• Rank: 27 out of 38
  • MIPEX Score: 44
  • HEALTH 51

Key Findings

Changes in context

  • Few immigrants admitted since 1990s not enough for Japan’s shrinking and rapidly ageing population
  • Foreign citizens represent only 1.6% of the total Japanese population
  • Attitudes towards immigrants slowly improving over time in JP and KR (around 2/3 with positive attitudes in 2012)
  • Most newcomers come for work (41%) or family reasons (36.5%)  
  • People with Japanese ancestry mostly from South America automatically receive long-term residence, while others mostly from East Asia arrive as workers, trainees and technical interns

Changes in policy

Despite JP's initial steps towards an integration policy in 2006 and 2009/10, little has improved since 2010. A minor 2012 amendment means that permanent residents will enjoy a slightly more secure status (residence card up from 5 to 7 years' duration).

Conclusions and recommendations

For the 1st time, JP's efforts on integration can be directly compared to policies in all other developed countries of immigration, with MIPEX data from all countries from December 2014. JP's policies currently create slightly more obstacles than opportunities for long-term societal integration. Like other new destination countries in Southern and Central Europe, efforts on integration started rather late in JP, with local plans 'multicultural living-together' (tabunka kyôsei) started in 2006, followed by the 1st national integration programmes in 2009. Today, JP's integration policies remain under-developed, mostly local and limited to the employment and education of immigrants with Japanese ancestry living in immigrant-dense neighbourhoods. JP's approach is slightly ahead of  poorer Central European countries with equally small and new immigrant populations, but far behind other highly-developed countries, including KR. In these leading countries, coordinated national and local policies provide greater support and opportunities for many types of newcomers in all areas of public life.
JP is slightly ahead 

Foreign residents in JP enjoy relatively favourable access to the labour market (ranked 15th out of 40) and the health system (migrant health policies ranked 16th overall). But the opportunities for long-term integration are limited for various types of immigrants. One out of every three foreigners is an unskilled temporary worker such as a technical intern, who is denied the chance to make their career, family life and home in JP, similar to KR. Other foreigners, such as skilled temporary workers, are likely to face relatively discretionary procedures for family reunion (20th) and permanent residence (20th) and be discouraged from becoming citizens (23rd) or politically active (23rd). Their children receive little targeted support in the JP education system, except in a small number of cases through private ethnic schools and the small number of 'rainbow bridge schools' (29th). More broadly, any potential victims of ethnic, racial, religious or nationality discrimination have little chance to access justice in JP, one of the last MIPEX countries without a dedicated anti-discrimination law and body (37th place with only IS further behind). KR policies are better developed on anti-discrimination, political participation, education and targeted employment support.


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Labour Market Mobility

Key Findings

The current system is slightly favourable for foreigners to find short-term work, but not to invest in a career there or the specific skills that JP needs for the future

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have equal rights and opportunities to access jobs and improve their skills?

Similar to KR, JP's policies treat permanent residents equally with citizens and allow temporary workers to find basic jobs, but overlook many of their specific obstacles and needs for labour market integration. As in most countries, all foreign workers and entrepreneurs are entitled to equal working conditions, access public employment offices, and join trade unions. However workers who cannot become permanent or long-term residents may be kept exploited, less skilled and less mobile on the labour market. In comparison, countries with comprehensive integration strategies often provide all legal workers with better access to both general and targeted support.

