Shaping the future as an immigrant nation


“By 2050, Japan’s population will have shrunk from the current 127 million to about 90 million, and to about 40 million by the end of the century. By my calculations, we need 10 million new immigrants by midcentury to survive as a nation,” Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, said at a recent symposium in Osaka on Japan’s future as an immigrant nation.?

Over the past few years, as the reality of the combination of a declining birthrate and rapidly aging population set in, politicians, the Justice Ministry, and powerful business lobbies like the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) have offered various proposals on how certain numbers of skilled foreign workers might be admitted.

Estimates by the government, the United Nations and various human rights groups have shown that, in order to maintain current living standards and economic output, Japan will need up to 30 million foreigners by 2050.

But over the past few years, most government proposals for bringing in foreign laborers have emphasized limiting their numbers and the length of time they are allowed to stay.

Sakanaka and other immigration experts worry such thinking will lead to policies that will discourage ? rather than encourage ? foreign workers from coming to Japan.