Who will pick the turnips?

by Chris Bertram on February 20, 2020

I have a new piece up at the LRB blog on the UK’s post-Brexit immigration plans. I argue that at the core of the plans is an intention to treat EU migrants and others as a vulnerable and exploitable workforce and that the logic of denying a long-term working visa route to the low paid leads to three possibilities: either the businesses that rely upon them will go bust, technology will substitute for labour, or the UK will have to start denying education to young Britons so that they become willing to be the underpaid workforce that picks turnips and cleans the elderly in social care.

{ 64 comments }

1

Chetan Murthy 02.20.20 at 6:11 pm

Chris, thank you for this column, and for your persistent work to educate us all. I thought I’d add one other thing that the (self-interested) Tory Brit ought to be thinking of (but isn’t): even before “who’s going to wipe my bum when I get old?”, ought to be “who’s going to create the wealth that will sustain me when I can no longer work?” IIUC the dependency ratio in many Western countries is dropping dangerously, except in those that continue to accept immigrants in large numbers.

But then again, maybe the Tory Brit plan is that the entire workforce will eventually be brought in on guest visas, underpaid, and their surplus labor skimmed off to care for the aged. [record-scratch] buy ever-more luxury yachts for plutocrats.

2

nope@nope.com 02.20.20 at 6:26 pm

Or they could, you know, raise wages.

3

BruceJ 02.20.20 at 6:34 pm

Fourth option: (the ‘USA!USA!USA!’ plan) Continue to use the EU migrants in an illegal capacity for even cheaper labor and greater opportunities to exploit them.

4

Chris Bertram 02.20.20 at 6:39 pm

@nope, the original draft that didn’t make the cut had “That some businesses will go under certainly seems likely, particularly if competition for scarce labour drives up wage costs to a point where prices would have to rise to a level unpalatable to the consumer or where profit-margins fall catastrophically.”

5

Dr. Hilarius 02.20.20 at 6:47 pm

My 97-year old mother still lives at home but has had a number of emergency hospitalizations followed up by rehabilitation in skilled nursing facilities. The bulk of the less skilled work, wiping bottoms, bathing and janitorial work, is done by African immigrants. Most are from Somalia.

These workers do not shy from personal contact with strangers and they do not consider the work itself demeaning. But few native born citizens would ever consider taking one of these jobs. Robots will not be taking over these tasks in any foreseeable future. If these workers didn’t exist some of the ill and elderly might be cared for by family but others don’t have any family. The economic consequences of family care would be considerable. Adult family are often still of working age and are trying to support themselves even as the social safety net continues to unravel. Anti-immigrant policies appeal to economic principles but this is just cover for policy makers exploiting racism and fear of the foreign.

6

Dr.Hilarius 02.20.20 at 6:50 pm

I should have appended that I am in the US not the UK.

7

nope@nope.com 02.20.20 at 6:52 pm

Labor is a minuscule fraction of the final cost to consumers for agricultural produce. For example, increasing the cost of tomatoes picked in Florida by a penny a pound was estimated to increase the yearly income of the tomato pickers by 7,000 USD. Pass that on to consumers and they won’t even notice.

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/19/us/19farm.html

Above and beyond the particular numbers – your argument is identical to those typically deployed against raising the minimum wage. How do you feel about raising the minimum wage?

8

Chris Bertram 02.20.20 at 7:23 pm

@nope the MAC report that preceded the new policy reported that the arable land under cultivation in eastern England expanded considerably with the availabilty of labour from E Europe after 2004. I presume that when that workforce goes away, in the absence of a viable substitute workforce, that industry will contract. Which is all very well, but the vegetables have to come from somewhere and Brexit makes getting them from elsewhere rather more difficult. Maybe you are right that they’ll suddenly offer much higher wages, the workers will come and the consumers won’t notice. But I’m not convinced. Your point about the minimum wage seems wrong: the fact that raising it doesn’t affect employment levels across an economy doesn’t establish that industry X or industry Y will be viable at the new level. Maybe they shouldn’t be. But the vegetables have to come from somewhere, at some price.

(Incidentally, if you want to continue commenting, please familiarise yourself with out comments policy and conform to it.)

9

nope@nope.com 02.20.20 at 7:42 pm

Dear Chris,

I have been posting here since about 2004 under this name. How I am violating your comments policy?

W.r.t. to the merits. In 2011 an agreement was reached dramatically increasing the wages of tomato pickers in the US. Consumers didn’t notice. That seems like strong evidence consumers will not notice in this similar situation. So owners will raise wages and get the workers they need.

Furthermore, nobody is talking about “employment levels across an economy”. Whenever increases in the minimum wage are proposed, people always argue that fast-food and agriculture, specifically, will somehow be decimated. But they have historically been wrong.