Dimension 1: Access to labour market

  • Permanent and long-term residents and their families have the right to employment or self-employment in any sector
  • The public sector is also open to foreign workers in JP, KR and the majority of MIPEX countries
  • Many temporary workers cannot freely change jobs or sectors in JP (and KR), as they can in the leading countries of economic migration and integration (e.g. CA, US, Nordics, IT/PT/ES)

Dimension 2: Access to general support

  • Immigrants can benefit from procedures to recognise foreign academic qualifications and skills, but not for professional qualifications (similar to KR, see instead AU, CA, DE, NL, NZ, SE, UK)
  • While study grants are technically open to all, temporary workers, such as technical interns, cannot accept places in vocational training or higher education, unlike permanent residents, long-term residents and their families (similar to KR, but unlike the majority of countries) 

Dimension 3: Targeted support

  • The recent targeted programmes to help foreign residents find jobs are better in JP than in most other new destination countries, but still overlooking key problems and groups (see box)
  • Future programmes can help the foreign-trained to get their qualifications recognised, encourage employers to hire unemployed foreign residents, especially women and youth
  • Other countries provide greater support for the long-term labour market integration of low-educated or unemployed temporary workers (e.g. Northern Europe, KR, PT) as well as recognition/bridging programmes for the high-skilled (e.g. DE, Nordics, AU/CA/NZ)

Dimension 4: Workers' rights

  • Only the holders of permanent residence and a few other types of visas can use social assistance, unlike in half the MIPEX countries (see instead CA, DE, NL, PT, SE)

Policy Box

Recent targeted programmes are better for Japanese-ancestry long-term residents than for other migrant workers. Since 2008, employers are supposed to assist their redundant foreign workers and people of Japanese ancestry benefit from new 'Active Employment Measures'. During a three-month course, they receive unemployment benefits while learning language communication, basic labour and social rights, and job application skills. Afterwards they can use interpreters in ‘Hello Work’ offices, one-stop service-centres, advanced training and support from navigators until they find work.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants find skilled and well-paid jobs?

  • High employment rates but little GDP growth since 2010
  • Largest number of recent migrants coming for (temporary) work 
  • Relatively flexible employment protection legislation
  • Limited exposure to JP language is possible outside JP

Family Reunion

Key Findings

Large numbers of foreign residents denied the chance to live with their family, while eligible families may be kept insecure and dependent on their sponsor

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants reunite with family?

Most countries that facilitate labour market mobility like JP (and KR) do more to facilitate family reunion (e.g. AU, CA, NZ, ES, SE, US). The family reunion policy in JP (and KR) are slightly below average for the countries of immigration in MIPEX and below the minimum standards of the European Union (2003/86/EC). Slightly favourable conditions and eligibility allow many foreigners to apply for most of their close family. JP is a little less flexible than most destinations on the applicants’ permit requirements (unlike 27 MIPEX countries), sources of income (unlike 25), and options for their parents (unlike 18) or registered partners (unlike 17). The major difference in JP is that families who want to reunite have fewer and less secure rights and procedures (see box) than they do in any other country in MIPEX, except TU, where no policy exists. 

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • The eligibility rules for family reunion are slightly favourable for families, ranked 8th internationally and similar to KR
  • Sponsors can immediately apply to reunite with the nuclear family and, under certain conditions, with their dependent adult children
  • Only certain categories of sponsors are entitled to family reunion; Students and technical interns cannot apply for their family, which is similar to KR and more restrictive than other MIPEX countries attracting labour migration 
  • JP immigration law does recognise same-sex partners legally married abroad since 2009 (like 25 other countries), but not long-term relationships (see instead 17 countries)

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • JP's legal requirements are also relatively equitable and favourable as a starting point for integration, ranked high internationally alongside countries like ES and FI
  • Sponsors can apply freely for their family once they can meet their financial needs through their abilities or property
  • In contrast, sponsors in 22 other countries can use many more legal sources to prove their income, including social benefits

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Reuniting families in JP face some of the greatest uncertainty about the outcome of the application and their future in the country
  • The Immigration Control Bureau has more discretion in the family reunion procedure than in 35th of the 38 MIPEX countries
  • Families can see their application rejected or their status withdrawn on several vague grounds like good character, tax-problems, or speeding
  • Families do not have the right to learn why or appeal (unlike in 29 others) because of an exemption in applying the Administrative Procedure Act

