Although Japan has a history of being a country with a low migrant population, it looks as though this may change in the near future. A shrinking working population due to a low birth rate and ageing population means that the country may need expats to combat skills shortages in the labour market and to support its pension and healthcare system.
According to the OECD Economic Surveillance Survey of Japan (2013), it was reported that by the year 2050, the working age population in the country is due to fall by 40%. There are other measures that Japan could take of course to address this issue such as increase retirement ages and increasing productivity in the workforce but it immigration could also be a solution.
Skilled workers needed
It has been reported that Japan is in need of skilled professionals, particularly in the construction industry. This is becoming increasingly important in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and associated construction projects. In addition, the manufacturing sector will require skilled labour to keep on driving exports for the economy.
Japan is different to other developed economies in that traditionally its immigrant population is a lot lower than other developed nations, with language tutors being one of the main expat groups. Japan operates a Working Holiday Visa for 18-30 year olds which tends to attract British expats looking to work abroad.
Economic benefits of migrants
Japan’s demographic issues are well reported and so are the economic benefits of migrants, as well as the potential downsides feared by some Japanese such as changes to society. The benefits of economic migrants which are recognised by many countries include filling skills shortages, influxes of new ideas and talent and innovation. Skilled migrants are usually hard working people who can have a very positive effect on a nation’s economy.
Japan introduced a points-based immigration system in 2012 in what was seen as the first step in more open foreign worker policies. The points based system gave higher points to professionals and highly skilled workers. It is expected that details of further immigration reform by the Japanese Government will be published later this year and it is predicted that they will be more pro-immigrant than in the past.