Japan scores 47/100, slightly below the average MIPEX country (50/100) because Japanese policies still refuse to recognise that Japan is a country of immigration. This denial leads to contradictory policies that create as many obstacles as opportunities for foreign nationals. Japan’s approach to integration is categorised as “Immigration without Integration”. While Japan is a leader far ahead of the other countries in this category, its policies still deny basic rights and equal opportunities to newcomers. Foreign nationals can find some ways to settle long-term in Japan. However, Japanese policies only go halfway to guarantee them equal opportunities, (e.g., on health and education), while also denying them several basic rights, most notably protections from discrimination.
Japan needs to invest more on all the three dimensions, especially to guarantee immigrants with the same basic rights as Japanese citizens. The way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. Japan’s current policies encourage the public to see immigrants as subordinates and not their neighbours.
Foreign residents in Japan enjoy relatively favourable access to family reunification, permanent residence and the health system. However, foreign nationals and their children still face major obstacles to education, political participation and non-discrimination. Immigrants’ children receive little targeted support in the education system in Japan, similar to the situation of other countries with low number of migrant pupils. Furthermore, potential victims of ethnic, racial, religious or nationality discrimination have little chance to access justice in Japan. Japan is one of the only MIPEX countries still without a dedicated anti-discrimination law and body. Japan is the among bottom three countries for anti-discrimination policies, together with other ‘immigration without integration’ countries.
Japan's approach is slightly ahead of poorer Central European countries with equally small and new immigrant populations, but far behind other developed countries, including Korea. In comparison to neighbouring Korea, foreign nationals in Japan face weaker integration policies in the labour market, education, political participation, and anti-discrimination. Besides Korea, Japan’s policies are most similar on MIPEX to Israel and stronger than the other MIPEX Asian countries (China, India and Indonesia).
- Labour market mobility: Halfway favourable: Japanese policies treat permanent residents equally with citizens and allow temporary workers to find basic subordinate jobs, but overlook many of their specific obstacles and needs for labour market integration. In comparison, countries with comprehensive integration strategies often provide all legal workers with better access to both general and targeted support.
- Family reunification: Slightly favourable: While many foreigners are eligible to apply for their close family members, these families have fewer and less secure rights, including no right to an autonomous residence permit.
- Education: Slightly unfavourable: As in other countries with few foreign pupils, mainstream teachers, 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 (see instead Korea, Western Europe and traditional destination countries).
- Health: Slightly favourable: Japan’s migrant health policies are more favourable than in the average MIPEX country, as the Japanese health system includes legal migrants and asylum seekers and provide them with information and support.
- Political participation: Slightly unfavourable: Political participation policies, which are increasingly part of integration strategies in both traditional and new countries of immigration (e.g. Korea), remain slightly weak in Japan. Foreign nationals do not have the local right to vote and they are discouraged from broader participation due to limited support and opportunities.
- Permanent residence: Slightly favourable: Most newcomers in traditional destination countries and in European countries take a shorter path to become permanent residents than in Japan. The path to permanent residence for newcomers in Japan’s is long (10 years) and mainly linked to their ability to fulfil economic requirements. As in most countries, permanent residents in Japan enjoy a relatively secure status and equal rights in several key areas.
- Access to nationality: Halfway favourable: While foreign nationals face naturalisation requirements similar to the average MIPEX country, Japan has yet to open up to international reform trends towards dual nationality for all naturalizing adults and citizenship entitlements for their children.
- Anti-discrimination: Unfavourable: Japan’s legal system is unfavourable for fighting discrimination in society. Victims seeking justice cannot turn to a dedicated anti-discrimination law or independent equality body. Japan is the bottom three countries for anti-discrimination policies, critically lagging behind the standards in Korea, Europe and traditional destination countries.