Dimension 4: Rights associated

  • Moreover the limited rights of reunited families are only halfway favourable to secure their economic and personal self-sufficiency and to fight against domestic violence
  • Families have more equal rights in 29 out of the 38 countries, with JP tied with CH and KR 
  • Adult family members in JP can benefit from the same social support and housing as their sponsor, as in most countries
  • Some may be forced into dependency on their sponsor because they do not have the same right to work (unlike 23) or to an autonomous residence permit (unlike 29)


Key Findings

JP's schools miss the opportunities that immigrant pupils could bring to the mainstream classroom and do little to teach all pupils to appreciate diversity

Potential Beneficiaries

Policy Indicators

Is the education system responsive to the needs of the children of immigrants?

JP's 1st migrant education policies, dated from 2009/10, has just started to improve the information for immigrant parents, the quality of Japanese courses (JFL) and the availability and training of support staff. Most schools receive very little support for all immigrant pupils in need to achieve their best at school and for all children to understand diversity, with JP ranked 29th, far behind other highly developed countries, including KR, ranked 11th. Outside of JP's private 'Brazilian schools' and the few new 'rainbow bridge schools', mainstream teachers and schools pupils and parents receive limited support to target their needs, seize new opportunities for learning and implement an intercultural education throughout the curriculum and school day.

Dimension 1: Access

  • Ranked 25th like other countries with small numbers of foreign pupils, JP does relatively little to facilitate their access to the entire education system (see instead KR, Western Europe, traditional countries of immigration)
  • All foreign children are allowed – but not required – to attend at least pre-school and compulsory education
  • Since 2009/10, the Education Ministry 
  • As in most countries, JP leaves education boards to properly assess newcomers' previous education (see instead expert bodies in FR and LU)
  • JP's 1st migrant education policies have started to encourage foreign children to access different types of public schools through better JFL and adaptation
  • This new approach has not yet extended to help foreign residents to access pre-school, vocational training and higher education

Dimension 2: Targeting needs

  • Immigrant pupils can benefit from a relatively new and limited targeted support at school in JP, ranking 24th internationally
  • Parents and teachers can use new online and print information materials in several languages
  • Since 2009/10, the national curriculum and guidelines are improving to help immigrant pupils attain academic literacy in Japanese
  • For this, schools can attain more training, certification and assistants for their teachers (e.g. hub schools, multilingual staff, school promoters for foreign families)
  • Leading countries have gone further to set and evaluate mandatory standards for teaching the language and helping immigrant pupils, including mandatory training for all teachers and financial support for schools (e.g. traditional countries of immigration, Nordics)

Dimension 3: New opportunities

  • Ranked 26th alongside other new destination countries, JP critically ignores the new opportunities that immigrant pupils bring to the classroom 
  • Instead, this learning is relegated to separate private ‘Brazilian schools’ (Burajiru gakkou)
  • In contrast, most other MIPEX countries teach immigrant languages and cultures either at school or through extra-curricular courses (e.g. KR)
  • A few countries are reaching out to immigrant parents to include them in school and extracurricular activities (e.g. KR, AU/CA/NZ, Nordics, DE/CH)

Dimension 4: Intercultural education

  • Ranked 34th, JP offers less support to public schools than most MIPEX countries do to help all pupils develop an international and intercultural understanding  (see AU/CA/NZ/UK, Nordics)
  • Schools could benefit from more guidance, materials and monitoring on how to teach an intercultural education throughout the curriculum and the school day
  • A central state agency and fund could achieve much more to promote JP's new national goals for an intercultural society

Policy Box

‘Rainbow Bridge Schools’: From April 2009 to March 2012, new campaigns, courses, teacher trainings, adapted entrance exams, hub schools and multilingual school promoters may help more migrant students enrol in pre-school and public school, learn academic Japanese, stay in school, and enter to high school. These very basic projects in immigrant-dense areas do not yet entitle all immigrant children to the support they need all throughout their education. 


