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Attitude of the Japanese government towards foreigners

Immigrants and naturalisations

Looking at the percentage of foreign population for OECD countries (both short-term and long-term residents), it appears that Japan, with 1.3%, has one of the lowest figures, just before Poland, South Korea, Mexico and Slovakia. Naturally, and to be fair, these four countries do not have the same economic appeal for immigrants. Immigration countries such as Australia, Canada and the USA, with 23.4%, 17.4% and 10.4% of their respective population made of "recent immigrants". Germany is quite high on the list with 8.9%, while France has 5.6%, the UK 4% and Italy 2%.

It is obvious that Western countries have accepted more immigrants in the last decades than Japan has. Japanese people often defend this by claiming that Japan is not a traditional immigration country like the USA, Canada or Australia. But neither is Europe. To this, some Japanese will reply that countries like Britain, France or Spain have had colonies for a long time, and are therefore "used to immigrants". But most European countries have as short a history of colonisation as Japan (who started colonising Korea and Taiwan in 1895), and many smaller European countries have no history of colonisation at all (e.g. Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, Nordic and Eastern European countries...).

The gap in the percentage of foreigners between Japan and Western countries is further accentuated by the fact Western countries also make it much easier for foreigners to be naturalised, lowering the number of "foreigners" in each country. For instance, the UK has only 4% of foreigners, yet 8% of the total population belong to ethnic minorities, in addition to the numerous Caucasian immigrants from Europe or the English-speaking world.

Indeed, when we check new citizenships (per capita), Japan is second to last (Portugal is last). Japan grants citizenship to 21x less people than Germany, 24x less than France, 27x less than Austria and 54x less than Belgium, or 28x less than the USA and 60x less than Canada.

Asylum seekers & refugees

Looking at the acceptance of refugees per capita, we notice that, out of 110 countries listed, Japan ranks 101th, with 0.0158535 refugee per 1,000 people. South Korea is last. Here are the rates for a few selected countries for comparison (the figures for the US or UK are not available) :

  • Germany : 16.0037 per 1,000 people
  • the Netherlands : 8.03316 per 1,000 people
  • Canada : 4.84682 per 1,000 people
  • France : 2.3114 per 1,000 people
  • Italy : 1.1755 per 1,000 people

So Germany, the "pure Aryan country" of Hitler only 60 years ago, and by no means a traditional immigration country like the USA, welcomes about 1000x more refugees per capita than Japan ! Italy, at the bottom of the scale in Western Europe, still admits 75x more refugees than Japan.

As for asylum seekers, Japan has 230x less of them than the UK (although Japan's population is over twice the UK's), and 220x Germany or the USA's... This was for the total number of people actually staying in those countries now. It could be claimed that less asylum seekers apply to stay in Japan than Western countries in the first place. Yet, the asylum seekers acceptance rate (among applicants) in Japan is only 9.2%, also the lowest figure among the 18 countries listed (top = Denmark with 73.5%).

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