Terrie's Take 409 -- Xenophobia, ebiz news from Japan
terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Mon Feb 19 01:43:09 JST 2007
* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
General Edition Sunday, February 18, 2007 Issue No. 409
- What's new
- Candidate roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming events
- News credits
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+++ WHAT'S NEW
The Nikkei carried a short article today about the Justice
and Internal Affairs Ministries meeting to discuss changing
the rules for monitoring foreigners resident and working in
Japan. Until now, the registration of foreigners has been
through individual registration by municipal governments.
However, the new rules will require people to be registered
on a household basis. Just what this achieves, we're not
sure, but it appears that the government thinks that
identifying just who lives in a given dwelling will allow
them to finger people who individually are falling between
the ID cracks.
The government says that the new registration method will
allow foreigners to take better advantage of health and
schooling services... Oh, right, as if that isn't possible
No, on the face of it, the real reason for the change seems
to be to allow authorities to identify the more than
250,000 illegals in the country, who are worrying both
authorities and now the voters. A recent National Police
Agency (NPA) survey found that more than 55% of Japanese
are concerned about rising crime by foreigners. This,
despite the fact that recorded crime by foreigners fell a
surprising 16.2% last year.
Well, that's the face-value reason. However, we're starting
to wonder if the new legislation isn't part of something
bigger. We say this, because over the last few months there
have been a number of announcements, both clear and vague,
which indicate that foreigners will no longer be allowed to
be anomalies and exceptions to the rules -- instead they
will be expected to behave more and speak more like
Japanese. Indeed, a government committee, the Council on
Economic and Fiscal Policy, late last year said as much
when it commented that the government should consider
assessing foreigners' Japanese language skills and other
criteria when renewing visas. Other signs are the tightening
up of social insurance rules for freelance workers, schooling,
tax treatment for people wanting to re-set their permanent
residency status (you have to stay out 10 years now), etc.
In fact, the way the Council is speaking, it is quite
possible that long-term resident's visas will be denied to
applicants unless they do in fact speak Japanese. In other
countries this is typically a test for citizenship.
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If you think our warning is a bit far-fetched, consider the
mid-January government announcement that Japanese schools
may be made compulsory for the children of long-term
foreign residents. This change in the law is not targetted
at recent arrivals, they may come later, but rather those
who have been in Japan 10 years or more and who have the
audacity to send their kids somewhere else other than a
regular public school. For wealthier long-termers, this
means that expat schools may no longer be an option. Japan
Inc magazine (www.japaninc.com) will be investigating this
situation further in an upcoming issue.
One group that will definitely be disadvantaged, and is
probably the group that the new rule is targetting anyway,
is the large number of Brazilian-Japanese in this country.
The Ministry of Education says that there are 124,000
registered foreign kids between the ages of 5 and 14 in
Japan, and about 35,000 are Brazilian-Japanese. They also
reckon that about 15,000 kids out of this South American
sub-group don't go to school. We don't actually think this
estimate is correct, and that the Ministry is deliberately
misstating the problem. In fact, many of these so-called
non-attending kids actually go to unregistered private
Brazilian schools that have mushroomed in the last 10
years. The simple fact is that they're not in the Japanese
public system and thus they're not being counted. Indeed,
only 2 of the 100 schools are registered as the more
acceptable "Miscellaneous Schools" group -- a broad
category that most expat schools fall under.
The reason why so many kids from this ethnic group opt out
of regular schools is because the Ministry provides little
or no support to integrate the kids and thus they are both
bullied and they can't absorb the lessons. This predictably
leads them to go off the rails and either take menial jobs
or turn to crime. As a means of heading off this
self-destructive cycle, the parents predictably are sending
them to schools, unregistered or not, where their kids can
talk to their classmates and understand what they are being
taught. They do this even though they run the risk of being
fined JPY100,000 for not sending the kids to a regular
Estimates are that there are about 5,000 Brazilian-Japanese
kids nationwide attending these 100 or so unregistered
schools. We point out that being unregistered doesn't mean
the schools are no good. In fact, about half are recognized
as legitimate institutions by the Brazilian education
system and the kids after graduation can use their credits
to go on to higher education back home. This is a much
better solution than that offered by the very rigid Japanese
Education Ministry, whose stance is: if you don't follow our
curriculum, then you don't exist, and your students can't
take our high school entrance exams. Oh, and you WILL
follow our curriculum.
