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Current Developments and Future Challenges

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Current Developments and Future Challenges

Gabriele Vogt

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Officially, Japan’s immigration policy opens the country’s borders exclusively for temporary immigration and the highly skilled group. De facto, however, two thirds of the immigrant population fail to meet one or both of these criteria.

This discrepancy between political aspiration and actual result has existed under all Japanese governments over the last two decades. It enables some labor-intensive sectors that are looking for workers – such as agriculture or the construction industry – to admit some degree of international labor migration but to do so without naming it as such and having to engage in the ensuing public discourse on the subject.

Demographic change

Currently, however, with its rapidly progressing demographic change, Japan is facing a new challenge of unprecedented proportions. Japan’s population is aging and shrinking; in particular the economically active population is shrinking. Whilst ‘replacement migration’ alone would be insufficient to halt this trend, the damage can at least be mitigated by targeted support for individual economic sectors, for example the health sector. Furthermore, international labor migration and a stronger diversification of the business world generally – specifically regarding gender balance – offers a huge potential for innovation, which in view of increasing economic competition from China Japan cannot afford to ignore.



  1. Economist 11-18-2010.

  2. In 2010 Japan was replaced as the world’s second-biggest economy by China.


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Prof. Dr. Gabriele Vogt is professor for Japanese Studies at the Asia-Africa-Institute of the University of Hamburg. Her research focuses on socio-scientific research on Japan and covers not only international migration to Japan but also Japan’s demographic chance and topics of political participation.
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