You are arguing that agriculture will be decimated. I doubt that for the same reason that I doubt that minimum wage increases will decimate agriculture. Also – doesn’t it bother you that you are making arguments so similar to those used to fight minimum wage increases?

10

Phew 02.20.20 at 7:51 pm

There is absolutely no economic law that requires farm labor (or other labor) to be exploitative and underpaid. If wages paid to ag labor go up then it is true that they must come from somewhere. But that somewhere doesn’t even have to be consumers – the government could subsidize food, perhaps with a tax of some kind on, oh, lets say the finance sector.

Arguments to the effect that we simply must have an exploited underclass have never really been about justice, or even necessity.

11

Matt 02.20.20 at 8:44 pm

Maybe in relation to the last option, a idea can be borrowed from the Soviet Union (I think it’s still used in Turkmenistan – always a good place to model your state on!) – have a mandatory period of two weeks or so where university students and other students are required to go to the country and pick produce. Quite a few of my friends from Russia had “fond memories” (or some sort of memories, in any case) of when they would be required to leave for a few weeks and work doing agricultural work. Because it was treated as part of their education, I think they didn’t even have to be paid for it, making it even cheaper than imported labor!

12

nobody 02.20.20 at 9:20 pm

Given decades of funding cuts to the British educational system, denying education to youth in order to create a pool of cheap labour is the policy in practice even if not in explicit intent. Asset stripping younger generations in order to satisfy the financial and emotional whims of the late-middle-aged and elderly is the effective policy of boomer elites globally, after all.

I’ve been saying since 2016 that post-Brexit UK will turn into North Korea on the English Channel: an impoverished, xenophobic, autarky whose elite uses fear of immigration to retain control and justify declining median living standards.

13

Z 02.20.20 at 9:25 pm

@Chris Bertram Maybe you are right that they’ll suddenly offer much higher wages, the workers will come and the consumers won’t notice. But I’m not convinced. [T]he vegetables have to come from somewhere, at some price.

1) I’m sure people advocating for these changes in immigration laws understand this perfectly. Driving unskilled immigrant labor out is the whole point. It would be a mistake to think that they are deluded. They have thought about it, and that is what they want, explicitly. If that means more expensive brocoli and fewer nurses, so be it, as far as they are concerned. It would be presumptuous to think that they don’t know perfectly well what are the likely consequences of their favored policies.

2) Changes I intensely desire will, if effected, heavily disrupt some sectors. Changes I vehemently oppose are changing some sectors right now in much more profound ways than changes in immigration laws ever could. That a law changes the way some sectors function, sometimes quite dramatically, is the point of a law, not in itself an argument for or against it.

3) If in a country as rich and productive as the UK, “social care, construction, hospitality and agriculture” as a matter of fact cannot survive without cheap immigrant labors (something I doubt, by the way), then that is a strong indictment of these sectors, the labor laws and the organization of the economy. Not so much a persuasive defense of immigration laws from a leftwing point of view. It seems to me that the latter should strive for a situation in which no occupation is so unpalatable that only desperate immigrants agree to take it (a corollary being that no occupation would be dependent, strictly speaking, on unskilled immigrants).

4) In the era of environmental destruction, the prices of vegetables should not be a function of supply and demand as computed on a market.

Now perhaps your whole point was to underline the fact that right-wing, free-market policies are self-contradictory, and especially so when it comes to food production or care work, in which case, well, yeah.

14

Doctor Science 02.20.20 at 9:32 pm

The answer is clearly going to be #3. Brexit (with possible bonus Scotxit or whatever you call it) will drive the UK into a recession. The government will respond with austerity, because that worked so well last time. And look! all those turnip-picking jobs, just sitting there!

15

Colin Reid 02.20.20 at 10:20 pm

There’s a fourth option, which is that the UK government will decide that it’s good for business to have a pool of short-term workers whose presence is technically illegal, but tolerated in practice, precisely because those workers can then be exploited in other illegal ways with little risk of them complaining about it. Look at the pattern in the US, for example: undocumented immigrants are persecuted and periodically rounded up for deportation, but there are almost never sanctions for the employers who chose to hire these workers illegally (a list of employers that notably includes the sitting President of the country). I would guess that few EU citizens would be desperate enough to work in the UK under such conditions, but willing workers might be found from elsewhere.