There are two ironies here.
1. The Brazilian problem is of the government's making in
the first place, when in 1990 they somehow decided to
increase the falling birth rate (our guess) by importing
passionate 2nd and 3rd generation Japanese from Brazil...
It doesn't take much imagination to see that if you're
going to open the borders to an economically disadvantaged
group, you're also going to need to provide more than zero
social support -- or you're going to have problems.
2. While the spotlight is on troubled Brazilian kids and
forcing them into the Japanese education system, at the
same time, there are at least 450,000 Japanese kids who
have been identified as being troubled. While a large
percentage of these simply stop going to schools of any
kind, about 130,000 attend the very same types of
unofficial alternative schools that the Brazilian kids do!
See our article on a company called Nihon Gakuin, that
specializes in looking after Japanese waifs and troubled
teens. We guarantee that their's will be a growth business
if they start a Portuguese-speaking arm...
We realize that many non-resident readers must be wondering
what all the fuss with integrating foreigners is about.
After all, in other countries there is equal if not greater
pressure to force people to learn the local language, to
send their kids to regular schools, and to integrate.
But it is important to not forget that while this tightening
up is going on, there are few if any concessions being
given to encourage foreigners to feel like they are
anything other than tax-paying guests.
Here are a few examples:
1. A Japanese who is resident in Australia or New Zealand,
after as little as 2-3 years, is able to vote in both local
and national elections so long as they are living there.
In contrast, a foreigner of 30-40 years residence can't
even vote out their local mayor (with a few exceptions
such as Kishiwada-shi in Osaka and Mitaka-shi in Tokyo) --
and any moves to give voting rights to permanent residents,
mooted mid-2006, were quietly killed off last year when Abe
came on as PM.
2. A Japanese who is resident in the UK can receive a
state pension (admittedly the minimum level) after just 10
years living in that country. In contrast, foreigners in
Japan have to have been contributing for 25 years. Yes, we
know there is supposed to be an exemption if the
applicant is older than 40 years old, but for those who
start out at a younger age, this is clearly unfair.
3. A bit over 10% of all residents in Minato-ku, Tokyo
(Japan's financial capital) are foreign, and we have heard
that more than 50% of the tax revenues come from this
largely expat community. And yet, there are almost no
forums for non-Japanese to participate in local government,
few if any efforts by Minato-ku to provide facilities aimed
at foreigners (schools, kindergartens, etc.), and not even
alternative language signs at local parks and facilities.
4. Then we could go into the fact that it is not illegal
to discriminate against foreigners -- by bars, baths, banks,
police, the judiciary, family courts, or just about anyone
else. But we won't go there... :-)
So what does all this mean? Either the current government
is becoming xenophobic, and this is being manifested as
tighter controls OR maybe they're preparing the way to
substantially increasing the immigrant population. We would
like to subscribe to the second theory. However, with the
difficulties that minimum language and services rules will
impose, it may happen that no foreigner in their right mind
will want to come live here after that!
*** This week's FEEDBACK section is about child road safety
and how sidewalk building may not produce results in
lowering the child road accident rate.
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- When do interest rates go up?
- Fingering malicious bots
- Leading futures broker M&A
- IPO rules to be tightened up
- Terrorists in our midst
-> When do interest rates go up?
