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Since the late 1970s, foreigners have come to work in Japan to earn valuable yen, especially during the economic prosperity of the late 1980s and early 1990s. They are called “newcomers,” as opposed to “old-stayers,” such as Korean and Chinese permanent residents whose parents and grandparents had come to Japan before the end of World War II in 1945.
Many of the earliest newcomers were young women from South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines who worked illegally as hostesses or prostitutes in the entertainment and sex industry in the late 1970s. Before the mid-1970s, illegal migrant workers consisted of Koreans who came to Japan to work in small shoe factories or restaurants operated by other Koreans. Illegal Korean and Taiwanese female migrants, who used to work at their ethnic restaurants, began to work as hostesses at Korean “Kisaeng” houses or Taiwan clubs. After the 1979 relaxation of the international travels in Taiwan, Taiwanese women started to enter Japan as tourists, and then worked illegally in the sex and entertainment industries. The number of Taiwanese women peaked in 1982, and then declined (Yamawaki 1996:12). As many Korean women worked in Kisaeng houses in Japan as hostesses, the Korean government prohibited overseas travel by Korean entertainers in 1985.
Sex tours by Japanese men in South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines emerged in the 1970s. Sex tours started in Taiwan in the late 1960s because the Taiwanese could converse in Japanese with the tourists. After the 1972 peace agreement between China and Japan, the air routes to Taiwan were temporarily cut off. Then, the tourist agency changed designation of sex tours to Korea for Kisaeng tours. In 1973, Korean Christian women appealed to the Japan-Korea Church Association about Japanese men’s sex tours in Korea. Since the late 1970s, Japanese men went to downtown Manila in the Philippines for sex tours. After bad publicity about sex tours in the 1980s, Japanese men could not go on sex tours (Matsui 1998; Yoshimi 1992). By law, the travel agents are prohibited from getting involved with their tourists’ conduct which violates laws or ordinances of their destinations.
Since 1980, many Filipino women legally came to Japan as entertainers, and then worked (and overstayed) in the entertainment and sex business. Since 1983, an entertainer was required to stay in her home country and wait six months after obtaining another visa to Japan. Many Filipino women ignored the rule, and overstayed in Japan. Moreover, many Thai women entered Japan with forged passports to work in entertainment and sex businesses.
The number of foreign workers arrested for illegal work increased from 667 in 1979 to 5,629, including 4,942 women, in 1985. Female workers apprehended for overstaying and illegal activities in 1985 worked as hostesses (83%), strippers (7%) and prostitutes (6%) (Yamawaki 1996:12). Almost all apprehended foreigners in 1985 were either Thais or Filipinos. Around the mid-1980s, Asian women working illegally in the entertainment and sex industry started to be called “Japayukisan (“Miss Coming Toward Japan”) named after “Karayukisan (“Miss Going to China/Asia”), Japanese prostitutes who were sent to Asian countries during the late nineteenth and the early twentieth countries. Many Asian women still work illegally in the entertainment and sex industry.
Due to the large labor shortage caused by the 1986-1991 “bubble economy,” Japan received a massive influx of young single men from China, Korea, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iran in order to earn quick money as undocumented manual workers. Small and medium-size firms, which could not secure overseas subsidies or could not attract young Japanese workers, “pulled” inexpensive foreign workers in order to cover the severe labor shortage. Japanese youths rejected small and medium-size factory works, because their jobs are called 3D (dangerous, dirty and demanding). Asian men from China, the Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh were “pushed” to emigrate by the struggling economy and a high level of unemployment or underemployment in their countries.
In 1988, when male foreigners outnumbered female foreigners, more men than women were arrested as undocumented workers. As the number of newcomers increased, the number of overstayers reached 50,000 in 1989, passed 100,000 in 1990, and reached the highest number, 298,642, in May 1993, and then fell to 219,418 in January 2004 (Iguchi 2001:25, 60; Hōmushō 2004b). In the late 1980s, new arrivals from China were disguised pre-college students and then worked illegally. There were also many migrant workers from Bangladesh and Pakistan who could enter Japan freely until the stricter regulations against Bangladeshis and Pakistanis in 1989. The relaxation of the regulations on Koreans going abroad in 1989 encouraged Koreans to go to Japan more freely.
Most newcomers were the youths in their 20s and 30s. The number of male workers apprehended has rapidly increased. In 1990, most were Bangladeshis, South Koreans, Pakistanis and Malaysians, while in 1992 they were Iranians, South Koreans and Malaysians. In 1992, the occupational breakdown of apprehended male workers indicates that they were construction workers (51%) and factory workers (28%). On the other hand, apprehended female workers consisted of hostesses (34%), factory workers (17%), prostitutes (11%), dishwashers (9%), and waitresses (7%) (Yamawaki 1996:13). Even after the 1991 recession, the number of undocumented workers had not decreased, and hovered at 250,000 until 2000.
In the late 1980s, the debate concerning the acceptance of unskilled foreign workers was discussed through the media. Promoters of the open market for foreign workers argued that the industry was demanding cheap labor and that Japan’s economy and Japanese companies would enjoy the benefits of foreign workers. On the other hand, opponents argued that unlimited acceptance of foreign workers could cause social chaos and high social costs, and slow down the rationalization and modernization of industries. They also questioned the maintenance of cultural integrity of Japanese society, and proposed direct investment in Asia. The Ministry of Labor and the Rengō (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) supported the closed-door policy.
The revised Immigration Control Law was enacted in 1989, and took effect in 1990. The activities of professional and skilled foreigners were broadened in order to attract more legal foreign workers. Furthermore, the government created a new category of “long-term resident” visas for Nikkei (“Japanese migrants/Japanese descendents with foreign nationality”) workers. Nikkei, their spouses and children can come and work in Japan unconditionally for up to three years (renewable), if they are within the third generation of the Nikkei. Nikkei from South America, especially Brazil, have entered Japan to work in 1990.
Moreover, the recruitment of trainees was relaxed in 1990, and small and medium companies could recruit unskilled workers. In addition, since the 1993 Technical Internship Training Program, trainees can become technical intern trainees, and work for wages as employees for two years (since 1997, three years). On the other hand, unskilled workers except Nikkei, trainees, or part-timers from foreign students or pre-college students are undocumented workers.
The collapse of the “bubble economy” in 1991 did not decrease the number of foreign workers because the majority of small companies and service industries still suffered a labor shortage. In a 1993-1994 survey, there were very few firings or resignations of foreign workers as a result of the economic recession (Komai 2001:35). Until 1993, the size of the labor force had increased by one million from the previous year. In 1993, a small decrease in the number of people employed in the finance and insurance industries began (Iguchi 2001:24). In 1994, with the increase in the value of the yen, more and more companies went abroad for their businesses, and even the manufacturing sector decreased its use of foreign workers by 7.3 percent in one year. It affected Nikkei workers who worked in large manufacturing firms, and Nikkei started to work in smaller firms or in the service sector (Mori 1997:76-78). Since 1995, the shrinking of the labor force spread even to commerce and restaurants, and caused a long-term recession with high unemployment. Because of the recession, the number of undocumented workers has been slowly decreasing since 1993, and the number of Nikkei has been decreasing since 1998 (Iguchi 2001:22-24, 53).
The 1997 amendment to the Immigration Control Law imposed severer penalties on employers and smugglers: up to three years of imprisonment or a fine of two million yen. The 1999 amendment stipulates that illegal immigrants will face a fine of up to 300,000 yen or up to three years of imprisonment. Once they are deported, they would not be allowed to reenter Japan for five years. Almost 48,500 persons were deported in 1998, and 85 percent of them had been working illegally (OECD 2001:213, 216). In 1998, 11,546 people were rejected to enter Japan because of illegal entry (AS June 6, 1999).
In 2003, the number of registered foreigners, including permanent residents, totaled a record of 1,915,030, 1.50 percent of the population of 127,619,000. Registered foreigners include Koreans (32.1%), Chinese (24.1%), Brazilians (14.3%), Filipinos (9.7%), Peruvians (2.8%), Americans (2.5%), and others (Hōmushō 2004a). As of 2002, registered 635,000 Koreans include 522,000 permanent residents, 22,000 Japanese spouses and children, 9,100 long-term residents, 17,000 foreign students, and 7,200 pre-college students. Registered 424,000 Chinese consist of 75,000 permanent residents, 53,000 Japanese spouses and children, including Chinese returnees and their descendants, 35,000 long-term residents, 74,000 foreign students, 35,000 pre-college students, and 27,000 trainees. Brazilians are primarily legal “long-term residents” and are engaged in manufacturing and service industries. Filipinos include 47,000 entertainers, 46,000 Japanese spouse, 33,000 permanent residents, and 18,000 long-term residents. As of January 1, 2004, 219,418 overstayers were Koreans (21.2%), Chinese from the mainland (15.3%), Filipinos (14.3%), Thais (6.5%), Malaysians (3.9%), Taiwanese (3.5%), Indonesians (3.3%), Peruvians (3.3%), Brazilians (2.1%), Sri Lankans (1.9%), and others (Hōmushō 2004b).
The number of newcomer foreigners working in Japan accounts for 1.1 percent of the workforce, that is, approximately 760,000, including 230,000 Nikkei workers in 2002 (Naikakufu 2004a). Foreign students and pre-college students can also work legally up to four hours a day, and many illegally work more than the mandated hours. Newcomers are concentrated in metropolitan areas around Tokyo and Tōkai, and recently after the recession, many migrant workers in large cities moved to local areas all over Japan.
Japan has been recovering from the decade-long recession and realized 3.2 percent economic growth and lower unemployment rate in 2003 (Naikakufu 2004a). Therefore, the demand for foreign workers has been much lower than the period during the “bubble economy.” However, the number of foreign workers has not been reduced because most foreigners work for 3D jobs, that the Japanese shun.
In the next 50 years, the rate of Japanese workers will be drastically reduced because of the low birthrate. The population will peak at 127,740,000 in 2006, and then fall to 100,590,000 in 2050, because of the low birthrate. In 2050, the number of the elderly will reach 35.7 percent of the population, and the ratio of working generations to the older generation is 1.5 to 1 (AS January 31, 2002).
