Friday, June 08, 2007

New visa plans for Japan?

There are some bizarre proposals doing the rounds for changing the visa system in Japan. The JT writes about them here. The background is that Japan is short of workers, due to the extraordinarily low birthrate over recent decades. There has also been some scandal concerning the "foreign trainee" system, under which foreign labour is brought here ostensibly under the guise of international development, but in reality as little more than slaves on a fraction of the standard minimum wage. So there is some political impetus for change.

From my point of view as a scientist, both of the proposals outlined in the JT are idiotic. In fact, the first (where foreigners will need to take Japanese language exams before even getting a visa) is so absurd that it can only be explained as a thinly-veiled attempt to return to the good old days of "sakoku", when Japan isolated itself from outside influences for 200 years. I think one could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of foreign scientists who would choose to spend several years learning Japanese (while in their home country) just on the off-chance that they might subsequently get an insecure job here.

The best that one could say about the second option (widely-available visas, but with a fixed 3 year limit) is that for many people it is actually not much worse than the present situation. The vast majority of scientific visitors here are basically young post-docs coming for a change of scene, and for them there would be no real change. Indeed a fixed limit might benefit some of them as it would stop them drifting into dead-end jobs with no career prospects. However it would also completely eliminate any prospect of successful senior scientists coming here. Further, it would eliminate all real immigration, since to takes 10 years to get permanent residency rights. Way to solve the population problem guys!

These problems are blindingly obvious and I have to hope that someone within the Japanese Govt will be able to work this much out. So I don't expect any of these proposals to actually come into effect in their current form - perhaps they could augment the existing setup, but surely not replace it.

1 comment:

EliRabett said...

It's n ot a bug, it's a feature