Key Findings

Migrants have access and information to a health system that overlooks their specific health needs

Policy Indicators

Is the health system responsive to immigrants' needs?

Ranked 16th, the JP health system has gone halfway to properly serve immigrant patients by including and informing them within the system, but ignoring their specific health needs. Only FR, IS and JP adopt such an approach. As in other highly-developed countries, the JP health system is relatively inclusive and accessible to migrant residents. But like other small and new destination countries, JP has hardly any targeted measures to guarantee equal quality services in practice for immigrant patients. The health system will need to build its capacity and responsiveness to immigrant patients' specific health and access problems. Internationally, most countries are slightly weaker on migrants' entitlements and access but slightly further on adapting their health services and policies (see instead inclusive and responsive services in CH, AT, IT, Nordics, most English-speaking countries).

Dimension 1: Entitlements

  • Foreign residents are relatively well-covered by the  health insurance system in JP (ranked 5th), though asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants face important obstacles
  • Most legal migrants have equal access to national health and social insurance as JP citizens (similar in several Northwest European countries), while equal access for asylum-seekers is restricted to the few with 'permission for provisional stay' or 'designated activities' (see more equal access in e.g. AT, FR, TU)
  • Undocumented migrants face the greatest problems with documentation and discretion to access health services
  • Undocumented workers can access industrial accident compensation and, through social insurance, the general health system, though employers discourage enrollment to avoid paying their half of the premium
  • Migrants outside the system may get treatment from some of the free/low-cost medical services for the poor
  • Many exemptions exist to these rules for vulnerable groups on public health grounds (i.e. pregnant women, babies and children, elderly, infectious diseases, harm risk, trafficking victims)

Dimension 2: Access policies

  • Health services are generally accessible for eligible immigrant patients in JP (ranked 1st), KR and most highly developed countries
  • Migrants and health-providers are informed about health issues and entitlements through adapted online and print materials in a handful of languages 
  • Medical interpreters are only available in a limited number of institutions and 20 local governments (see diverse practices in 17 other countries)
  • Undocumented migrants should be able to access their entitlements as healthcare providers should normally be exempt from reporting them to immigration authorities

Dimension 3: Responsive services

  • JP health services can respond to language barriers through its medical interpretation system (often native-speakers, volunteer or paid, but no qualification system)
  • Other than language needs, JP health services have little capacity to address immigrants' other specific health or access needs
  • Following the example of English-speaking countries, a few highly-developed countries are adopting training,  standards and methods for cultural competence (e.g. AT, CH, NO)

Dimension 4: Mechanisms for change

  • JP health services could become more responsive to immigrant patients through the development of a specific migrant health policy, involving different ministries, stakeholders and immigrants themselves (see English-speaking countries, KR, NO)
  • The development of this policy can be informed by several existing studies on immigrant patients'  health and access problems in JP

Political Participation

Key Findings

Political participation policies weak and uneven across country

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have comparable rights and opportunities to participate in political life?

New and small immigration countries like JP have invested little in immigrants as public leaders who can help improve their new country’s policies and societal cohesion. Political participation policies, which are increasingly part of integration strategies in both traditional and new countries of immigration (e.g. KR), remain slightly weak and uneven across JP, ranking 23rd.

Dimension 1: Electoral rights

  • Since 2002, cities let foreigners participate in local referenda, while half want the national government to grant them full local voting rights
  • Foreigners can vote in local elections in 21 of the 37 other MIPEX countries, including KR

Dimension 2: Political liberties

  • Foreigners do not face restrictions on their basic political liberties in JP or most destination countries

Dimension 3: Consultative bodies

  • Starting in the 1990s, men and women of different origins have been gradually appointed and led consultative organs with weak institutional powers These bodies operate in some large prefectures and cities (e.g. Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Kawasaki, Hiroshima), but no longer in Tokyo and not at national level (see 13 MIPEX countries, e.g. AU, ES, PT) 

Dimension 4: Implementation policies

  • Immigrants that want to organise themselves and participate politically are critically lacking funds for activities beyond culture and education (see alternative funding possibilities in KR, NZ, CA, Western Europe)

Permanent Residence

Key Findings

Most other countries grant temporary migrants an easier and shorter path to permanent residence than JP does

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become long-term residents?