The number of workers peaked in 1998 and will decrease by 1.9 percent to 2005, 5.3 percent to 2010, and 13.8 percent to 2050 (Mori 1997:90). In order to complement the shrinking number of workers, Japanese companies may try hiring more women and the elderly, improving labor productivity by the automation of factories and offices, and relocating labor-intensive manufacturing sectors to China and Southeast Asia. However, the domestic service sector and some construction jobs, such as nursing care for aging population will need more workers. In the future, it is very possible that domestic care for the elderly will be provided by foreign workers.
According to a survey in 2000, two-thirds of respondents (64%), compared with 56 percent in 1989 agreed that Japan could accept unskilled workers with some conditions such as the length of working period (25%) and the number of workers (21%) (AS November 9, 2000).Table IV-1 Foreigners by Status of Residence in 2003
|Status of Residence||Total|
|(Special) Permanent Residents||742,963 (38.8%)|
|Dependents of Japanese Citizens||262,778 (13.7%)|
|Long-term Residents||245,147 (12.8%)|
|Foreign Students||125,597 (6.6%)|
|Pre-college Students||50,473 (2.6%)|
|Specialists in Humanities or International Services||44,943 (2.3%)|
|Technical, Engineers||20,807 (1.1%)|
|Skilled Labor||12,583 (0.7%)|
|Intra-company Transferees||10,605 (0.6%)|
|Dependents of Permanent Residents||8,519 (0.4%)|
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The foreign labor force consists of specialists in humanities or international services, entertainers, engineers, trainees, students with part time jobs, Nikkei workers, and undocumented workers. Nikkei used to work in production and assembly lines in manufacturing industries such as automobiles and electrical appliances, but recently many work also in the service industry. Most college and pre-college students who can work 28 hours a week take a part-time job within or beyond the restricted hours, mainly as clerks, waiters/waitresses, dish-washers, and cleaners. Illegal male workers work in the construction and manufacturing industry of small companies, while many illegal female workers work in entertainment and sex industries.
The wage of foreign workers is determined by the legitimacy of working status, gender, ability of work, and Japanese language proficiency. As legal workers, Nikkei workers generally work at larger companies and receive higher wages. The average hourly payment for female workers is usually about 25 percent lower than that of male workers (Mori 1997:179-180).
As of 2002, an estimated 760,000 foreign workers consists of registered workers (23.5%), Nikkei workers (30.6%), part-time workers such as foreign students (10.9%), technical intern trainees (6.1%), and overstayers (28.9%) (Kōseirōdōshō 2004a). According to the report of foreign workers (as of June 1, 2003), 274,145 foreign workers (a 20.2% increase from 2002) work in 23,142 workplaces (a 7.9% increase from 2002). Workers directly employed (157,247) work in manufacturing (60.2%), (other) service industry (9.0%), restaurants and hotels (7.4%), education (7.3%), whole sales and retails (6.5%), transportation (3.0%), information and communication (2.5%), construction (1.4%), finance (1.2%), and others (1.5%). Almost half (42.6%) of foreign workers (116,898) are indirectly employed through brokers. Most of them (92.5%) work in manufacturing (Kōseirōdōshō 2003a).
There is no quota in the granting of work visas. The Japanese government plans to increase the number of skilled engineers and professionals, and to regulate the work of entertainers more strictly. In 2003, there were 64,642 entertainers, most of whom were Filipinos. In addition, there were specialists in humanities or international services (44,943); engineers (20,807); skilled labor (12,583); intra-company transferees (10,605); instructors (9,390); professors (8,037); investors and business managers (6,135); clergy (4,732); researchers (2,770); artists (386); journalists (294); attorneys and accountants (122); and medical professionals (110) (Hōmushō 2004a). Skilled workers, except for entertainers, have one-year or three-year work visa, while entertainers have three-month, six-month, one-year work visas.
Entertainers comprise the largest number of skilled workers. The overwhelming majority of entertainers have been young Filipino singers and dancers. As of 2003, 64,642 (cf., 32,297 in 1999) worked as entertainers (Hōmushō 2004a). Among overstayers among former entertainers (11,974), 88 percent of them, 10,582 are Filipinos, as of 2004 (Hōmushō 2004b).
The Philippine government started an overseas employment program in 1974, and many young men went to oil-rich countries in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. Since the mid-1980s, a new wave of migrant workers, mostly young, educated women, went to work as domestic helpers for two years in Hong Kong and Singapore, and as entertainers for six months in Japan. The remittance from migrant workers is highly valued by families in the Philippines, and is used for the education of children and/or siblings, and for basic needs (Go 1995:49-53).
Since the 1980s, many Filipino women came to Japan as entertainers, and then most (overstayed and) worked illegally as waitresses and hostesses in the entertainment and sex businesses. Intermediary agents, called “brokers” or “promoters” provide intensive training courses for “entertainers,” assist them in finding work in Japan, and charge fees for these services against the women’s future wages. The wages for Filipino hostesses are much lower than for Japanese hostesses, but several times higher than they could earn in the Philippines (Kikuchi 1999:143-144).
Interviews with 28 Filipino entertainers in 1991-1992 revealed that many were high school graduates, came from large families in the lower middle working class, and decided to be entertainers in Japan in order to make quick money for their families. They were young, rarely more than 23 years old. Many became entertainers through the intermediary, Filipino and Japanese agencies, promoters and recruiters. Applicants and the Japanese counterparts pay Filipino agencies that provide audition, and practice sessions for entertainers, and arrange legal documents to work in Japan (Ballescas 1992).
According to a 1991 Philippine Embassy Report, there were at least 280 talent companies and 74 agencies in the Philippines, and at least 402 promotion companies in Japan. Only 10 percent of entertainers are professional dancers and singers, and others work for topless or strip clubs. Many overstayers are prostitutes. Many returned to the Philippines with material goods and money, and were praised by their families and community, while many endured unwanted babies, abortion, and physical abuse. Since the stricter regulation after 1991, the entertainers must be 23 years old or older, and cannot sell sexual services or serve as hostesses or receptionists, although it is easy to cheat (Ballescas 1992).
The Japanese and Philippine governments decided in 1995 to restrict the status of entertainment visa. Filipino entertainers are required to have professional training, pass written exams and auditions in order to receive licenses, an Artist’s Record Book by the Filipino government. Since 1999, licenses for entertainment businesses would not be granted to persons who had been convicted of illegally employing foreign nationals within the last five years. Operators and agents who confiscated their employees’ passports would have to pay heavy fines. After March 2005, the licenses for entertainers issued in foreign countries cannot account for the qualification for the entertainment visa. Applicants for these visas need two years of professional training or experience in the entertainment visa (AS February 16, 2005). According to a 2004 survey, 115 out of 124 entertainment businesses in the Kantō area forced foreign women with entertainment visas, to violate the terms of those visas by performing work that did not involve singing and dancing (AS January 24, 2005).
The 1995 Philippine Embassy report noted that about 50 percent of Filipinos who entered Japan legally in the last two years have overstayed their visas. There are also paper marriage businesses between Japanese men and Filipino women for the purpose of obtaining visas. The divorce rate between Japanese husbands and Filipino wives is about 70 percent, mainly because they are purely marriages of convenience. Some Filipino women became dealers for overstaying Filipinos, and peddlers of jewelry, cosmetics, and drugs (Piquero-Ballescas 1996:39-44).
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Since the 1960s, the employees of overseas affiliates or joint ventures of Japanese companies have come to Japan to learn skills, techniques and/or knowledge of products and production process, which are not available in their home country. Up to 5 percent of a company’s regular employees could be trainees. They receive a stipend for room and board, daily necessities and teaching materials, but not salaries. At the beginning, the government-based programs invited trainees, and then, private companies began providing on-the-job training for trainees sponsored by the government, and also inviting trainees privately through the Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Association of Small Enterprises. The trainee status in the immigration control system was established in 1981.
The 5 percent quota of trainees to regular workers is also waived. Companies can accept trainees from unrelated foreign companies, not necessarily from their own subsidies or customers. Many small and medium companies started to take trainees to meet the high demand for labor forces in the early 1990s. A trainee may stay up to two years by requesting the extension of another year. Trainees enroll in Japanese language and culture classes, undergo formal training in job skills, and the “on-the-job” training in the first year. In the second year, they are entirely provided “on-the-job” training. As a result, many small companies with severe labor shortages are able to take foreign trainees for their unskilled jobs. On the other hand, the large international companies use training systems for their global business strategy (Mori 1997:130).
In 1993, the Technical Internship Training Program was established as the extension to the Training Program under the supervision of the Japan International Training Co-operation Organization (JITCO). After completing the training and passing aptitude tests, trainees can become technical intern trainees, and work for wages as employees like Japanese colleagues for three years (since 1997) including their training period.
The interns are guaranteed a place to live, but they are prohibited from bringing their family, changing their companies, and extending their stay. The technical internship-training program has not become as popular as the lawmakers had hoped. In 1996, there were only 6,300 technical interns, and the total number between 1993 and 1996 amounted to only 15,000 (Komai 2001:38). In 1999, 12,442 trainees applied to transfer to the Technical Internship Training Program. The number of disappearances of (practical) trainees rose from 109 in 1996 to 357 in 1999 (Kanbayashi 2002:87, 92). From 1999 to 2000, almost half of Vietnamese practical trainees left in the middle of training and stayed longer illegally (Iguchi 2001:184).
The 44,464 trainees in 2003 include Chinese (69.2%), Indonesians (9.5%), Vietnamese (7.9%), Filipinos (6.0%), Thais (3.0%), and others (Hōmushō 2004a). The trainees are mainly legal unskilled workers (nominally trainees), especially for small and medium companies, which have severe shortage of unskilled, cheap workers. In fact, many employers do not provide job training, and trainees perform simple manual work. Trainees are usually paid even less than undocumented workers (Mori 1997:129-130). The average allowance for trainees was 77,319 yen a month in 1999 while the salaries for most practical trainees were approximately 130,000 yen a month for those in mechanical and metal working industry and approximately 110,000 yen a month for those in the textile industry. Some companies deducted the expenses for room and board of (practical) trainees, and the expenses of management for foreign dispatching companies (Kanbayashi 2002:87-89).
