Migration and Integration

Japan in Comparative Perspective

Kumiko Kawashima, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore [About | Email]

Volume 12, Issue 3 (Book Review 1 in 2013). First published in ejcjs on 17 February 2012.

Vogt, Gabriele and Roberts, Glenda S. (eds) (2011) Migration and Integration: Japan in Comparative Perspective, Munich: Iudicum, ISBN 978-3-86205-054-3, 222 pages.

This edited volume, Migration and Integration: Japan in Comparative Perspective, is the product of an international symposium in 2007 co-sponsored by the German Institute for Japanese Studies and Waseda University’s Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies. As the title suggests, the book frames migrant issues in Japan and other comparable countries in the context of demographic change and challenges of migrant integration into the host society. The presence of migrants is mainly explained in the context of rising demands for labour due to an aging host population. About half of the academic chapters in the volume are explicitly concerned with the integration of migrants into the labour market, while other discussions view migrants as legitimate members of the host society, with social, political, economic and civil rights. The authors use various data to support their arguments, ranging from academic literature, statistics and news reports to policy documents, survey findings and media content analysis. Their analyses frequently pay attention to historical trajectories of government policies regarding immigration and integration.

The volume is organised into three sections: ‘Section 1: Japan’ (pages 17-108); ‘Section 2: Comparative Perspectives from Germany, France and Canada’ (pages 109-195); and ‘Section 3: Windows on the Grassroots’ (pages 198-219). The authors grapple with urgent issues faced by developed and aging societies as recipients of migrants, and all the chapters offer interesting viewpoints, albeit with varying levels of evidence to support the claims and arguments made.

In the first chapter of Section 1, Mike Douglass (pp. 19-40) uses figures from news items to discuss commonly explored issues such as international marriage, transnational domestic workers and the reproductive care they provide to aging societies, remittances as household incomes, and retirement migration by using the concept of ‘global householding’. While the chapters of this edited volume are too diverse to fit neatly into this framework, it provides an effective structure for organising similarly themed edited volumes and may produce new theoretical insights into changing family life in a globalising world.

The second, third and fifth chapters in Section 1 explore factors that hinder migrants’ rights and belonging in Japan. Writings by Chikako Kashiwazaki and Takashi Kibe each critique the cultural focus of Japan’s efforts to develop its own version of multiculturalism. Kashiwazaki problematises the implicit dichotomy between the Japanese and the foreigner in pro-migrant activist voices that reinforces the idea that migrants are ‘foreign’ to ethnically homogenous Japan (pp. 41-57). Her advocacy of developing a multiethnic concept of Japanese nationhood is apt, as a growing number of Japanese nationals also have multi-ethnic or multi-national backgrounds. From the viewpoint of immigrant inclusion in the social welfare regime, Kibe also finds the culture-oriented nature of tabunka kyōsei (‘the Japanese version of multiculturalism’) ineffective (p. 60). Instead, he seeks a better integration of immigration and integration policy on the one hand, and the welfare system on the other, as the employer-driven model of Japan’s welfare provision currently excludes non-permanent employees, including most migrant workers. Kibe’s argument thereby links in with a hotly debated issue of precarious employment for Japanese workers of all ages. Yamanaka’s contribution gives us a clue as to why Japan’s migrant advocacy seems weak in domains other than the cultural. By contrasting the different path taken by the infamous trainee scheme in Japan and South Korea, she identifies factors that worked in favour of Korean pro-migrant activism but were absent in Japan’s case, namely, the legacy of democratic movements, the inclusion of civil society in the country’s democratic system and the existence of well-organised Protestant groups (pp. 98-104).

The opening chapter of Section 2 presents a historical trajectory of Germany and the development of its guest worker scheme as one model of dealing with labour shortages caused by the changing demographics of an aging society. The importance of Klingholz’s chapter lies in its approach of linking international and domestic migration. By looking at different historical periods, Klingholz examines the contributions of Eastern Germans, ethnic Germans from the former Communist Europe and international migrants to the German labour market. The prediction that Germany will increase its reliance on non-European migrants in the future (p. 122) is also likely to apply to Japan, which has so far resisted a fully-fledged guest worker program.

The book then follows with another German case, Valentin Rauer’s analysis of German newspapers, which reveals how media discussions in relation to two major Turkish associations contained mixed views towards migrants. While more attention to integrationist approaches has emerged in recent years, issues of citizenship and Muslim migrants remain controversial and at times divisive. One memorable example in Rauer’s study is that guest workers in the past were routinely generalised as Ausländer (‘[connoting] a position between a stranger and a familiar outsider’), which discursively ruled out their permanent integration in Germany society (p. 127). Here, we can find resonance with Japan’s practice of labelling such workers as ‘trainees’, as opposed to ‘real’ migrant workers, and ‘nikkei (ethnic Japanese) Brazilians’, as opposed to immigrants.

