Should Japan accept more immigrants?

“The current system is cleverer than it seems. The thinking underlying the system is: “We don’t give a lot of work permits, so foreigners work illegally, and if they get in trouble we can send them home very easily.” So foreigners come over as students — fairly smart people come in — and they work illegally. They probably get lower pay because they are illegal; and if they do anything wrong, they get sent home. It’s unfair, and it’s illegal, but it’s a better system than people will acknowledge openly because they don’t like to admit that they are doing things illegally. Some say Japan must admit many more immigrants. I’m not persuaded that’s absolutely necessary.”

Ezra Vogel, “What happened to number one?” in Reimagining Japan

 

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JK that’s not Japan. Construction in most places (outside of Singapore and maybe Dubai) is still done by locals mostly. 

 

The problem of illegal immigrants is like prostitution — something that is outwardly deplorable, but something that law enforcement has to turn a blind eye to because they serve a need. Sometimes, the two overlap.

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The fundamental problem of Japan

“To me the fundamental problem Japan faces now is not the aging population or anything like that; the country needs a political system with the capacity to respond to effectively to problems in a long-term way. I think there was an elite community of talented people who, through the 70s provided coherence in planning for the future. This coherence ended in the 90s, when there was a collapse of parties. Japan hasn’t built the right political system to put things back together again.”

Ezra F. Vogel, “What happened to number one?” in Reimagining Japan

 

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Ezra Vogel is a professor emiritus in Sociology at Harvard.

Reimagining Japan is a thick book (mainly because of its good quality glossy paper) edited by McKinsey, compiling articles from various influential figures.

I would also add that books written by huge consulting firms need to be taken with a pinch of salt, as they are often written with the intention of profiling their own clients and companies (and we often do not know who these clients are!). But since this is a compilation, I think each piece should be somewhat more credible.

Straits Jacket

I flipped through the pages of Singapore’s biggest daily newspaper, the Straits Times – which I soon discovered was mockingly called the “Straits Jacket” on account of its skill at repressing all ideas other than those approved by the ruling –

Alan Shadrake, Once a jolly hangman

 

The quote got cut short to decrease the risk of me getting into trouble.

The creativity-autocracy trade-off

The problem for Lee was that his aim of keeping the elite ever-young and creative conflicted with his natural propensity towards autocratic behaviour and surrounding himself with yes men.

Michael Barr, Ruling elite of Singapore

For the record, the opinion expressed above is not my own, but that of an Australian academic. It postulates that there is a trade-off between having yes men and having creativity.