In 2003, 27,233 trainees applied for a Technical Intern Training Program for the textile industry (43.0%), mechanical and metal work manufacturing (18.6%), food processing (11.5%), construction (6.4%), agriculture (4.2%), fishery (1.5%) and others (14.8%) (JITCO 2004). Starting in 2000, trainees in agriculture and fishery can transfer to the Technical Intern Training Program.
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Foreign students and pre-college students can work four hours a day (28 hours a week) legally to support their educational expenses. Foreign students who are supported by their family and/or themselves are very busy working a part-time job since the college expenses are very high, and scholarships are few. In May 1999, 47,000 out of 57,000 foreign students worked temporarily (Iguchi 2001:56). College and pre-college students worked part-time as store clerks, waiters/waitresses, dishwashers, newspaper deliverers, building maintainers, and cleaners.
After deregulating foreign student visas in 1984, many pre-college students (shūgakusei) came to Japan from China to study Japanese language before attending college. Since 1984, Japanese language school has been allowed to be a guarantor for its students. Pre-college students must spend at least four hours per day and five days a week in their Japanese language schools.
After China eased the restrictions on traveling abroad in 1986, many migrant workers from China used pre-college student visas to work in Japan. Chinese migrant workers came to Japan in the guise of pre-college students in order to work and earn money illegally. Almost half of pre-college students over-stayed in Japan after graduation from Japanese language schools in 1988, when 35,107 pre-college students, more than 80 percent from China, entered Japan (Komai 2001:58).
The government re-regulated the visa in 1989 and 1992, and the Immigration Control Bureau currently requires a financial statement for a pre-college student visa. According to a 1991 survey of pre-college students by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, 93 percent of pre-college students went to Japanese language schools, and 65.1 percent worked part-time jobs. According to their earnings, they worked 35.4 hours a week. Seventy-one percent planned to continue studying. They often worked as waiters or waitress (61.2%), in factory, construction, cleaning (22.8%), and the majority (56.6%) found jobs through friends of the same nationality (Komai 2001:58-59). As of 2003, the number of foreigners registered as pre-college students totaled 50,473 (77.0% are Chinese and 13.0% are Koreans) (Hōmushō 2004a).
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The revised 1989 Immigration Control Law created a new category of “long-term resident” visas for Nikkei (“Japanese migrants/Japanese descendents with foreign nationality”) workers so that Nikkei, their spouses and children can come and work in Japan unconditionally up to three years (renewable), if they are within the third generation of the Nikkei.
In 1997, of the nearly 250,000 registered Latin American aliens in Japan, 82 percent were Brazilians and 15 percent were Peruvians. The first-generation Nikkei with Japanese nationality and Nikkei with dual citizenship do not count as registered aliens, but they account for perhaps 12 percent of the population of Nikkei from Latin America. Therefore, in 1997, the number of Nikkei from Latin America exceeded 278,000 (Kitagawa 1998:199-200). They live in the Tokyo metropolitan areas and the Tōkai area, in the vicinity of many automobile plants and factories. As of 2002, there are an estimated 233,897 Nikkei workers, 1.4 times more than 1992, though the number has not changed much since 1997. According to a 2002 survey, Nikkei workers stayed in Japan for 10 years or more (28%), 7 to 10 years (21%), 5 to 7 years (16%), 3 to 5 years (13%), 1 to 3 years (16%) and less than one year (5%) (Kōserōdōshō 2004a).
Since 1994, the number of Nikkei repeaters surpassed the number of Nikkei newcomers (Iguchi 2001:72). In 1998, more than half of Brazilian dekasegi (“migrant workers”) are repeaters (Kajita 2001b:151). Many Nikkei workers bring their families with them to Japan. Their wives can also work legally, and their children attend Japanese school. Nikkei Brazilians tend to be congregate in Hamamatsu City of Shizuoka Prefecture, Toyota City and Toyohashi City of Aichi Prefecture, and Ota City and Oizumi Town of Gunma Prefecture where manufacturing factories of such as cars and electronics are located (Onai 2001a:6).
Regardless of their ages, educational attainment or work experiences, almost all Nikkei workers perform unskilled manual work, especially in manufacturing factories, though many Nikkei are highly educated professionals. Before coming to Japan, male workers from Brazil were professionals, technical workers, self-employed, and students, while female workers from Brazil were clerical workers, managers or students. But in Japan, 60 to 70 percent worked in factories as manual workers, 10 percent were engaged in technical work in factories, and 20 to 30 percent were in service industry such as cleaning and working in hotels, and construction industry (Shinotsuka 2001:147). They endure manual hard work in order to earn quick money, as dekasegi workers because they know it is only a temporary job. According to statistics by the national bank of Brazil, a total of annual bank remittances from Nikkei migrant workers in Japan to Brazil was an estimated $2 billion in 1994 (Sellek 1997:199). Nikkei from rural areas who are usually better at Japanese language but have lower educational attainment could obtain a better job than Nikkei from urban areas with high education attainment (Nihon Rōdō 1995:123).
During the economic slowdown of the early 1990s, the manufacturing industry, especially in large firms where many Nikkei have been working, has downsized. Their overtime hours were decreased. Furthermore, their contracts might not be renewed, and there was no new recruitment. Because of no new work in Nikkei population centers such as Aichi, Shizuoka, Kanagawa and Gunma areas, Nikkei scattered across Japan in search of jobs. Their jobs also became diversified. They worked at factories, construction sites, stores, hotels, and hospitals. Overtime work decreased, while part-time jobs increased (Ike 1995:60-62; Kawamura 2000:114-115). According to the “Report of the Employment of Foreigners,” the rate of full time employment in foreign workers lowered, and the rate of dispatched workers reached 40 percent in 2000 (Iguchi 2001:142).
Some job seekers in Brazil find a company through personal referral from someone who has worked in Japan. However, in many cases, the recruitment of Nikkei workers is through “illegal” brokers. Dispatch agencies in Brazil need to have permission from the government; however, most dispatch agencies do not have permits (Nihon Rōdō 1995:69-74). A dispatch agency may make a loan for travel expenses, come and pick up Nikkei workers at the airport in Japan, provide apartments/dorms and transportation, and fill out alien registration forms, the national health insurance, and/or for driver’s licenses (Watanabe 1995:76).
Some Nikkei brokers introduce a new Nikkei to dispatch agencies for fees, though this is prohibited by the Law of Employment Security. Nikkei may have trouble with brokers who charge high commission fees, engage in false advertising, and confiscate passports. They might also clash with employers over breach of labor contracts, deprivation of payments, and labor insurance. The crackdown on illegal dispatch agencies is not working well. Those who are caught generally pay a penalty of 200,000 yen, change their name and resume their unethical practice (Nihon Rōdō 1995:84, 120-121).
Because it was still illegal to dispatch workers in ports transportation, construction, security work, medical work and manufacturing work under the revised 1999 Law of Dispatched Workers, the subcontracted companies (brokers) that employed many Nikkei workers were “formerly” entrusted some assembly lines in processing and manufacturing factories owned by small and medium companies, though brokers, in fact, did not supervise their own lines (Nikkei Rōdō 1995:112-117; Kajita 2001a:117). The revised 2003 Law of Dispatched Workers allows dispatched workers to work in the manufacturing sector for one year.
Many Brazilians live in the same apartment complex, arranged for them by job brokers. They go to work by bus or car, again arranged by job brokers, and work long hours. At work, Brazilian workers tend to socialize among themselves, not with Japanese workers. Some Brazilians think that Japanese workers resent them (Watanabe and Ishi 1995:619). Because of their poor skill in Japanese language, different labor customs, and their low status as unskilled migrant workers, they may confront prejudice and discrimination in the workplace. In 1998, a real estate agency that refused to lease an apartment to a foreigner at the owner’s request was warned that his action was an act of discrimination, and that he was in violation of Articles 13 and 14 of the Constitution, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. As a result, the real estate agency apologized and promised to understand the issues of foreigners (U.N. Committee 2000).
According to the 1996 survey of 104 companies that employed foreign workers (documented and undocumented) in the Hamamatsu region, there were 22 foreign workers per company, 9 percent of employees on average. One third of these companies employed undocumented workers. Three-fourths of the companies said that there was no difference of work between Japanese workers and foreign workers, while 41 percent said work was limited because of the language barrier. The number of part-time foreign workers has been rising. Employment of foreign workers takes place through brokers, direct application, and personal network of foreign workers. More than half of companies (55%) obtain foreign workers through brokers (Yamakoshi 2001:188-201).
Among Nikkei workers, 83.5 percent of Nikkei worked in manufacturing, and 73.5 percent were employed and received salaries through brokers. For their residence, two-thirds of Nikkei (67.8%) rent their residence from their companies (Kajita 2001a:116-118). Almost 70 percent of Nikkei workers brought their family (Kuwahara 2001). Monthly payment (without overtime) of Nikkei men amounted to 262,000 yen (Japanese men in 1996, 448,000 yen) while Nikkei women earned 155,000 yen (Japanese female 223,000 yen). Two-thirds (67%) complained that their overtime jobs decreased, and their wages had not been raised much because of the recession. But only 3-4 percent worried about dismissal and becoming unemployed (Shinotsuka 2001:135-136, 144).
Half of the Nikkei said they came to Japan in order to make a large amount of money. Not many complained about the low wage (14.7%), but they complained about 3D (demanding, dangerous and dirty), 3K in Japanese (kitsui, kiken, and kitanai) work conditions, easy dismissals, and no direct contract renewals (Kajita 2001a:102, 119).
More than two-thirds of Nikkei (70.3%) already stayed in Japan longer than they planned because they could not save enough money; they were worried about the economic recession in their country; they received better pay in Japan; they were used to Japanese life; they were (or going to be) married in Japan; and they would like their children to continue their education in Japan. Many wanted to have their own business upon returning to their country; however, many Nikkei also returned to Japan after they failed to have their own business (Kajita 2001b).
