AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 617

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Session 617: Mobilizing social and human capital: A comprehensive approach to tackling Japan’s population conundrum

Organizer: Stephen Robert Nagy, International Christian University, Japan

Discussant: Hyon Joo Yoo, University of Vermont, USA

Japan sits at the edge of a dramatic social transformation. It’s rapidly graying population and low birth rates dictate that to remain economically competitive, innovative and prosperous Japan must implement immediate, comprehensive measures. Some scholars, think tanks and policy makers advocate large scale migration as a means to sustain the tax base to maintain social welfare services at their current level. Other scholars stress the importance of restructuring the economy to eliminate inefficiency. In reality, to maintain economic productivity and prosperity Japan needs to adopt a pragmatic strategy which takes mobilizes and takes advantage of its current social, human and financial capital while at the same time creates avenues for migration and mobilizes capital to create a prosperous, sustainable Japan. This panel aims to discuss and explore how Japan can mobilize social and human capital both domestically and internationally to comprehensively deal with her graying population and low birth rates and successful navigate its way through this twin conundrum. Our panel’s argument is twofold. Firstly, policies that minimize engender structural discrimination as well as policies that enable the elderly to remain active, contributing members of society are essential pillars to staving off the inevitable economic and social decay that goes hand-in-hand with aging societies. Second, our papers highlight that pragmatic and internationally competitive migration policies that can help maintain the Japanese population, and contribute to its economic prosperity and innovativeness.

Technological and Creative Solutions for Aging Demographics in Japan: A Managerial Approach
Tai Wei Lim, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Singapore

One in five people in Japan is above the age of 65 years old and its population exceeds and extends beyond 120 million people so to survive and maintain its levels and standards of living, Japan has no other economic alternative choice but to secure and get hold of a permanent intellectual edge and the participation of senior citizens whose experience and insight are unsurpassable and indispensable. Technology may continue to be increasely mobilized for this purpose. Historically and traditionally, Japan, a country/economy known and reputed for its innovation and technological prowess and capabilities, has evolved and developed technologies and the knowhow to manage the aging population demographic challenge. To foster and enhance an active, healthy approach and methodology towards the phenomenon of aging, more economic and policy initiatives from government and business may have been initiated and launched to invite and bring senior adults together with mobile communication access and these initiatives appear to be successful and results-oriented

Engendered structural discrimination and marriage: A study of low birth rate from anthropological point of view.
Satoshi Ota, Tama University, Japan

The prolonged recession, participation of women in the workforce, lack of nursery schools and day care centres are major factors contributing to the low birth rate in Japan. As a result, the Japanese government has been adopting various measures such as the provision of a child care allowance to encourage having children. The provision of social welfare and encouraging companies to provide maternity leave and child care leave has also been important policies for the government. Well intended, these policies are not sufficient. The government should also focus on the large proportion of unmarried people in their 20s and 30s. Unlike Western European countries, where unmarried couples having children is socially accepted, people in Japanese society are expected to have children within the confines of a marriage. Hence, the proportion of unmarried people reflects to the figure of the birth rate. Moreover, statistics shows that more than 75 percent of unmarried men and 68 percent of women between 18 to 34 years old do not have partners. The paper will investigate some of the reasons why so many young men and women do not have partners, especially focusing on young men (sōshokukei danshi (herbivorous boys)) who do not have girlfriends and how this is contributing to decreased numbers of marriages and related low birth rates. In particular, the author will examine how engendered structural discrimination effects the choices of men and women make when it comes to marriage and having children.

Catalysts for Change in Immigration Policy Agendas? Civil Society Attempts to Utilize UN Instruments to Mobilize International Migrant Rights Norms in Japan
Ralph I. Hosoki, University of California, Irvine, USA

Japan is in the midst of a longstanding depopulation process that has economic and social consequences. One highly contested, but potentially effective remedy is the deregulation of immigration control. A change in immigration control laws and policies would alter the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of migrant inflows into Japan. However, in terms of migrant stock, the degree to which migrants can and are willing to settle, and their experiences in Japan as long-term residents will be shaped by factors such as national and local integration policies, the availability of social benefits and domestic economic opportunities, and legal and political frameworks that guarantee basic human rights. The struggle for migrant rights is still a rather nascent international movement, and its progress in Japan is no exception. However, since the late 1980s, there has been a noticeable increase in the breadth and depth of migrant rights activism, both in terms of basic and emergency livelihood support and domestic and international political advocacy work. Most notably, in recent years, there have been attempts to mobilize international migrant rights norms through the use of UN instruments. This paper explores the various ways in which migrant rights advocacy groups in Japan have mobilized around the major UN conventions that Japan has ratified, and analyzes their potentials and limitations in diffusing human rights norms to affect immigration policy agendas which are instrumental in understanding not only Japan’s trajectory as a country of immigration, but also the feasibility of immigration as a countermeasure for population decline.

Immigration best practices: Why pragmatic immigration policies are good for immigrants and good for Japan.
Stephen Robert Nagy, International Christian University, Japan

As a non-traditional country of immigration, Japan faces particular challenges in terms of integrating immigrants into society because of her history of being reticent to immigration, sense of cultural and ethnic homogeneity, and group-oriented society. Overcoming these challenges will help her confront the inevitable population decline that has been forecast. This paper will comparatively examine the migration practices of Hong Kong, Tokyo and Vancouver at the level of immigrant integration to better understand what kinds of policies exists to integrate migrants, how they relate to releasing domestic human capital, and how these may contribute to attenuating pressures from low birth rates and an aging society. Based on the three case studies, the author will argue that pragmatic migration policies are part of a comprehensive strategy to deal with a declining population that can maximize human capital, promote economic participation of women and promote long term prosperity.