Thursday, January 21, 2010

Immigration Point System

There's a proposed new immigration policy being floated (didn't see the article in Japanese) from the Justice Ministry where Japan would create a "point system" similar to that of Canada for immigrants. The idea is that anything that has value for living in Japan - education, work experience, language skills, Japanese dependants and so on - gives you points, and above a certain threshold you're deemed "valuable" and get preferential treatment for work visas, permanent residency and so on.

It's a good idea. The Canadian system seems to work fairly well. Of course, the Swedish version of it is even simpler: If you've got a job in Sweden, at the same wages and benefits as native Swedes, then you must be of value to the employer and thus to Sweden, so you get a two year work visa. Stay employed for long enough and you get permanent residency.

The good thing about it is that there's no arbitrary determination about who's "valuable" and who's not. If an employer wants to go to the extra effort and expense of bringing in somebody to Sweden at the same salary level as a native Swede then it's because that person really is valuable to them.

The system came about in part because under the old rules a restaurant could usually not hire an Indian chef or a Japanese sushi master because cooks were "manual labour", not specialists, and you were expected to hire Swedish workers for that. If you wanted to, say, open a high-grade sushi restaurant you had to staff it with a Swedish cook who may do smoked salmon and Hollandaise like a god, but likely has no clue about how to prepare sashimi.

Anyway, any opening up of immigration is good. People tend to really overestimate how attractive their country is to foreigners. Japan could probably throw their doors wide open and there'd still be no huge influx of immigrants . The doors have been open for many years to Brazilians of Japanese descent, and while a fair number have come here there was never a rush; the vast majority of potential immigrants obviously prefer to stay where they are.

The same would largely be true for Europe and the US as well. Most people who are determined to enter the US or the EU already do, one way or another. Opening the doors would not really increase those numbers significantly. And completely open immigration would have a counter-effect too: when you know you could move any time, you do so if or when it's convenient, not grasping the first chance you get. Immigrants would in other words be better prepared and better motivated. Whan you can re-enter at any time it's also easier for immigrants to leave if things aren't working out, rather than desperately hanging on.

I know it's a pipe dream, and free movement is never going to happen. It would be nice if it did, though.

7 comments:

Soma said...

I agree. I have always had an issue with people saying Japan MUST open up no matter what - the question was always one of being practical - ie if the ideal demographic is x # of "average citizens" it is worthwhile taking into account the impact on GDP, productivity and government and social services of say 1 immigrant entering through a robust system such as you describe versus 2 coming in through a haphazard and slightly random system that Japan currently has - not to add that the current system does give a certain preference to, er, "entertainers", who may or may just not vanish out of sight.....

SOMA said...

To add, New Zealand has a system similar to Canada. I think it works really well - the "quality" of the immigrants I feel is excellent - possibly much more so than the average citizen.

Janne Morén said...

Well, *I* could vanish out of sight in the same way...

And of course, the Swedish system would allow entertainers, including strippers, when the work is a full-time, salaried position with union pay, maternity leave, 3-month resigning period and all the rest. Which is the point - you can't pick an immigrant to work a strip bar because they're cheaper; they end up being more expensive to the company than just hiring some local girl.

If some joint still want to do it, it's most likely because the worker really is exceptionally good, or has some special skills you can't find in the country and so on. But the system does not moralize: nobody has to sit down and decide that a skilled nude entertainer is worth less to the country than a guy doing computer models of the brain (and the entertainer probably ends up making more people happier than the brain guy). As long as somebody thinks they and their skills are worth the time and expense to hire them from abroad then that is good enough.

soma said...

Point taken. If only such pastoral care for all immigrants was the norm in Japan (and NZ for that matter)! What would be the case in Sweden however, for the even more dubious arts, so to speak? Is their a significant problem with exploitation, especially of foreign workers - or is it like NZ where prostitution is legalised (and thus taxed and regulated in the same way you describe above?).

Janne Morén said...

Swedish immigration policy isn't exactly pastoral, seen large. Lots of problems, and a fair amount of dehumanising and outrageous mistreatment of immigrants and refugees alike. This recent change I do like however.

As for prostitution and the like, this is an area where I don't exactly have a lot of first hand information. But no, you can't immigrate as a prostitute; it's not salaried work, and it can't legally be so either. Basically, to my understanding, being a prostitute is not illegal, but being a pimp is, and so is being a customer. As to what status earned money from prostitution has, for instance, I have no clue. As far as I understand the decriminalization has not been completely successful; I believe the same kind of vile underground trade in illegal immigrant girls and others being forced into prostitution that occurs elsewhere can still be found in Sweden too.

soma said...

Thanks - interesting - many countries do it the other way around (with the prostitute being culpable). As prostitution and immigration have some quite strong connections in Japan (and so too the entertainment visa, at least until up to five years ago when the Japanese government admitted the problem), I wondered if your suggestion, when combined with legalisation would be one way of rationalising this problem. (I mean it is always miffed me that despite it being so prevalent in Japan, and more so the moral stigma of visiting one much less than NZ which has legalised it, that it is still illegal!)

Anyway, I am happy to see a rational system being suggested - I think more important than the argument on immigration is how it is done - and if done well then "sustainable immigration" may well come to be accepted "even" by the Japanese, so to speak.

Our Man in Abiko said...

You are all too smart for Our Man, but he has often thought how arbitrary and nonsensical passports, nationality, and the whole "them and us" thing is. If you do your bit, what do I care if you ain't from round here.