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There are approximately 1,228,000 Japanese Brazilians in Brazil, the largest community of Japanese descent outside of Japan, as of 1998 (Yamanaka 1996a:71). Almost all of the population (91%) is clustered in the southwestern and southern regions of Brazil. According to a survey (1987-88), the Japanese Brazilians consisted to the first-generation Issei (12.5%), the second-generation Nisei (30.9%), and the third-generation Sansei (41%) (Tsuda 2003:57). In 2003, 274,700 registered Brazilians were living in Japan (Hōmushō 2004a). From 1908 to 1980, approximately 250,000 Japanese, including 190,000 migrants during the pre-war period, had emigrated into Brazil. About 94 percent arrived as farmers, and 90 percent started to work as contract workers on coffee plantation. Among pre-war migrants, 92.3 percent entered in the state of San Paulo, and in 1934, 92 percent of Japanese living in San Paulo lived in villages. More than 90 percent of Japanese immigrants stayed in Brazil, although they had initially intended to go back to Japan after they had saved enough money (Maeda 1996:310).
When Japanese started to migrate to the coffee plantations of Brazil, the coffee economy was declining in San Paulo. Therefore, they could not save enough money to return to Japan, but they could buy or rent inexpensive lands, and became independent farmers. They cooperated to cultivate the plantation, and built a Japanese “colony” of migrants. In the 1930s, there were 600 to 700 such “colonies,” with Japanese associations and schools, in southeast Brazil. They celebrated Japanese holidays and emperor worship. When the associations and schools were forced to close in 1938 due to the international tension between Brazil and Japan, there were more than 600 Japanese schools (Maeda 1996:314-317).
During World War II, 90 percent of the Japanese immigrants planned to return to Japan. In 1946, more than 90 percent of migrants still believed that Japan had won the war. They finally realized that Japan lost the war, and decided to stay in Brazil. In the 1950s and 1960s, the second generation of Nikkei became middle class, white-collar workers and technocrats (Maeda 1996). In the 1970s, the third generation was reaching adulthood, and the well-educated Nisei (the second generation) and Sansei (the third generation) established the Japanese-Brazilians identity.
Brazil enjoyed rapid economic growth from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, and attracted investments from Japanese multinational corporations to operate production of steel, metal, machinery, electronics, chemicals, textiles and food processing. During the 1980s, however, the hyperinflation and unemployment prevailed and worsened in the early 1990s. In 1994, thanks to the inflation restriction policy, the inflation became only 7.7 percent (Nihon Rōdō 1995:1). According to a 1994-1996 survey of Japanese Brazilians in Brazil, 81.1 percent of Issei, 22.5 percent of Nisei and 2.8 percent of Sansei can speak Japanese proficiently (Honma and Yomiuri 1998:107).
In the early 1980s, Nikkei Brazilians, especially Issei (the first generation) and Nisei (the second generation) who have a Japanese nationality and/or dual citizenship, started to go to Japan for temporary work (dekasegi). The word, dekasegi had a bad connotation of losing face. However, since they came back to Brazil with a large amount of money, and Japan needed workers, dekasegi became popular among Nikkei. Older Issei and Nisei women started to work in Japan as hospital attendants. Highly educated middle-class Nikkei who had suffered under the economic recession in Brazil started to participate in dekasegi in order to earn a great deal of money within a short time. Some overstayed as illegal workers.
The revision of the 1990 Immigration Control Law provided long-term work visas for Nikkei after the petition from Nikkei politicians to the Japanese government. A large flow of Nikkei, many with their families came to Japan to work on a temporary basis. Both husbands and wives work and save more money to go back to Brazil. After returning to Brazil, many Nikkei could not obtain the job they wanted. Because of huge wage differences (Gross National Income: $35,400 in Japan; $3,650 in Brazil and $2,050 in Peru, as of 2000), they did not want to work in Brazil and returned to Japan. They listed the merits of dekasegi, such as buying new houses and/or durables, investing for enterprises, repaying debts, and knowing better about Japan, while the demerits of dekasegi included disincentive to work, increased land prices, children’s education, and collapse of family (Honma and Yomiuri 1998:98-102).
According to the 1994-1995 interviews of Japanese-Brazilian female workers, and Brazilian female workers as wives of Japanese-Brazilians, the overwhelming majority of young Japanese-Brazilian women work in manufacturing industries. Many older Japanese-Brazilian women work in hospitals and private homes as convalescent attendants. Female workers usually earn 20 to 40 percent less than Japanese-Brazilian men. Most Japanese-Brazilian workers want to work overtime to make more money, but the economic recession from 1992 has reduced their wages and overtime earnings. They saved an average of 3 to 5 million yen before their return (Yamanaka 1996b). As they stay longer in Japan, they become accustomed to living as Japanese and as Brazilians (Roth 2002; Lesser 2003).
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In 2003, 54,000 registered Peruvians, mostly Japanese-Peruvians, comprising a large portion of Japanese-Peruvians, lived in Japan (Hōmushō 2004a). There are an estimated 100,000 Japanese descendants living in Peru. Going to Japan as migrant workers has been very popular and lucrative among Nikkei Peruvians. Furthermore, there have been many Peruvians with forged documents coming to Japan. In 1999, there were 10,320 Peruvian overstayers in Japan (Komai 2001:29). In 1995, 2,665 Peruvians (cf., 122 Brazilians) were deported because of fraudulent documents (Honma and Yomiuri 1998:66).
Japanese migration to Peru started in 1899 as contract migrant workers for sugar, rubber, and cotton plantations. In 1923, Japanese migrant contracts were suspended, and in 1936, migration to Peru was restricted. After finishing their contracts, the majority of migrant workers left the plantation in order to become farmers or owners of small shops in Lima and its suburbs. By the 1920s, Japanese communities were located in metropolitan areas, and established Japanese elementary schools. Many migrants went back to Japan to marry, and then brought their brides to Peru (Horie and Yanagida 1997:162-3).
Since the latter half of the 1920s, anti-Japanese sentiment grew, and the economic depression of the 1930s made the Japanese community the target of anti-Japanese movements. In 1940, 17,638 Japanese were the largest proportion of 62,680 foreigners in Peru, and 90 percent of Japanese lived in Lima province. In 1940, an anti-Japanese riot took place. The Peruvian government froze and confiscated the assets of Japanese immigrants as enemy foreigners in 1942. Only small stores could operate under the surveillance. Over 1,400 Japanese were interned in United States concentration camps. Five Japanese schools were closed. In 1945, Peru declared war against Japan.
After World War II, they had to stay in Peru. In 1947, the restriction against foreigners of the Axis countries was lifted, and in 1960, the immigration to Peru restarted. Because Japanese schools had been closed during the war, Japanese children went to Peruvian schools. Many children of the second generation entered college.
Japanese-Peruvians are the largest and most organized minority in Peru. They formed the Central Japanese Association, the Okinawa Fellowship Association, and five Japanese schools. In 1995, there were about 80,000 Nikkei Peruvians in Peru and the Association of Peruvian Japanese numbered 2,500 households. Japanese schools for elementary and secondary education have Japanese language classes in addition to the regular curriculum.
In 1989, there were 45,644 Nikkei Peruvians in Lima province. The majority (67.2%) worked in the small service industries, in addition to agriculture (13.7%) and small factories (11.3%). Well-educated men work at Japanese or Japanese-Peruvian companies. Ninety percent of Japanese-Peruvians are Catholic but they keep some Japanese beliefs that are based on Buddhism and Shintoism. Intermarriage is still rare, especially among the middle class Japanese Peruvians. In 1990, Alberto Fujimori, a Nikkei Peruvian, became President of Peru (1990-2000). The economic assistance from the Japanese government to Peru has increased (Morimoto 1992; Horie and Yanagida 1997).
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Foreign primary and secondary school children who need Japanese language education are mainly Nikkei children. Since 1992, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has deployed additional Japanese language teachers for foreign students, and since 1993, has provided workshops for teachers on educating foreign students. The MOE has also dispatched educational counselors for foreign students and their parents who consult with them in their native language. Foreign students who need Japanese language education are excused from Japanese language arts and social studies classes, and are taught Japanese language until they can comprehend their classes. In recent years, bilingual and native-language education for foreign students has been more systematically provided by municipal boards of education.
Bilingual and native-language education helps many Nikkei children keep their native language skills intact, helps foreign students respect their native languages and cultures, and enhancing their ethnic pride. In addition, native language-speaking teachers and volunteers provide foreign students with consultation in their native language on schoolwork, the Japanese language, and school life. According to a survey of Brazilian and Peruvian children who returned to their countries after a few years in Japan, most children had some difficulties adjusting to school in their home countries. It takes approximately half a year for elementary school students and one to two years for middle and high school students to understand class materials in their countries (Murata 2001: 152-154).
In 2000, among 17,000 Brazilian children aged 6 to 15 in Japan, 7,500 attended Japanese public schools, and 2,500 went to Brazilian schools. Therefore, about 7,000 Brazilian children do not go to school (Sekiguchi 2003:78). In 1997, one daily school for Brazilian children (about 140 students in 1997) was established in Hamamatsu City. Then, there were more daily schools established for Brazilian children in cities where many Nikkeijin live, such as in Toyota City and Toyohashi City (Murata 2001:151). In Oizumi Town, where there are 230 Brazilian children, only 56 percent of Brazilian children of school age attended public elementary and middle schools in 2000 (Sakai and Onai 2001:102). When the daily Brazilian school, Colegio Pitagoras, was established at the border of Oizumi Town and Ota City in 1999, especially for unschooled Brazilian children, it was immediately welcomed. In addition, there are three informal supplementary Brazilian schools for about 150 students in Ota City and Oizumi Town. The students, ages 6 to 16, learn Portuguese, mathematics, social studies, and science used in the textbooks from Brazilian schools (Fujiwara 2001).
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Illegal foreign workers are mainly overstayers, in addition to foreigners with proper visas such as tourists and pre-college students who work illegally. As of January 1, 2004, the number of overstayers amounted to 219,418 (male 51.5%; female 48.5%), down 26.5 percent from the record high in 1993. They are Koreans (21.2%), Chinese (15.3%), Filipinos (14.3%), Thais (6.5%), Malaysians (3.9%), Taiwanese (3.5%), Indonesians (3.3%), Peruvians (3.3%), Brazilians (2.1%), Sri Lankans (1.9%) and others (24.7%). Their previous visa status consists of short-term visa (68.5%), entertainment visa (5.5%), pre-college visa (4.3%), foreign student visa (3.0%), trainee visa (1.8%), and others (16.9%)(Hōmushō 2004b).
