The Immigration Dilemma: trajectories and challenges of highly skilled migration in Japan




Popova, Tatiana

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Japan has long been perceived as a country with restrictive approach to immigration. However, due to staggering demographic changes now the Japanese government faces the dilemma between meeting the needs of the labour market by relying on the influx of migrant workers and addressing the public’s general opposition to immigration. Although the Japanese government is still hesitant to openly admit immigration, latest developments of the Japanese immigration law show a gradual shift in approach to the acceptance of foreign workers, which is particularly evident in the case of highly skilled migration. For highly skilled migrants (HSMs) Japan has adopted a more welcoming immigration policy, but the number of HSMs in Japan remains low. This suggests that current immigration policy alone is not enough to guarantee significant inflow of foreign workers and their retention. This research aims to fill the gaps in the existing studies on highly skilled migration in Japan by examining the development and limitations of the Japanese immigration policy and discussing main structural barriers and socio-cultural issues that HSMs face in Japan. Moreover, by analyzing trajectories and challenges of highly skilled migration in Japan the study also sheds light on the wider immigration dilemma that the country is dealing with. The main focus of this research is the examination of various factors affecting the attractiveness of Japan for highly skilled migration, with particular focus on the role of Japanese work culture among other work-related factors. Data collected through the online survey and interviews with HSMs and representatives of the Japanese HR reveals the impacts of Japanese employment practices and the Japanese work culture on foreign workers. In doing so, this study shows that Japanese work culture influences the experiences and mobility outcomes of HSMs as much as other work-related factors. Most importantly, the results of this research provide an insight into the interrelation of the Japanese work culture with ethnic nationalism and reveal the gap between multiculturalism in policy and in practice. 



immigration, Japan, highly skilled migration, foreign workers, work culture, immigration policy