Monday, January 03, 2011

Here is a problem that may haunt Korea soon:
Despite facing an imminent labor shortage as its population ages, Japan has done little to open itself up to immigration. In fact, as Ms. Fransiska and many others have discovered, the government is doing the opposite, actively encouraging both foreign workers and foreign graduates of its universities and professional schools to return home while protecting tiny interest groups — in the case of Ms. Fransiska, a local nursing association afraid that an influx of foreign nurses would lower industry salaries.

In 2009, the number of registered foreigners here fell for the first time since the government started to track annual records almost a half-century ago, shrinking 1.4 percent from a year earlier to 2.19 million people — or just 1.71 percent of Japan’s overall population of 127.5 million.

Experts say increased immigration provides one obvious remedy to Japan’s two decades of lethargic economic growth. But instead of accepting young workers, however — and along with them, fresh ideas — Tokyo seems to have resigned itself to a demographic crisis that threatens to stunt the country’s economic growth, hamper efforts to deal with its chronic budget deficits and bankrupt its social security system.
Japan Keeps a High Wall for Foreign Labor [New York Times]

Americans (or at least majority of Americans who make policies) are wise to continue welcoming immigrants. Korea is trying to follow suit with their newly amended Citizenship Act, but it still has a long, long way to go.


  1. Yeah, Japan is going down the tubes... Korea's a decade or so behind them, only with better chances abroad, how many young Koreans will take that opportunity?

    I can't say I feel bad for Japan - having voted the leaders in (or having not voted) and listening to those 'tiny interest groups', it's hard to see any blame going anywhere else.

    Even if Japan does enact some foreigner-friendly legislation, there's still the matter of making said legislation enticing enough - and accessible enough. Korea created a 'points' system for foreigners to gain residency - only problem was the bar was set so high that virtually no one qualified. The problem remains the same.

    Another issue: paying the foreigners peanuts.

  2. I really don't think Korea should feel obligated to open up immigration unlike America and other countries that were founded on it or colonization. Korea has a very high unemployment rate for college graduates as does Japan. Allowing more people in will only make the situation worse and be a drain on social services. Korea should recruit foreigners who can provide a high demand skill like in the areas of astrophysics, etc.

    When people say that Japanese society is on the decline due to lack of immigration, but what they are really doing is just projecting their own desires on to that society or just being uninformed. "Look at Japan. Their society is screwed because they failed to open up immigration." When many young Japanese are unemployed so that it is common to see people start their first full-time job in their thirties. Whatever is causing the economic malaise in Japan, it has nothing to do with the number of young workers, but the inability of the Japanese companies to adapt to current market demands. The Japanese are not lagging because they lack skilled workers. They are lagging because they failed to keep innovating as they did in the 80's and maybe 90's. As far as the shortage of nurses, the Japanese government can be more active in providing support for students who want to choose nursing. They can also recruit foreigners when necessary.

    I find it interesting that those who promote immigration are failing to acknowledge that the government could do more to increase the native birth rate in those countries. So it is really hard to take such claims seriously.

    If a smaller population is the only reason to open immigration, that really is not a problem at all.

  3. I have to agree with the previous response. I don't think that a falling birthrate is such a bad thing, if for the simple reason that there are too damn many humans on the planet to begin with. A problem such as Japan faces now can be managed with a flexible work force, that includes delayed retirement and a variety of part time work that people can move in and out of when it suits them. Unfortunately, Japan seems fairly rigid in its labour market and adherence to its quaint notions of racial purity.

  4. Korea has a very high unemployment rate for college graduates ...

    False. As of early last year, the unemployment rate for college graduates was 4.5% -- not very high at all. Also, there is a severe shortage of labor in certain industries like textile and commercial fishing, which are staffed almost entirely with immigrants at this point.

    Each couple in a society needs to have a little more than two children in order for the society to sustain itself. (For obvious reasons.) In societies with advanced economy, people tend not to have that many children. Therefore, they must welcome immigrants or gradually atrophy away. This isn't rocket science.

  5. I've heard that working in a factory in Korea pays very well, and Chris' link seems to hint at that, if shipbuilding and heavy industry pay the highest salaries for university graduates. I imagine that those jobs aren't very high in demand, though.

  6. Korea and japan are so similar in more ways than koreans will ever admit. In the long run, Korea will end up like Japan: materially prosperous, but internally insatisfied. Economically successfull...yet economically stagnant.

    Oh, and become China's poodle as well. You'll see!

  7. Agreed w/ itissaid

    Really large countries such as America, China, India, Brazil and I think the EU can be put in there as well, have to deal w/ immigrants and multiculturalism. To say that it is good or bad if a value judgement on something which is value neutral depending on implementation. Also I deeply believe that the cultures of Korea and Japa are much more xenophobic and would have a difficult time w/ immigrants unless they assimilated completely.

    Maybe instead of immigrants Korea should focus on reducing abortions? I can't remember the citation, but South Korea supposedly has as many abortions total as the United States.

    South Korea will have enough to deal w/ in a future reunification. How does a country incorporate 22million people? Nearly half the population of South Korea O_o

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  9. Korea and Japan have the same problem which is UNDEREMPLOYMENT...There aren't enough job creations for the younger generation. So "officially" in both countries unemployment are low because no one gets fired or laid off? The retirement age on the job is in the 50s in these countries because they have to make room for the next generation. Another problem is the general xenophobic attitudes of these countries.

  10. TK, Korea's employment rate may "officially" be at 4.5%, but having been there recently I would say the REAL unemployment rate is around 15%. Just like America, some job seekers just stopped searching for jobs. So, the government fails to accurately capture the real rate. Moreover, Koreans have been fed good food for the last 30 years with tremendous economic growth, so manual labor jobs just arent attractive to them anymore, hency why it is only done by immigrant work force. Korea will have labor shortage problems for sure, but, like you pointed out, unless the government has a effective plan to integrate the biracial children born in rural areas, I believe Korea will see a race riot sometime in the future.

  11. The problem is Korean youths are over educated. The percentage of Korean that have college degree is over 90%. Its even higher for women. So why would anyone want to work at a blue collar job if they spent most of their lives in school?

    In the US, the percentage of 4 year degree holder is embarrassingly about 30%!


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