Many undocumented male workers worked odd jobs in small and medium-sized companies manufacturing and construction companies, while many undocumented female workers continued to work as hostesses and waitress in entertainment and sex businesses, and as factory workers. Among 45,910 who were deported in 2003, 9,251 were arrested upon their arrival in Japan, and 34,325 had been working illegally. The latter were 59 percent male and 41 percent female. They were Chinese (27%), Koreans (19%), Filipinos (12%), Thais (7%), Malaysians (5%), Indonesians (4%), and others. Almost half of them (48%) had been working over three years, including 31 percent over five years. Males (20,274) had worked as construction workers (26.8%), factory workers (25.4%), cooks (9.1%), other laborers (8.6%), waiters (6.1%), other service workers (4.6%), and others (19.5%), while females (14,051) had worked as hostess servants (34.7%), factory workers (14.3%), waitress (12.0%), other service workers (10.5%), dish washers (5.9%), cooks (4.9%), and others (17.7%) (Hōmushō 2004c).
Public servants are obligated to report undocumented workers to the Immigration Control Bureau. In the early 1980s, the overwhelming majority of apprehended undocumented workers were female, especially Filipino and Thai. However, since 1988, more men have been arrested than women because of the need for male workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Korea (Morita 1994:333-334).
A large number of overstayers turned themselves in the immigration offices after achieving their financial goals, in order to ask officials to deport them (Kuwahara 1998:361). Some overstayers who are married to Japanese people, and those who have stayed in Japan for a long time are amnestied. In 1998, 2,500 undocumented foreigners were granted special permission to remain in Japan (AS September 2, 1999).
Even during the recession of the mid-1990s, the number of undocumented workers has not decreased. More undocumented workers lost their jobs; however, many managed to obtain another job through personal and/or ethnic networks. In the late 1990s, many undocumented workers shifted from construction and manufacturing to service industry. In the late 1990s, the percentage of construction workers (38.9% in 1992 to 19.0% in 1998) and factory workers (25.4% in 1992 to 23.7% in 1998) decreased, while the percentage of hosts and hostesses (8.1% in 1992 to 17.7% in 1998), bartenders and waitresses (3.1% in 1992 to 10.1% in 1998) increased (Komai 2001:42). Undocumented workers are more vulnerable to exploitation by employers and/or brokers. Their payments are usually less than those earned by their legal counterparts, but are still much more than the payments in their own countries.
More than one fifth (21.2%), the largest portion of overstayers, are Koreans (46,425), by 2004 (Hōmushō 2004b). After the 1989 Overseas Travel Liberalization Act by the South Korean government, many Koreans have repeatedly come to Japan for short-term visits. Many Korean newcomers work in the enterprises owned by Korean permanent residents in Japan. Furthermore, many female workers work at Korean entertainment clubs.
As of 2004, 33,522 Chinese overstayers include former pre-college students (23.5%) and former foreign students (16.7%) (Hōmushō 2004b). A large portion of Chinese who came to Japan as pre-college students during the 1988-1989 Japanese language schools boom are still in Japan (Komai 2001:71). Chinese mafia and Japanese yakuza cooperate to arrange illegal migration, fraudulent marriages, drug sales, thefts, and forged passports (AS June 12, 1999). Since 1997, the illegal entry of Chinese people organized by traffickers such as “Snakehead” increased; however, in 2000 the illegal group entry has decreased because of stricter punishment (Iguchi 2001:62-63).
Since the 1980s, many undocumented Filipino women and Thai women worked as hostesses or prostitutes in the entertainment and sex industry, which are closely related to the underground enterprises. Many experienced exploitation by brokers and employers who are under the control of the yakuza. Filipino women have come to Japan as entertainers legally, and then overstayed to work illegally as waitresses and hostesses in the entertainment and sex businesses. On the other hand, many young Thai women have come to Japan as visitors, and then overstayed to work as waitresses, hostesses and prostitutes in entertainment and sex businesses in order to send money to their parents and families in Thailand.
Domestic and international laws protect the human rights of newcomers, including undocumented foreigners. However, the human rights of undocumented foreigners are ignored because undocumented foreigners are reluctant to publicize human rights violations. In 1998, the U.N. Human Rights Committee recommended that Japan establish “an independent authority to which complaints of ill-treatment by the police and immigration officials can be addressed for investigation and redress” (U.N. Human 1998a). The consultation office of the Human Rights Protection in the District Legal Affairs Bureau would not report the illegal residency of foreigners so that undocumented foreigners can come and report the human rights violation. However, it is still difficult for undocumented workers to bring a case to the public office, even without the risk f deportation.
Undocumented workers, who are most vulnerable to the exploitation by employers and brokers, have not yet formed their own organizations to protect their rights, and need support groups and the human rights NGOs. The first Japanese labor union for migrant workers, BRIGHT established in 1993 by Japanese volunteers in Tokyo, has exposed many work accidents and incidents of exploitation by greedy employers. In 1987, the daily laborers’ union in Kotobuki, one of three largest daily workers’ communities (yoseba) established a support association for Asian undocumented migrant workers, Karabaonokai to protect and consult them in Kotobuki. From the 1990s, many Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, and Peruvians outside of Kotobuki have joined in Karabaonokai. For the protection of undocumented female workers, there are several volunteer organizations and NGOs, such as HELP Asian Women’s Shelter, and lawyers and church organizations provide emergency shelters, consultation, education, and networking for foreign women.
Some support groups for migrant workers like the Asian People Friendship Society called for amnesty. However, the government has never seriously considered granting sweeping amnesty for undocumented workers. In 1998, 2,497 undocumented foreigners were granted a special permission to stay in Japan. Most were married to Japanese spouse, or were raising children born in Japan. The annual number of those granted amnesty gradually increased to 13,027 in 2003 (AS September 22, 2004).
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Social welfare consists of health insurance and pensions in Japan. Therefore, foreigners also need to participate in both programs. The social welfare of foreigners has improved after Japan ratified the U.N. Human Rights Covenants in 1979 and the International Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1982. The nationality requirement for public houses and mortgage from public housing banks and national finance banks was abolished in 1980. Furthermore, foreign residents became eligible for the National Pension, Childcare Allowance, Special Childcare Allowance, and Child Allowance in 1982. In 1986, foreigners between the ages 20 and 60 who have been in Japan for a year or more may join the National Health Insurance managed by the local government. The Livelihood Life Law has been conditionally applied to foreigners, though foreigners do not have the right of petition. The number of foreign residents under the protection of the livelihood life law totaled 28,788 (U.N. Committee 2000). Undocumented foreigners are not eligible for Employees’ Health Care, National Health Care, Employees’ Pension, National Pension, or Livelihood Protection Law. However, the Childcare Allowance, Special Childcare Allowance, and Child Allowance may be applied.
The basic rights of workers, including undocumented workers, are guaranteed by the 1947 Labor Standard Law, the 1947 Workmen’s Accident Compensation Insurance Law, the 1959 Minimum Wage Law, and the 1972 Industrial Safety and Health Law. But in fact, undocumented workers are afraid to report labor accidents or underpaid wages to the Labor Inspection Office because it may trigger deportation. The Labor Inspection Office is not supposed to report illegal employment to the Immigration Office unless there have been serious violations of labor laws. Therefore, employers of undocumented workers may easily exploit undocumented workers. NGOs for undocumented workers are instrumental in helping undocumented workers obtain the benefits to which they are entitled.
Many foreigners are registered in the National Health Insurance, the Employees’ Health Insurance or the Travelers’ Accident Insurance, though undocumented workers are generally not covered by health insurance. Because newcomers do not plan to stay in Japan permanently, many newcomers were reluctant to participate in these insurance and pension systems. Since April 1995, foreigners who paid pension fees for six months or more have been able to claim a calculated lump-sum payment within two months of leaving Japan.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare suspended reimbursement of unpaid medical expenses of foreigners in 1990, changing the policy of compensating unpaid medical expenses of foreigners through the Livelihood Protection Law since 1954. The local governments, hospitals, employers, and/or voluntary organizations needed to find a way to cover unpaid medical expenses of undocumented foreigners. The Gunma and Tokyo prefectural governments paid up to 70 percent of these unpaid hospital bills. Some voluntary organizations founded medical cooperatives for undocumented foreigners. In 1995, the Ministry of Health and Welfare decided that undocumented workers could use the health insurance system, if they are regularly employed and their employers apply for it. Since 1996, the Ministry also started to supplement the expense of the local government by supporting financially approximately 130 emergency medical centers nationwide that provide first aids to overstaying foreigners and to cover 30 percent of unpaid medical costs if the cost is more than 500,000 yen (Komai 2001:129-130).
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As the number of newcomers rose, the prefectural Legal Affairs Bureau, and the Immigration Bureau in metropolitan cities started permanent consulting sections for newcomers. In 1988, the first counseling center for foreigners was established in the Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau. In 1990, the Immigration Information Center was opened at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, then in Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Yokohama for the purpose of facilitating consultations and information services on immigration procedures for foreigners.
Newcomers have settled all over Japan in order to find a job in small and medium-size companies, though they are still concentrated in metropolitan Tokyo and Tōkai. Many Japanese people have become accustomed to seeing newcomer foreigners in their community. However, most Japanese do not have a chance to communicate with foreigners even in the cities where newcomers are most concentrated, such as Oizumi Town. Japanese neighbors may resent newcomers because many of them do not follow the regulations of garbage collection, do not pay the optional neighborhood community fees, and/or are loud late at night (Onai 2001:169-170; Machimura 1993:58-60).
Ethnic stores, services, and newspapers have also been established. Ota City and Oizumi Town in Gunma Prefecture, home to 7,800 Brazilians, has many businesses for Nikkei Brazilians (Onai 2001b:38-41). In 1992, a Nikkei Brazilian commerce and industry association was established, and in 1996, Brazilian Plaza, a shopping center, was opened (Yumoto and Kitazawa 2001:152-153).
Responding to the increasing number of newcomers, the local governments started to establish international sections to provide interpreters and guidebooks, international exchange events, and free Japanese language classes. Furthermore, schools started to provide Japanese language teachers, native language teachers and/or counselors for foreign children, especially Nikkei children who need Japanese language education. According to a 2003 survey, there are 19,042 foreign children, mainly Nikkei, and the grandchildren of Chinese returnees (Monbukagakushō 2004a).