Most newcomers in AU, CA, NZ, US and European countries take an easier and shorter path to become permanent residents than in JP, where the procedures are slightly less coherent with its goals for societal integration. As in most countries, permanent residence in JP grants foreigners equal treatment with nationals in several key areas and a relatively secure residence. But current laws do not give many temporary migrants this chance at a future in JP. 

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • Foreign residents in JP face a longer and more restrictive path than in most MIPEX countries
  • Eligible foreigners must generally wait for 10 years, longer than in any other MIPEX country except CH; this period is even longer than the wait for JP citizenship (5 years)
  • Eligibility is restricted for key categories of temporary residents; Trainees can stay one year and then become technical interns for two years, but without any right to permanent residence
  • The standard residence requirement for long-term residence in the EU is 5 years or less (DK, HU, NO, SE) Traditional immigration countries like AU, CA, NZ give most migrants a permanent perspective for integration; Selected migrant workers arrive with permanent residence as the starting point of the integration process, while other migrants are entitled to transition to it within a few years

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • Eligible immigrants face a demanding economic requirement to prove sufficient assets or skills to make an independent living
  • In contrast, in 26 of the 37 other countries, applicants simply demonstrate a legal source of income at level of social assistance or minimum wage
  • For eligible immigrants, JP's other requirements are rather straightforward and similar to most other countries

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Immigrants face more discretionary procedures to become or remain permanent residents in KR than in 21 out of the 37 other MIPEX countries
  • Permanent residents enjoy a relatively secure status (up from 5-to-7 years since 2012) and the right to long stays abroad (in contrast, permanent residence is indefinite in 27 other countries)
  • Applicants can be rejected and permits withdrawn on several vague grounds, without a clear right for people to learn why or appeal the decision in court

Dimension 4: Rights Associated

  • Permanent residents generally enjoy equal socio-economic rights in JP as in 29 of the 37 other MIPEX countries

Access to Nationality

Key Findings

Most ordinary immigrants and their children are ineligible or discouraged to become citizens in JP, with one of the lowest naturalisation rates in the developed world

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become citizens?

As in KR, immigrants in JP face naturalisation requirements that are slightly unfavourable for their integration and below the average European country and traditional countries of immigration. JP and KR have not yet followed international reform trends in new countries of immigration to open up citizenship entitlements for children and dual nationality for foreigners.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • The eligibility rules are favourable for immigrants, but not for their children
  • The wait is 5 years for ordinary applicants and 3 years for spouses of JP citizens, which are the most common standards in other MIPEX countries
  • Their children and even grandchildren born or raised in JP do not have a specific right to Japanese citizenship, unlike in a growing majority of countries

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • The integration-related requirements are basic and similar to most destination countries
  • While the procedure is free, the income requirement can be demanding and applicants are not entitled to enough specific JP language courses and materials to pass the test (see AU, CA, DE, NZ, Nordics)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • The procedure is allowed to be long and discretionary (see instead KR)
  • Rejected applicants do not have the right to a reasoned decision and appeal, unlike in 31 MIPEX countries
  • If successful, immigrants become secure and equal JP citizens

Dimension 4: Dual nationality

  • JP's requirement to renounce a foreign nationality is not related to integration, according to MIPEX, and discourages applicants from countries allowing dual nationality
  • Across the globe, dual nationality is becoming harder to avoid, easier to regulate and generally accepted as a facilitator of integration
  • The international trend is to introduce dual nationality (now 25 MIPEX countries) or at least greater exemptions for several vulnerable groups

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are becoming citizens?

