In Japan the impact of the world economic crisis of 2008/2009 was reflected in a decline in the economically active immigrant population. This numerical decline has continued, to a limited extent, to this day. Currently (2011) 2,078,480 immigrants are registered as resident in Japan, representing 1.63% of the total population – which since 2005 has itself been experiencing moderate negative growth.
Immigration after the revision of the Immigration Law
The revision of Japan’s Immigration Law
Secondly, the system of “trainees”, or technical internships, – now highly controversial – was expanded within the framework of the revised Immigration Law by a decree of the Ministry of Justice. Since August 1990 small businesses with fewer than 20 employees have been able to accept "trainees" or ‘technical interns’ from developing or emerging countries.
In practice it is clear that the trainee program – like the category of "long-term residence" for those of non-Japanese origin – meets the needs of the low wage sector, which is not catered for in Japan’s official immigration policy. A similar picture is emerging for the most recent initiative in Japan’s immigration policy, the recruitment from selected south-east Asian countries, under bilateral agreements, of care workers for the sick and elderly.
Since 2008 and 2009 respectively, under bilateral agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines, up to 1,000 care workers for the sick and elderly per year from each of these countries have been able to travel to Japan,
Since the introduction of the agreement, however, no more than 17 Indonesian and two Filipino care workers have passed the examination. The biggest hurdle has proved to be the written Japanese language. Moreover, it has become clear that the system of migration to Japan for care work is not attractive to potential immigrants; in particular, criticism focuses on the refusal to recognize existing professional qualifications and on the high value placed on linguistic competence. In fact, so far only 791 Indonesian and 532 Filipino care workers have come to Japan via this channel of immigration – far below the target quota.