Inexpensive public housing is very popular among registered foreigners. Many Nikkei in the Tokai areas live in public housing. On the other hand, undocumented workers have had difficulty finding an apartment because the landlords usually ask foreign tenants to provide a “Japanese guarantor,” a passport, and an alien registration card. However, after the burst of “bubble economy,” it has become much easier for foreigners to find a rental property.
The number of criminal arrests of newcomers for criminal offenses rose to 24,259 cases and 7,691 arrests in 2002. The criminal offenses include theft, injury, robbery, forgery, embezzlement, and fraud. In addition, 8,522 arrests by the special laws are made for violations of the Immigration Control Law, possession of drugs and pistols, and violation of the prostitution law (Hōmushō 2003:63-68). According to a 2000 survey of incarcerated foreigners are Chinese (37.9%), Iranians (16.5%), Brazilians (7.4%), and Koreans (7.0%). Almost one-third (31.5%) are overstayers, and 8.1 percent short stayers, in addition to 22.7 percent who were arrested for illegal entry (Hōmushō 2001:300-302). Foreigners, except for special permanent residents, may be forced to leave Japan if they are sentenced to imprisonment for longer than one year.
In 2002, Maihara Town in Shiga Prefecture established the local ordinance for residential election to decide how to merge with neighboring towns, and recognized the voting right of foreigners with permanent residency. The result of the votes is not binding, but the mayor has to respect it. The town has 30 foreigners and 10,000 Japanese who will be eligible to participate in this vote (AS January 27, 2002).
As of March 2001, Marugame City with a population of 80,000 in Kagawa Prefecture has 934 foreigners from 24 countries: 231 Chinese, 230 Filipinos, 227 Peruvians, 137 Brazilians, 98 Koreans, 39 Indonesians, 12 Americans, and 11 Australians (Frontier 26, 2001). Before 1990, most foreigners were Korean permanent residents who speak Japanese language and use Japanese names. It was after 1990 that a large flow of Japanese descendants from South America and the Philippines, and Chinese trainees came to Marugame. Very few residents have a chance to talk to the local foreigners. However, the residents have seen foreigners more frequently at events and in the street since the 1990s.
The Marugame International Exchange Association was founded on October 17, 1991, in order to promote “internationalization” at a grass roots level. The municipal government and the membership fees support the budget of the Association. The membership fee is 3,000 yen for individuals and 12,000 yen for organizations. Currently, 30 organizations and 129 individuals are members (Frontier 28, 2002).
The Association is in charge of organizing international exchange events, such as concerts, and sports festivals, and arranging volunteers for home-stay, home-visit activities, and interpretation. It also subsidizes citizens’ groups for international exchanges, such as the Marugame UNESCO and the Rotary Club, and issues a bulletin for international exchange activities, “Frontier” and a bulletin for foreigners, “Friend” in English, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. Furthermore, it organizes cultural exchanges with sister cities and provides a free Japanese language class twice a week to foreigners living in Japan.
Marugame City has three sister cities: San Sebastian in Spain, Pasig in the Philippines, and Zhang Jia Gang City in China. The city has active exchange programs, especially with San Sebastian. One of the largest events is a very popular annual two-week visit of 20 middle school students to San Sebastian. They spend several days with host families in San Sebastian. Marugame junior soccer team participated in the San Sebastian soccer tournament. The Association also invites residents of San Sebastian to Marugame. In 2002, two residents of San Sebastian came to Marugame for two weeks (Frontier 29, 2002).
For newcomers, the city provides free Japanese language classes. Volunteer teachers teach an introductory course, and an intermediate course from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. twice a week, and a conversation class twice a month. The tuition is free, but the students pay for a 3000-yen textbook. There is a get-together party at the end of the semesters in September and March. I observed Japanese language classes in 1998. Six to eight students in their 20s, 30s, and 40s from Peru, the Philippines, and Argentina participated in the introductory class in a very casual atmosphere. In the intermediate class, about 20 Chinese young women who are trainees at two textile companies learn Japanese language in a formal way from the textbook.
I talked to two young Chinese women during a break. They had worked in a textile company in Chintao, and came to Japan as trainees to work in a textile company near Marugame. Currently, there are 10 workers working for two-year training programs and living in company dorms.
Many Catholic newcomers attend church on Sundays. A church and Christian preschool have been organized by a Spanish priest. About one-third of attendants at Sunday mass are newcomers from Peru, Brazil, and the Philippines. The priest speaks Japanese, mixed with Spanish and English. He has a service in Spanish once a month. He counsels newcomers concerning church and daily matters.
I joined an after-church get-together meeting several times in January 1998. I talked to a Filipino man, probably in his late 20s, working in a lumber mill. The president of the factory went to a Japanese community in the Philippines, and recruited Nikkei workers. The company helped them obtain work visas, and arranged apartments for them. About 40 of 70 employees are Nikkei Filipinos who came to work with brothers and sisters. In 1995, there were as many as 70,000 Filipino Nikkei in the Philippines (Komai 2001:32). He had a high school teachers credential, but did not have a job when they recruited him. His brothers and sisters also came to Marugame to work in the same company. He had worked in Japan for one year, and had sent 50,000 yen a month to his family. He planned to work two more years in order to save money for a business in the Philippines. He worked overtime and even on Saturdays. When he injured his finger in a motorcycle accident, the president of the factory took him to hospital and took care of the insurance. When he went back to work, he received the same salary, even though he could not use his injured finger. He missed his family and felt lonely, but his family was very happy about the money he sent.
Young men from South America created their own soccer team called, “Marugame International” and has held the Kagawa middle district league since 1997 (Frontier 13, 1998). The municipal government made a flyer about garbage collection for newcomers after many complaints. Elementary schools started to admit a small number of children of newcomers who need Japanese language education.
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The number of international marriages has increased rapidly, from less than 10,000 in 1980 to 25,000 in 1990. Since 1975, the number of international marriages between Japanese men and foreign women has outnumbered those between Japanese women and foreign men (Komai 2001:72). In 2000, the number of international marriages amounted to 36,263, approximately 4.5 percent of all 798,138 marriages in Japan. As many as 28,326 Japanese men married Chinese, Filipinas, Koreans, Thais, and other foreigners, while as many as 7,937 Japanese women married Koreans, Americans, Chinese and others in 2000 (Kōseirōdōshō 2004b).
In many cases, older Japanese men, mostly farmers in rural areas, married younger Asian women through the marriage arrangement. Recently, many Japanese men have been transferred by their companies to foreign countries, where they take a foreign wife. Furthermore, more than half of Korean permanent residents in Japan marry Japanese (Fukuoka 2000:35).
Foreign spouses are initially permitted to stay in Japan for a certain time with renewals. However, if they divorce, or if the Japanese spouse dies, their stay may be revoked. In such cases, the government may grant a permanent resident status. From July 30, 1996, a person who raises a child whose parent is a Japanese can stay in Japan with the requirement of the “parental rights” and the “recognition by a Japanese partner” (Sadamatsu 1996:80). The divorce rate of international marriages (32.4% in 1997) is a little higher than that of Japanese couples (28.6%), while the rate of childbirths from foreign wives (61.5%), especially Chinese wives (38.9%), is lower than the national average, because of many international marriages of convenience (Komai 2001:72).
Since the 1960s, the difficulty of finding a bride for farmers has become very serious. One depopulated area, Mogami District of Yamagata Prefecture, has a population of 100,000 where the ratio of females to males in the 30 to 49 age group was 60.4 to 100 in 1985, 29.3 to 100 in 1990, and 28.1 to 100 in 1995 (Watanabe 2002:18). Since 1985, arranged international marriages between aging male farmers and young Asian women initiated by the local government attracted attention nationwide. The local government arranges international marriages with brokers, and provides aftercare service for Asian brides.
Asahi Town in Yamagata Prefecture took an initiative of arranged meeting between a Japanese man and an Asian woman, and succeeded in arranging two marriages with Taiwanese women in 1981, four marriages with Filipino women in 1985, and with five Filipino women in 1986. Moreover, Okura town also in Yamagata Prefecture arranged a four-day tour to the Philippines. Japanese men requested young (e.g., 18 to 27 years old), educated (high school graduates), English-speaking Filipino women from financially secure families and with no experience of being in Japan (avoiding entertainers). As a result, 10 farmers married Filipino women in 1986. The local government provided aftercare services, such as finding a priest, teaching Japanese farming and cooking, and providing counseling, employment arrangements, and social contacts with Filipinas in other villages (Ikeda 1989:71-74; Shukuya 1988:62-64; Mitsuoka 1996:125-126).
After the successes of Asahi Town and Okura Village, many
governments in rural areas and private brokers started to arrange
international marriages for aging male farmers. Masuda Town
Akita Prefecture matched 10 men with Filipino brides at a cost of 1.7
million yen per each. About 100 brides from Sri Lanka were
to Nagano Prefecture and its vicinity. In Urakawahara Village
Niigata Prefecture, the local government arranged marriages between
Japanese men and Korean and Filipino women. Between 1985 to
1989, there were 142 international marriages with 66 Korean and 47
Filipino brides. As a part of aftercare programs, the local
government built a Korean public house for the Korean brides (Ikeda
1989:78, 97-98, 106-107).
In April 1989, eight governments in Yamagata Prefecture established an international exchange center to find Asian brides. They started a Japanese language class in the Philippines so that Japanese men could find a bride. A Filipina woman attended a Japanese language class in the Philippines for a year before going to Japan to marry (Nihon Keizai Shinbun February 6, 1989). In a village of about 500 households in the Philippines, many women went abroad to marry, including nine women went to Kamikoani village in Akita Prefecture. In rural areas in the Philippines, many men started to have some difficulty finding wives because the local women were leaving (AS January 6, 2000). In Mogami District in Yamagata Prefecture, 293 men had foreign wives, including 116 Chinese, 108 Koreans, and 57 Filipinas, at the end of 1999 (Watanabe 2002:19).
The local governments and volunteer groups provide aftercare services for Asian wives in rural areas. Asian wives can learn Japanese language and customs, meet other foreign wives, and receive advice on Japanese rural life. Filipino women attend church. Many foreign wives have culture shock when they have to adjust to their new lives. Since 1991, a local volunteer group in Yamagata Prefecture has provided foreign wives with telephone consultation for medical questions, together with public health nurses and social workers (Kuwayama 1995). It is important for Japanese people and children to learn about the cultures of Asian brides and their children in order to eliminate discrimination.