In JP, 10,000-15,000 foreigners have been naturalised every year over the past decade.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain why non-EU immigrants become citizens?

  • Mostly newcomers in new country of immigration
  • Temporary migrants not allowed to stay long enough to become JP citizens
  • Many potentially interested foreigners from low-and-medium-developed countries
  • Only a minority allowed dual nationality by country of origin (e.g. BR, PE, PH, VN, US)

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become citizens?

Over the past decade, JP has had the lowest or one of the lowest naturalisation rates of all MIPEX countries (0.5 naturalisations per 100 foreign citizens in 2012), usually alongside only CZ, EE, and SK. The rate is even lower than KR's (1.3 in 2012). JP's citizenship policies are likely the strongest factor determining these poor naturalisation outcomes for immigrants, particularly for men and women from developing countries. 


Key Findings

No dedicated anti-discrimination law and body to help victims access justice in JP, unlike in nearly all MIPEX countries, including KR

Policy Indicators

Is everyone effectively protected from racial/ethnic, religious, and nationality discrimination in all areas of life?

Ranking 37th out of 38, JP's legal system is unfavourable for fighting discrimination in society. JP is only one of 4 MIPEX countries (IS, CH, TU) where victims seeking justice cannot turn to a dedicated anti-discrimination law or independent equality body, critically lagging behind the standards, in Europe, traditional countries of immigration and even KR.

Dimension 1: Definitions

  • People are poorly protected against racial, ethnic, religious and nationality discrimination in JP, whose legal definitions are weaker than in 36 other countries (just below KR and only ahead of IS)
  • The definitions are neither full nor explicit in JP (as in only IS), based instead on the constitution (Article 14) international standards (UNCERD), subject to judicial interpretation
  • Potential victims in JP cannot rely on every judge to correctly interpret general provisions in its Constitution and international commitments

Dimension 2: Fields of application

  • JP's weak definitions of discrimination apply in few areas of public life (similar to only Baltics, IS, CH, TU)
  • Potential victims may bring forward a case of racial, nationality or religious discrimination in terms of wages, working houses, working conditions and vocational guidance,
  • JP citizens should receive equal opportunities in education without discrimination based on race or religion among other grounds (but not nationality)
  • 30 of the 37 other MIPEX countries extend protections on 2 or 3 of these grounds to all areas of public life (i.e. education, social protection access to goods and services available to the public like housing and health)

Dimension 3: Enforcement mechanisms

  • Very few victims have been able to bring forward their case under the weak enforcement mechanisms in JP ranked 35th alongside KR and ahead of only IS and TU
  • Only in certain cases are individual actions possible including protection against victimisation, interpreters and potential financial compensation (see instead KR's National Human Rights Commission and stronger mechanisms in Europe and traditional countries of immigration)

Dimension 4: Equality policies

  • Potential victims cannot rely on effective government support to seek justice in JP, ranked 36th on equality policies (ahead of only IS and tied with IT)
  • The government has made almost no binding commitments to promote equality, except for general human rights organs and volunteers for the Justice Ministry who provide information, dialogue and recommendations
  • JP is only one of 3 countries (IS and TU) where victims cannot turn to an independent equality body to provide them with legal advice, legal investigations of their cases or punitive measures

Policy Box

In 1995, JP ratified the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Parliament is expecting a bill from government to create a special law and specialised agency. Most European countries made their greatest gains on integration through anti-discrimination, often because of agreed EU standards. Public and private actors cannot discriminate or incite violence or hatred against a person on the grounds of race, ethnicity or religion in all areas of life: employment, vocational training, education, social protection, social assistance, and access to goods and services like housing and health. Victims seeking justice benefit from full protections against victimisation, sharing the burden of proof, financial aid and interpreters. Independent specialised bodies provide legal advice and independent investigations.