Dr. Daniel Kremers
German Institute for Japanese Studies, Tokyo (DIJ)
Temporary labour migration for Japan’s rural economy and The Technical Intern Training Program
In 2014 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Japan Centre for Economic Revitalization (Nippon Keizai Saisei Honbu) announced a plan to “use foreign human material”, i.a. by “expanding the types of occupations, extending the period of technical internships, and expanding the framework of acceptance […] within the Technical Internship Program for foreigners […] in order to deepen its purpose of aiming [sic] at international contribution” (Kantei 2014). In practice, this means that the Japanese government seeks to address growing labour shortages in several economic sectors by increasing temporary labour migration in scope and quantity. But why is the government feeling compelled to speak of “internships” instead of work, of “acceptance” instead of immigration, and of “international contribution” instead of a domestic demand for cheap and flexible labour? Typically, this discrepancy is explained with social fears and ethnic resentments held by a majority of Japanese policy makers and voters, who do not wish to see any kind permanent immigration of foreign labourers. By framing migration as a temporary and friendly and economically disinterested gesture it may seem more acceptable. However, as I will argue in this presentation, this explanation is not sufficient. To understand this recent policy change and its outcomes, besides the government’s avid support for an ethno-nationalist self-image of Japan, underlying power structures and the influence of vested interest need to be taken into account.
Daniel Kremers is a senior research fellow at the German Institute for Japanese Studies, Tokyo. He received his PhD in Japanese Studies from Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany. In his current research he focuses on democratic structures and practices in local communities and their effects on energy policies. Besides that Daniel researches and publishes on Japan’s labor migration policies and the global reception of European political philosophy.