [The arrangements on how remittances were spent or how they eventually reached Bingo's wife and children from Bingo's mother is the subject of another posting].

Bingo declared that he had been remitting not less than P20,000 per month without fail for the living expenses of his family (though finding the necessary paper trail -- i.e. bankbooks -- will be harder as it will entail interviewing Cathy and Bingo's mother).

Savings vis-a-vis Income

Bingo's employment history in his 19 years as an overstayer in Japan is as follows:

Job Description
Assembling bicycle parts/components
Operating machinery for a rubber factory
Operating a cement mixer
-Construction laborer for housing company
-Operating machinery for steel company
 Assembling bicycle parts/components
 Construction laborer

At the salary rate of ¥15,000/day, Bingo's savings rate is 6%, if he was employed 100% of the time.  (computation details: [¥1,494,733 total savings] / [¥15,000/day x 20 days/mo x 85 months total savings period])

Note that I compute savings rate based on gross income, that is, not deducting living expenses and remittances.  I use this method mainly because I have yet to develop a method to standardize the various variables involved in computing net savings such as, aside from living expenses and remittances, entertainment expenses (gambling, movies, travelling), expenses for vices (smoking, etc). Aside from standardizing the measurement of the Bilog's various expenses, there is the issue of validating and finding documentary bases of amounts mentioned by my respondents.

Another important issue to note here is that I use an employment rate of 100% since Bingo himself stated that during the period 2001 to 2008 he had been fully employed in only one construction company.  If we conservatively assume that he was employed only 50% of the time during that 85-month savings period then his savings rate becomes 12%.

How is a savings rate evaluated?

A number of approaches are possible, varying by the perspective of the beneficiary of the savings.  Remember that we differentiate savings (cash for future use) from remittances (for current use such as for living expenses).

The first beneficiary is the Bilog's dependents (including himself).

[continuing article...]