Let 10% of Japan be foreigners: Nakagawa

Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers made an ambitious proposal Thursday to raise the ratio of immigrants in Japan to about 10 percent over the next 50 years.

The frankness of the suggestion reflects the seriousness of Japan’s population decline, which is marked by a rapid increase in the elderly population and a falling birthrate that threatens to undermine future economic growth.

“There is no effective cure to save Japan from a population crisis,” the proposal said. “In order for Japan to survive, it must open its doors as an international state to the world and shift toward establishing an ‘immigrant nation’ by accepting immigrants and revitalizing Japan.”

Headed by ex-LDP Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa, the group of about 80 lawmakers drafted a “Japanese-model immigration policy” that they plan to submit to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda next week.

The group said its definition of “immigrant” is the same as that used by the United Nations, and can count individuals who have lived outside their home countries for more than 12 months. This includes asylum-seekers, people on state or corporate training programs, and even exchange students.

The proposal also said a foreigner who has lived in Japan for 10 years or longer should be given nationality if the person wishes to become a Japanese citizen. The group also says citizenship should be given to all permanent residents.