It's largely a guessing game, but nevertheless, commentary
of when the Bank of Japan (BoJ) will raise interest rates
is responsible for lots of forests disappearing to provide
newsprint for the subject. The October-December GDP numbers
came out this last week and they were pretty good -- an
annualized rate of 4.8%. This is way above expectations and
thus, analysts are saying that the BoJ will raise rates,
most likely to 0.5%, by either late this month (minority of
experts) or between March and August (the majority). Seen
holding back the BoJ is the strong "wait-and-see" attitude
of the Abe government, which is really concerned about not
killing the fragile recovery -- fragile because consumer
spending has still not picked up.** (Source: TT commentary
from nikkei.co.jp, Feb 16, 2007)
-> Fingering malicious bots
The NTT Information Sharing Lab Group says that it is able
to ID the presence and characteristics of malicious "bots"
trawling the web and provide the tools for system
administrators to take countermeasures to fight them. The
lab uses honeypots on decoy servers to bring the bots in,
then creates a virtual internet within a controlled
environment to allow the bots to do their thing and be
observed doing it. The lab says it only takes a few minutes
to profile the bots and to trace them back to their source.
***Ed: In Australia they catch wild tuna this way and raise
them to maturity in gigantic ocean pens.** (Source: TT
commentary from nikkei.co.jp, Feb 16, 2007)
-> Leading futures broker M&A
Japan's largest commodities futures broker has confirmed
that it is in talks with France's Societe Generale to sell
most of its broking unit to SG. The two firms expect the
deal to be done within the next 3 months. The size and
value of the deal have not yet been finalized. (Source: TT
commentary from dailytimes.com.pk, Feb 16, 2007)
-> IPO rules to be tightened up
Fighting the growing trend for recently listed companies to
suddenly experience sagging earnings the quarter after
their listing (the "Oh no, we don't cook the books!"
effect), the Securities and Exchange Surveillance
Commission (SESC) has told the FSA to tighten the rules for
companies doing an IPO. The FSA will check that earnings
projections are for real and not just greed-fuelled dreams
of the CEOs. Currently there is no clear law governing just
how companies come up with their financial projections, and
thus the FSA project is to create new rules which can be
legislated on later this summer. (Source: TT commentary
from abcmoney.co.uk, Feb 18, 2007)
-> Terrorists in our midst
Last year we predicted a Terrorist attack in Japan and of
course Murphy's Law made sure nothing happened. This year
we took the prediction back, saying that the attack would
happen outside Japan against Japanese interests, and of
course Murphy ordered a homemade missile attack! Well, it
was more of a firecracker missile attack really. It
occurred in a park near Camp Zama, to the West of Tokyo.
Responsibility for the attack has been claimed by a
left-wing group no one has ever heard of before, called the
NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.
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In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to editors at terrie.com.
-> TT 408 -- Traffic Safety for Kids. We discussed the
blithe ignorance of parents on traffic safety for their
kids, be it in cars, on bicycles, or simply walking to
*** Our reader says: Nice piece on traffic safety. With two
small children just learning to ride a bicycle, this is a
topic close to my heart. However, I have to point out one
thing. You quote statistics on significant increases in the
number of sidewalks, which would be really nice if
sidewalks improved safety. But they don't. Sidewalks on
main arterial roads are obviously necessary and save us
pedestrians from becoming road kill. But I draw your
attention to the sidewalks on back streets, which is where
most are being built now. These are typically only two feet
wide and come with obstacles such as telephone poles
plonked down in the middle. They don't help anyone except
drivers who can now freely honk at pedestrians for not
being "where they belong."
No, any serious effort to reduce the danger for pedestrians
will require us to reduce car use generally, and create
car-free streets. You alluded to this fact when you
recognised that probably the greatest contributor to the
reduction in accidents was lower car use. To really deal
with this serious problem, we need to have the government
actively reduce car access to the city, like London, New
York and Seoul are now doing.
On the flip side, "Safe Routes to School" is one overseas
campaign that is already much better here than in most
Western countries. The system involves blocking streets in
the vicinity of schools during commute hours. But a lot
more could still be done.
Incidentally, in case you also have small children, I
believe the age at which accidents are most common is
around the age of 7. It is this age that parents begin to
let their children explore on their own, but they are still
not used to dealing with traffic.
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+++ ABOUT US
Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)
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