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As the number of international marriages has increased, especially since the 1980s, 2.7 percent of babies born in 1996 have one or two foreign parent(s), including 7.4 percent of babies in Osaka and 6.8 percent of them in Tokyo (AS February 26, 1998). In order to comply with the Article 9-2 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the 1984 revision of the Nationality Law stipulates that a child shall be a Japanese national when at the time of birth the father or mother is a Japanese national. Before the revision, a child from a foreign father and a Japanese mother could not obtain Japanese nationality.
A child may acquire Japanese nationality by naturalization if he/she was born in Japan, has had no nationality since birth, and had his/her domicile in Japan for three or more consecutive years. A child could not have a Japanese nationality without the recognition of a Japanese father until 1997, when the Supreme Court ruled that a father could recognize his child under special circumstances. Since 1998, if a woman claims that the baby is not from her husband within three months of the birth, and then the real father acknowledges paternity within 14 days, the child can obtain a Japanese nationality.
The number of four-year-olds or younger children without a nationality increased from 74 in 1990 to 734 in 1996. In 1995, the Supreme Court granted Japanese nationality to a child without a nationality whose mother is probably a Filipina (Yamada 1998:42, 45). In 1996, the immigration rule was revised for a foreign parent/guardian of a child whose other parent is Japanese to stay in Japan, whether or not the child was born in wedlock, if a Japanese parent acknowledges parenthood. The registration office will not notify the Immigration Control Bureau, even if overstayed unmarried women register their childbirths and alien registration.
In the Philippines, it is estimated that several ten thousands Japanese-Filipino children were unrecognized or abandoned by Japanese fathers (Hokkaido Newspaper August 11, 1998). The network for Japanese-Filipino children was founded in 1994, and opened an office in Manila (Matsui 1998:74). The BATIS Center for Women is handling the cases of hundreds of children abandoned by their Japanese fathers (Nuqui 1996:125). The divorce rate between a Japanese man and a Filipino woman is as high as 70 percent, probably because many Filipino women married Japanese men for convenience (Piquero-Ballescas 1996:44). In Thailand, NGOs and supporters started to educate Thai-Japanese children by offering scholarships and Japanese language classes. Thai women who have returned from Japan receive assistance in finding a job and financial aid (AS September 21, 2003).
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About two million Japanese civilians lived in Manchuria under the Japanese colonization at the end of World War II. When the Soviet Union advanced into the Manchuria on August 9, 1945, many men were conscripted. Women, children and the elderly fled and were repatriated. By October 1945, they had no shelter, food or clothes. Many children were left with Chinese families, and many women married Chinese men. Children under 13 years old who were left with Chinese families and remained in China are known as “orphans remaining in China” (chūgoku zairyū koji). Girls 13 years old or older who married Chinese men and remained in China are called “women remaining in China” (chūgoku zairyū fujin).
After the establishment of the Chinese People’s Republic in 1949, diplomatic relations between China and Japan were terminated until the 1972 Normalization Treaty. Humanitarian returns ended in 1958, and 2,318 Chinese orphans and 4,500 Chinese women remained in China (Iida 1996:262). Since 1973, the Japanese government has encouraged Chinese orphans and women to return to Japan if they can find a Japanese relative to support them. In 1981, the government issued an official invitation of Chinese orphans and women to Japan. The average age of participants was 39.8 in 1981, and 60.3 in 2001. Once they found their relatives to take them, most of them decided to return permanently to Japan. In 1996, the Ministry of Health and Welfare decided to support all Chinese orphans and women who wanted to return to Japan even if they could not find a relative. The public subsidies covered the expenses to take their spouse and their children under 20 years old. Since 1994, Chinese orphans and women can also bring family members of one of their children with them to Japan through public subsidies, if they are 65 years or older (60 years old or older since 1995, 55 years old or older since 1997).
The thirtieth and last official mission to help Chinese orphans and women visit Japan took place in November 1999. Volunteer associations such as Japan-China Friendship continue to find Chinese orphans and women, and bring them to Japan. By October 2004, 6,265 Chinese returnee households (2,478 households of Chinese orphan returnees and 3,787 households of Chinese women returnees) with 20,048 family members have returned to Japan (Chūgoku 2004). Others returned to Japan at their own expense. In 1999, the number of children and grandchildren of war orphans and their spouses who have accompanied them to Japan was as high as 60,000. Approximately 30,000 descendants of Chinese returnees have become Japanese citizens (Komai 2001:62).
The Japanese government has been committed to helping Chinese returnees to lead a stable and independent life, as guaranteed under the 1994 Law to Promote the Smooth Reentry of Japanese Nationals Left Behind in China and to Support Their Independence Following Reentry. The government has paid travel expenses from China. The government also provides vocational training, public housing, and the welfare benefits for three years after their return.
In 1983, the Foundation for the Support for Japanese Expatriates Remaining in China and Chinese Returnees, a NPO, was established with the support of the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The Foundation sends financial assistance to Chinese foster parents, operates the Readjustment Promotion Centers, endorses volunteer organizations for Chinese returnees, and provides scholarships for Chinese returnees and families.
Chinese returnees can attend one of the three Readjustment Promotion Centers (eight Centers before 1999) to learn Japanese language and culture. The Readjustment Promotion Center in Saitama, founded in 1984, has provided Chinese orphan returnees, Chinese women returnees and returnees from the Sakhalin Japanese language training and counseling in order to help them lead a stable and independent life. In order to become acculturated, students take four months of intensive classes in Japanese education and customs. The Japanese classes have courses for Chinese orphan returnees and their spouses in the 40s and 60s, children and elderly women for six hours a day during the week and three hours on Saturdays.
Afterwards, they are settled into regions where their relatives or guarantors live. Most Chinese returnees and their families are in metropolitan areas near the Centers. For the next eight months, they can also attend classes at one of twelve Centers for Training in Independence, in order to learn Japanese language and culture and to receive aftercare services. The Center for Training in Independence for Chinese returnees in Aichi was established in 1988. Chinese returnees living near the Center can study Japanese language for eight months and receive counseling concerning their daily life and employment. It also provides college preparatory courses from September to January. As a continuous public support, the Support and Exchange Centers for Chinese returnees in Tokyo and Osaka help Chinese returnees and their families find a job in cooperation with volunteer groups.
In 1999, the Ministry of Health and Welfare conducted a survey of Chinese returnees who returned to Japan from 1989 to 1999 (Kōseishō 2000a). The average age of Chinese orphan returnees was 58.3, and that of Chinese returnee women was 66.9. Almost all Chinese returnees (92.2%) had already obtained Japanese nationality and another 2.1 percent was in process of obtaining it. The average number of household members was 2.8 for Chinese orphans and 3.0 for Chinese women. They lived in Tokyo (17%), Osaka (9.4%), Nagano (6.9%), Kanagawa (5.3%), and Saitama (4.4%). The overwhelming majority of returnees (92.3% of Chinese orphans and 87.4% of Chinese women) lived in public housing, and Chinese returnees are entitled to live in public housing.
Among those who have returned to Japan since April 1994, about half (46.1% of Chinese orphans and 62.4% of Chinese women) brought their child’s family with them. About half said their child’s family lived separately, and the majority of them do not want to live together. Many (70.5% of Chinese orphans and 74.4% of Chinese women) plan to bring their Chinese relatives to Japan. Almost half left some family members in China. One third of Chinese orphans returnees left their adoptive parent(s) in China. Fewer than half of the returnees who have Japanese relatives do not have much contact with them.
More than half of Chinese orphan returnees (53%) and more than two-thirds of Chinese women (69.1%) said they were happy returning to Japan, while 11.8 percent of Chinese orphans and 7.1 percent of Chinese women said they regretted the decision because they were worried about their old age, and could not speak Japanese. Concerning family finances, 42 percent of Chinese orphans and 62 percent of Chinese women said that their financial situation had improved, and 24 percent of orphans and 13.5 percent of women said their life had become harder.
Two-thirds of returnees received social welfare, and the number of the recipients became much higher after 1995 (38.5%). Within a year of their return, almost all (91.5% of orphans and 86.5% of women) received social welfare benefits. They are entitled to public welfare for three years after their return to Japan. After five years, more than one fourth (27.1% of Chinese orphans and 26.7% of Chinese women) still received public welfare benefits. Among those in their 60s, 73.8 percent of orphans and 73.1 percent of women received social welfare benefits (Kōseishō 2000a).
Among those younger than 60 years old, 29.2 percent of orphans and 36 percent of women worked, lower than in the 1995 survey where half of returnees worked. After five years, 42.0 percent of orphans and 50.4 percent of women worked. Including all of their family members, 60.6 percent of orphan households, and 59.7 percent of women households worked. Many obtained a job through the Public Employment Security Office, and/or friends and acquaintances. The largest majority of Chinese returnees (87.4%) and their families (81.7%) obtained a job in the manufacturing and construction industry. The average monthly household income of returnees amounted to 215,000 yen, less than half of the national average of 555,000 yen (66.4% in 1995) (Kōseishō 1995; Kōseishō 2000a). The reasons they did not work are because of injuries and illness (68.8% of orphans and 80.1% of women), and language difficulties (23.1% of orphans and 11.3% of women). Among those who did not work, 42.7 percent of orphans and 39.6 percent of women wanted to work. Almost half were studying Japanese, and one fourth were looking for a job. They can receive national pensions after 65. But if they did not pay for enough, they will receive one third of the national pension, about 22,000 yen. More than half of the elderly (52%) received the national pension (88%) or the employment pension (7.5%) (Kōseishō 2000a; AS November 14, 2001).
According to a 1995 survey of the children and grandchildren of Chinese returnees in their 20s (N=147), one third of whom were married, approximately 30 percent came to Japan at government expense while the rest did not receive any financial assistance. They regarded themselves as Chinese (33.6%), Japanese Chinese (24.7%), Chinese Japanese (11.6%), and Japanese (8.9%). Less than half (42.1%) thought about obtaining Japanese nationality, and 41.3 percent did not know or had never thought about it. One third wanted to return to China (Komai 2001:62-64).
