Daniel W. Drezner

Reason #347 why Japan is less influential than it should be

One could quibble a fair amount with Steve Walt’s post about countries punching above and below their weight in world politics (if North Korea and Israel are influential because of their ability to make mischief, then Pakistan and Iran are punching way above their weight class). However, Walt’s inclusion of Japan as a country that has ...

One could quibble a fair amount with Steve Walt’s post about countries punching above and below their weight in world politics (if North Korea and Israel are influential because of their ability to make mischief, then Pakistan and Iran are punching way above their weight class).

However, Walt’s inclusion of Japan as a country that has less influence than it should is beyond dispute.  And the New York Times’ Hiroko Tabuchi has a story today that provides another data point for this categorization.  Apparently, Japan is trying to kick out some of the the paltry number of immigrants it currently has in its territory: 

Rita Yamaoka, a mother of three who immigrated from Brazil, recently lost her factory job here. Now, Japan has made her an offer she might not be able to refuse.

The government will pay thousands of dollars to fly Mrs. Yamaoka; her husband, who is a Brazilian citizen of Japanese descent; and their family back to Brazil. But in exchange, Mrs. Yamaoka and her husband must agree never to seek to work in Japan again….

Japan’s offer, extended to hundreds of thousands of blue-collar Latin American immigrants, is part of a new drive to encourage them to leave this recession-racked country. So far, at least 100 workers and their families have agreed to leave, Japanese officials said.

But critics denounce the program as shortsighted, inhumane and a threat to what little progress Japan has made in opening its economy to foreign workers.

“It’s a disgrace. It’s cold-hearted,” said Hidenori Sakanaka, director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, an independent research organization.

“And Japan is kicking itself in the foot,” he added. “We might be in a recession now, but it’s clear it doesn’t have a future without workers from overseas.”

That last quote is pretty much accurate — which is why this is such a puzzling maneuver.

In terms of demographics, about the best thing one can say about Japan is that at least it’s not as bad as Russia.   

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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