Both the fourth chapter in Section 1, by Hélène Le Bail, and the third chapter in Section 2, by Iris Bednarz-Braun, suggest that transnational belonging and integration into the host country do not contradict each other. Le Bail argues that maintaining ties to the country of origin helps highly skilled Chinese migrants carve out their space in Japanese society and the labour market (pp. 76-86), while Bednarz-Braun finds that young vocational trainees with greater exposure to cross-cultural interactions increases the social bond between those from different backgrounds (pp. 152-159).

Two chapters in Section 2 explicitly deal with issues of gender and migration. Mirjana Morokvasic-Müller discusses policy changes in France and argues that selective immigration with a focus on filling certain skill areas, especially in the care work sector, has gendered impacts on female migrants, who are more likely to be ‘trailing spouses’ and precariously employed workers. Her work will remind readers that immigration policies always produce gendered outcomes, even when they are supposedly gender neutral. Nana Oishi examines the role Filipina migrants play in Canada’s aged-care sector. Canada has an attractive migration scheme for qualified care workers, and Oishi’s analysis illustrates how highly-educated women from developing countries become vulnerable to worker exploitation due to the informal and private nature of the industry. This case study provides a timely comparison with Japan’s migration program targeting nurses and care workers from the Philippines and Indonesia, which is still in its early stage.

This edited volume is unique in that, in ‘Section 3: Windows on the Grassroots’, it includes short essays by practitioners from the fields of migrant advocacy and civil activism. The first six authors — a member of Parliament, an industrial leader and a trade unionist, an activist and a principal of a bilingual school — variously show the always and already multicultural faces of Japan. The following five authors from Germany and France provide stories of migrant experience, everyday activism, as well as migrant and refugee advocacy. These ‘notes from the field’ complement each other and provide plenty of food for thought. For example, Masami Matsumoto, the school principal, shares anecdotes from his bilingual school in Hamamatsu, highlighting the plight of second-generation Japanese-Brazilian children who suffer from inadequate education in their first and second languages (p. 209). Demet Siemund, Matsumoto’s counterpart in Berlin, depicts how Turkish-German pupils in a bilingual school succeeded in German language acquisition because of their continuous access to Turkish language education. In a sense, the latter presents a picture of what might become possible for the former, if enough resources are invested in quality education.

In sum, Migration and Integration presents various understandings of what ‘integration’ means and how it can be better achieved. This diversity reflects the multifaceted nature of issues facing migrants and the societies in which they are embedded. This reviewer was curious how the book would have turned out, if the chapters were organised thematically rather than by region. The task of organising various chapters into one coherent volume is a common difficulty faced by scholars; however, in this case, the editors’ good decisions have helped create a coherent volume. Finally, the book’s highly approachable style and comparative focus make it suitable for a wide variety of readers, including graduate students in migration studies, policymakers and activists (who would also appreciate its reasonable price).

List of Chapters

Introduction: Migration and Integration – Japan in Comparative Perspective (Gabriele Vogt and Glenda S. Roberts)

Section I: Japan

Global Householding and Japan – A Comparative Perspective on the Rise of a Multicultural Society (Mike Douglass)
Internationalism and Transnationalism: Responses to Immigration in Japan (Chikako Kashiwazaki)
Immigration and Integration Policies in Japan: At the Crossroads of the Welfare State and the Labour Market (Takashi Kibe)
Integration of Chinese Students into Japan’s Society and Labour Market (Hélène Le Bail)
Policies, Civil Society and Social Movements for Immigrant Rights in Japan and South Korea: Convergence and Divergence (Keiko Yamanaka)

Section II: Comparative Perspectives from Germany, France and Canada

Demographic Change and Migration in Germany (Reiner Klingholz)
Migration and Integration Policies in Germany – Turkish Migrants’ Associations and their Impact on Policy Reform (Valentin Rauer)
Integration of Young Immigrants in Germany (Iris Bednarz-Braun)
Recent trends in French Migration Policy: A Gender Lens (Mirjana Morokvasic)
The Immigration of Care Workers: The Case of Canada and the Implications for Japan (Nana Oishi)

Section III: Windows on the Grassroots

About the Author

Kumiko Kawashima joined the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore as a Postdoctoral Fellow in September 2012. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Policy Studies from the University of New South Wales. Kumiko’s current research project investigates the social and human impact of a dynamic, cutting-edge business practice — the ‘offshoring’ of young white-collar workers from Japan to China’s IT industry base. By focusing on Asia’s two largest economies, this project examines how this new movement of labour and capital impacts on young people’s lives and transforms both countries, and how these changes in turn shape human mobility in Asia.

Kumiko’s PhD thesis, recently completed at The Australian National University, explored Japanese working holiday as a form of youth temporary migration, and some of its findings are published in ‘Japanese Working Holiday Makers and their Return to the Japanese Labour Market’, Asian Studies Review (vol. 34, no. 3), and ‘Agency in Contact Zones: The imagined West, Japanese temporary migrants, and their gendered and ethnicised identity in Australia, Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific (iss. 33).

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