The average household income was 183,000 yen, much lower than the national average, and the individual income was 147,000 yen. The majority (57.6%) worked as manual labor, another fourth (28.2%) worked in sales and services, and only 14.1 percent worked as non-manual labor. The unemployment rate was 12.1 percent, and 13.2 percent was receiving social welfare benefits. More than half (54.7%) had little contact with Japanese relatives. Two-thirds reported having experienced prejudice and discrimination, especially at work and in daily life. Approximately 40 percent said that they had endured discrimination in China because their parents or grandparents were Japanese.
Their educational attainment is much lower than that of Japanese people. Almost half of them are middle school graduates or less because they came from farming communities. Moreover, their children who were educated in Japan also have much lower educational attainments, mainly because of language and financial difficulties. Among those who were educated in Japan (N=52), almost half (44.2%) are middle school graduates, one fourth (19.2%) are high school graduates, more than one-fourth are graduates of special vocational schools, and 7.7 percent are (junior) college graduates. They (N=26) gave up further education for language (38.5%) and financial reasons (53.8%) (Komai 2001:95-98). Many Chinese returnees and their families learn at night schools. According to a survey, 34 percent of 3,344 students attending 34 night middle schools were Chinese returnees and families in the 1997-1998 school year (Yomiuri Shinbun February 9, 1998).
Fewer than half of the returnees comprehend, read and/or write Japanese well. They learn Japanese from language schools (35.7%), public schools and settlement centers (25.7%), while one third (30.7%) never studied the language formally (Komai 2001:98). It is necessary to provide more public assistance and aftercare services to Chinese returnees and their descendents.
Since 1976, the MOE has designated a school for the education of Chinese children, and has hired additional teachers in order to help Chinese students learn Japanese and catch up with schoolwork. In 2003, 4,913 elementary, middle, and high school Chinese students needed assistance with Japanese (Monbukagakushō 2004a). Starting in 1999, the MOE hired counselors for Chinese students and their families. Some prefectures provide special treatment for these children when they take the high school entrance examination because high school education is necessary for them to live in Japan.
In December 2001, a Chinese orphan returnee and three women returnees brought suit against the Japanese government and asked for 20 million yen in compensation per person, because the Japanese government did not support their early return to Japan, and did not help them live independently. In addition, a class action suit by 637 Chinese orphan returnees was filed to request compensation from the Japanese government in December 2002 (AS December 21, 2002). By October 2004, there were 1,862 Chinese orphan returnees, more than 70 percent of whom permanently returned to Japan, participating in the suits (AS October 4, 2004).
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Japan was a stopover to the United States for many political asylum seekers during the Cold War. Japan did not have to deal with these refugees directly until the influx of “boat people” from Vietnam landed in 1975. The Japanese government was very slow in recognizing refugees from Indochina because of the lack of familiarity with refugees. Japanese people think that Japan is a small and crowded country, with no room for refugees. The international exchange of goods, people, and information had increased rapidly, and Japanese people are now much more comfortable seeing foreigners. They have supported assistance for the international refugees through a large donation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In 1981, Japan acceded to the U.N. 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, and enacted the 1981 Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (enforced in 1982). Therefore, Japan has an international obligation to refugees and asylum-seekers. The Japanese government recognizes refugees in two separate systems: one for the “boat people” from Indochina and another for other refugees and political asylum seekers. A small number of political asylum-seekers are granted a “long term resident” status. They have to renew their “long term resident” status in general, first every year, and then every three years (Takeda 1998). Amnesty International reviewed the Japanese system, and made recommendations against the rigid system of the Ministry of Justice. The recommendations include the establishment of an independent advisory body to review the entire system of refugee protection, the legal guide available to applicants, training for officials, and the cooperation from the UNHCR (Amnesty International 1993).
After the fall of Saigon in 1975, a wave of refugees from Indochina arrived in Japan. Most of them requested a temporary stay until they were allowed to go to another country, usually the United States. They are granted a temporary stay of up to 180 days since 1979. In 1979, the Japanese government established a quota of 500 refugees, and set up a refugee camp. The quota for refugees has risen from 200 in 1979, 1,000 in 1980, 3,000 in 1981, 5,000 in 1983, 10,000 in 1985, and removed in 1994. The number of refugees who have settled in Japan from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia was 11,087, in December 2003 (Nanmin 2005). Until March 1994, they had entered Japan as “boat people.” However, the majority of entries are currently through family reunions.
The Refugee Project Headquarters at the Asia Welfare Education Foundation, established in 1979, have helped refugees and their family to settle in Japan. After they are admitted to Japan, most refugees from Indochina have stayed in the government-commissioned Settlement Facilitation Centers in Himeji, Hyōgo (1979-1996), and Kanagawa (1979-1998), the Reception Center in Nagasaki (1981-1995), and the International Rescue Center in Tokyo (1983-). The Settlement Facilitation Centers have provided room and board so that refugees can learn Japanese language and customs and have help from job placement counselors.
Currently only the International Rescue Center in Tokyo is accepting refugees from Indochina who are granted permanent stay in Japan, and who want to learn Japanese language. The Center provides room and board for six months, and a six-hour-a-day intensive Japanese language course Monday through Friday for four months. They also teach the tax system, social welfare system and other customs. Furthermore, they provide a tour and a short internship in factories, and help to have them some social experience, and work experiences. The Center has a health counseling room with a doctor and nurses, and they can put their toddlers in the daycare room during class. The Center has also playground, gymnasium, playroom, and lounge and so on. Recently, most refugees have entered Japan through family reunion, and see their relatives on the weekend.
After the six-month stay, those who want to find a job can consult placement counselors, considering their work experience, educational attainment, family structure, and location. They also arrange for up to six months of vocational training for those who do not have skills. If a company employs them without vocational training, the Center provides assistance funds for the company. Furthermore, the Center provides after-care service for counseling at six places in the metropolitan areas. In addition, the Center teaches the general public about refugees, by arranging lectures about refugees and their problems at schools and in volunteer associations. The Center also offers a workshop for staffs at the NGOs and volunteer associations.
After leaving the Centers, many refugees settle in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture, where the facilities for the settlement assistance are located. Refugees tend to have low occupational status and low household income. They have difficulty finding a stable job because of their imperfect Japanese and the economic recession. Many refugees work in metal processing, electric/machinery/automobile construction, printing and bookbinding (U.N. Committee 2000). The Headquarters and the International Rescue Center provide aftercare counseling. Moreover, a community arrangement for Japanese language courses and a support network are necessary for aftercare service.
Many refugee children have difficulty in keeping up with school and have low educational achievement as a result of their struggles with the Japanese language. They receive remedial education similar to that offered to Nikkei and Chinese returnee children. In addition, community-based volunteer associations help refugee children with their schoolwork and with the Japanese language. Refugee children have a hard time passing entrance examinations for regular high schools. The special quota and treatment for refugee children at the entrance examination of high school should be available to all refugee students because high school education is necessary to obtain a stable job. In addition, teachers need to pay special attention to the refugee children in order to prevent bullying by their classmates.
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1972 Normalization of relations between China and Japan.
1978 The Japanese government recognizes a temporary stay for refugees from Vietnam.
1980 The nationality requirement for public houses and mortgage from public housing banks and national finance banks is abolished.
1981 The Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act is enacted. The government issues an invitation to Chinese orphans and women to Japan to find their Japanese relatives.
1982 Foreign residents become eligible for the National Pension, Childcare Allowance, Special Childcare Allowance, and Child Allowance in accordance to the ratification of the International Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
1984 Pre-college students who learn Japanese language before attending Japanese college are granted a student visa.
1986 Foreigners who have stayed in Japan for a year or more may join the National Health Insurance.
1990 The revised Immigration Control Law creates a new category of “long-term resident” visas for Nikkei workers.
1993 Technical Internship Training Program allows trainees to be technical intern trainees and to work for wages for two years (three years since 1997).
1994 The government supports Chinese returnees to take one family from their children to Japan, if they are 65 years or older. The screening of “boat people” is abolished. The quota for 10,000 is abolished.
1996 The government supports all Chinese orphans and women who wanted to return to Japan, whether they find a relative or not.
1999 The amendment of the Immigration Control Law stipulates that those who made the crime of illegal entry will confront a fine of up to 300,000 yen and up to three years of imprisonment. Once they are deported, they would not be allowed to reenter Japan for five years.
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In the late 1970s, many women from the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan arrived illegally to work in the entertainment businesses and sex industry in Japan. During the “bubble economy” of 1986-1991, a large number of undocumented male migrant workers from China, South Korea, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand and Iran came to work in manufacturing and construction businesses. Furthermore, Japanese descendents, especially Nikkei from Brazil and Peru came to work in Japan legally after the government granted “long-term resident” visas and work permit for Nikkei. Since 1990, small and medium companies can recruit de facto unskilled workers as trainees.
Even after the burst of the “bubble economy,” the number of migrant workers did not diminish. As of 2002, the number of newcomer foreigners working in Japan accounts for more than one percent of the labor forces, consisting of registered workers in professional and technical fields (23.5%), Nikkei workers (30.6%), part-time workers such as foreign students (10.9%), technical intern trainees (6.1%), and overstayers (28.9%) (Kōseirōdōshō 2004a). The overwhelming majority works in manufacturing. Recently, newcomers have spread all over in Japan in search of work.
After the ratification of the U.N. Human Rights Covenants in 1979 and the International Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1982, the social welfare of foreigners has improved. Foreign residents can apply for public housing, the National Pension, Employees’ Pension, Childcare Allowance, Special Childcare Allowance, Child Allowance, the National Health Insurance, and Employees’ Health Care. However, undocumented workers tend to be exploited and abused. Some NGOs help undocumented workers obtain benefits in case of accidents or unpaid wages.
In the next 50 years, the number of Japanese workers will be drastically reduced, from the peak in 1998 by 1.9 percent to 2005, 5.3 percent to 2010, and 13.8 percent to 2050, because of the declining birthrate. By 2050, the percentage of the elderly will reach to 35.7 percent of the population, and the ratio of workers to retirees will be 1.5 to 1 (AS January 31, 2002). Therefore, more foreign workers will be needed in the future, especially in domestic service sector.[Back to the top]
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