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 Socio-Demographic Indicators Year Value
 Human Development Index 2005  0.953a
 Human Development Index, Rank 2005  8a
 Gender-related Development Index 2005  0.942a
 Gender-related Development Index, Rank 2004  13a
 Population Mid-year (In millions) 2008  127.7b
 Rate of Natural Increase (%) 2008  -0.0b
 Life Expectancy (Male/Female) 2008  79/86b

Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008)


 Economic Indicators  Year  Value
 GDP Growth Rate (%)  ---  ---
 GDP Per Capita (PPP US$)  2005  31,267a
 GNI PPP Per Capita (US$)  2007  34,600b
 Unemployment Rate  ---  ---

Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008); cADB (2007)


Japan has the second largest economy in the world. The Japanese economy stagnated for a decade since its bubble-economy collapsed in the beginning of the 1990s but it started to see signs of recovery in late 1999 and 2000. The economy was hampered again in 2001 due to the slowing of the US and Asian economies but has experienced moderate growth since 2002. Japan has seen the downward trend in the unemployment rate since 2002. The unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in 2006, down 0.3 percentage points from the previous year (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, n.d.). The country’s demographic problem (the aging population) that has its root in falling birth rates and longer life spans places a heavy burden on the public finances of the country. Its total fertility rate dropped below the replacement level in 1974, continued to decline thereafter and stood at 1.3 in 2000-05.


The following are among the landmark events that have had a bearing on Japan’s migration experience:
  • Enforcement of the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (June 1990)
  • Launch of the Industrial Training Program (ITP) (1990)
  • Launch of the Technical Internship Program (ITP) (April 1993)
  • Enforcement of stricter visa rules for foreign entertainers (March 2005)
  • Revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (2007)
The number of legally registered foreign residents doubled between 1990 and 2005 from 1,075,000 to 2,012,000 (Clammer and Ogishima, 2006). As of June 2006, foreign nationals accounted for 1.57 percent of the total population (127,756,815) (AMN, 30 June 2006). Koreans composed the largest group (29.8 percent), followed by Chinese at 25.8 percent, Brazilians at 15 percent, Filipinos at 9.3 percent, Peruvians at 2.9 percent and North Americans at 2.5 percent. The Brazilian population in particular continues to increase (AMN, 30 June 2006); their numbers increased from 56,000 in 1990 to 302,000 at the end of 2005 ((Clammer and Ogishima, 2006). International marriages are also on the rise; marriages between Japanese and foreign nationals in 2001 accounted for five percent of all marriages in Japan, compared to only 2.4 percent in 1988 (AMN, 15 February 2004). Eighty percent of such marriages involve Japanese men and foreign women, mostly from other Asian countries.
Japan has resisted the adoption of a labor immigration policy, especially upholding its stance of not admitting foreign workers for unskilled jobs. However, social and economic factors are pushing the country towards adopting a more open immigration policy. As of June 2006, Japan had 222,929 foreigners employed directly by Japanese companies (AMN, 15 March 2007). Two channels are now available to supply unskilled (less-skilled) foreign workers; one is the trainee system (see Table 1) and the other is the recruitment of Nikkeijins (descendants of Japanese emigrants). Around 80,000 foreigners, mostly from China and Southeast Asia, enteredthe country in 2005 to participate in the Industrial Training Program (ITP) and Technical Internship Program (TIP). Japan is currently reviewing the programs in light of widespread allegations thatthey promote the exploitation of foreigners as cheap labor (AMN, 15 January 2007).
Japan has imposed strict visa rules on foreign entertainers since March 2005 in a bid to curb trafficking of foreign women who enter the country on entertainment visas but are forced to work in the sex industry. Only entertainers having at least two years of training or experience in a country other than Japan are now given visas. The number of entertainer visas issued fell noticeably from 140,000 in 2004 to 40,000 in 2006(AMN, 31 December 2006). The Diet also passed legislation on 16 June 2006 to revise the Penal Code and Immigration Law to punish those responsible for human trafficking, while granting special residency status to victims (AMN, 31 July 2006). Japan had planned to accept up to 1,000 Filipino health workers between fiscal year 2007 and 2008 as part of a free trade agreement (FTA) (AMN, 31 January 2007). Filipino workers accepted under this agreement would be required to take Japanese language lessons and go through training. In addition, nurses would be required to pass Japan’s nursing licensure examinations within three years, while caregivers would have to pass the relevant examinations within four years (AMN, 15 September 2006).
Irregular migrant workers still constitute a large share of the total foreign workers although their numbers have been steadily declining since 1993. As of 2006, at least 250,000 migrants were estimated to be irregulars (AMN, 15 March 2006). In December 2004, Japan revised its immigration regulations, allowing visa overstayers who voluntarily turn themselves in to be exempted from stiff penalties (AMN, 30 November 2006).
Japan began granting refugee recognition in 1982. Asylum seekers were required to file their applications within 60 days upon arrival in the country prior to the amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law in March 2003. Japan denied residency to majority of asylum seekers on the grounds of delayed application. The government also grants a temporary residence status for asylum seekers. A total of 4,882 people have applied for refugee status since 1982 (AMN, 15 March 2007). Of them, only 410 (including 145 from Burma) had been granted refugee status.
As of 1 October 2005, a total of 1,013,230 Japanese were living abroad for at least three months or as permanent residents in a foreign country (AMN, 31 May 2006). The most favorite destination among expatriate Japanese is the US, followed by China and Brazil.
Asian Migration News (AMN) Various Years
Clammer, John and Miyoko Ogishima
2006 “Migration, Foreign Workers, Gender and Social Policy.” Available at http://www.asera-aspac.net/upload_files/9/Japan%20Migrant%20Workers.pdf, accessed on 8 January 2008. 
Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO)
n.d.a. “Number of JITCO Supported Trainees.” Available at http://www.jitco.or.jp/english/overview/staticstics1.html, accessed on 8 January 2008.
n.d.b. “Number of Newly-Entered Trainees (Including JITCO Supported Trainees).” Available at http://www.jitco.or.jp/english/overview/staticstics3.html, accessed on 8 January 2008.
Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
n.d.    “Chapter 12 Labor.” In Statistical Handbook of Japan. Available at http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/handbook/c12cont.htm, accessed on 8 January 2008.
Population Reference Bureau
2008   “2008 World Population Data Sheet.” Available at http://www.prb.org/pdf08/08WPDS_Eng.pdf, accessed on 21 November 2008.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
2007  “Human Development Report 2007/2008.” Available at http://hdrstats.undp.org/countries/data_sheets/cty_ds_JPN.html, accessed on 9 December 2008.

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