It also makes sense as a long-term Tory policy to reduce the average education level of the UK resident citizen population (e.g. by hiking university fees to an unaffordable level, and/or encouraging British graduates to emigrate): a less educated electorate is likely to be more socially conservative. The Conservatives have a strong electoral coalition now, with overwhelming support among those who are ‘economically inactive’ by virtue of having reached retirement age, but they potentially face a demographic disaster in the younger cohorts; the much higher proportion of university degrees may be a factor in that. We are nearly at the point where the majority of the UK government’s electoral support comes from those who are not interested in employment because they are already pensioners. What implications will this sort of ‘democratic gerontocracy’ have for the government’s economic priorities?

16

Chris Bertram 02.20.20 at 10:40 pm

@nope A perusal of our server shows that nope@nope.com (which appears to be a non-functional domain) has been used by posters called variously Adam, humeidayer, Kriston, Wax, Wax Banks, eek, and rube legendre. So maybe pick a name and stick to it and use a genuine email address in future, as per our policy.

17

Chris Bertram 02.20.20 at 10:48 pm

@Z on (1) I think, not necessarily, as they may be driven by short-term political considerations rather than having worked out some long-term strategy and on (3) again, not necessarily, since migration, subjectively seen as temporary, can be a way of earning money for longer-term projects or to send home in an unequal world. Since global inequality isn’t going away, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing if there are options in wealthier countries that are attractive to migrants but not so much for natives. In a world of global equality, this wouldn’t be so, but we don’t live in that world. (All the above, heavily hedged with qualifications)

18

Ebenezer Scrooge 02.20.20 at 11:25 pm

The USA!USA! option mentioned by BruceJ@3 and Colin @ 15 probably won’t work in the UK. The UK is an island, which makes it hard for illegal immigrants to sneak in over the border. I’m not sure that even a cynical Tory would contemplate a porous English Channel.
Of course, if the Tories really want a 1000-year Reich based on a docile population, there is a way to do it. Let Scotland go. The rump UK would be even more Tory, and the Scottish land border would provide many opportunities for illegal immigration. And as an added bonus, quite a number of bolshie Englishmen might choose to move up north, if Scotland lets them in.

19

nobody 02.20.20 at 11:49 pm

@16: FWIW ‘nope@nope.com’ is such a natural choice for a syntactically correct but invalid email address that, barring the various named posters using IPs from the same geographic area or posting from a similar ideological position, I’d be very surprised if they were all the same person.

@15:

What implications will this sort of ‘democratic gerontocracy’ have for the government’s economic priorities?

I’d be surprised if government priorities change all that much. At the demographic level, the economic interests of the idle elderly are entirely congruent with the decades long, trans-national, small-c conservative ideology of asset stripping the future to pay for the present. The only difference between the economic ideology of the elderly and the ideology of Thatcher/Reagan conservatives is that the elderly demand economic rents for themselves rather than for billionaires. Similarly, the social interests of the idle elderly are already factored into in conservative policies, namely a desire to recreate the idealized fiction of their own childhoods by trying to turn back the clock to the middle of the 1900s.

20

Rob 02.21.20 at 5:17 am

I fear another alternative (which isn’t mutually exclusive with the others) is that folks in the UK will soon have to deal with the specific sorts of exploitation that are commonplace here in Australia, which is apparently where you’ve got your new model from.

The rule of thumb is that the system is nearly always putting employers in a position of power over people who need to work for them for their visa.

There’s a significant cottage industry here of lobbyists working on behalf of particular business interests to ensure that people can be legally or tacitly allowed to work in their sectors. The ‘skilled occupation list’ that defines what a skilled worker is changes every year – follow the money and you’ll be able to predict which jobs get the tick.

It’s bad enough for ‘skilled’ employees who have a particular boss sponsoring their visa, but it’s even worse for ‘unskilled’ workers.

For example: the standard working holiday visa is valid for 12 months. But, government policy is you can extend it to 2-3 years if you can demonstrate that you worked for at least 3 months in agriculture or similar rural work where businesses struggle to employ people (under the prevailing labour conditions). To get the visa extension you need to get an employer to sign off that you did this work. No prizes for guessing what this means: employees can be underpaid, overworked, or worse, but making a complaint effectively means deportation.

Same deal with student visas, which limit you to 20 hours of paid work a week. Lots of employers force people to work longer hours than that for 20 hours’ pay. And there are horror stories of work conditions that come out of seasonal agriculture work programs with Pacific nations.

There are unions that are working to organise migrant agricultural workers, but it’s a big fight. (And meanwhile, bipartisan support for locking up refugees continues.)

21

Ronan 02.21.20 at 8:45 am

My impression from talking to someone who works in agriculture in the UK is wages aren’t actually that low as is, but where the problem is is that it’s a difficult job and so will be difficult to find people as good at it as those who currently do it. Replacing experienced workers with students would lead to a considerable drop in productivity, and mechanisation for the sorts of tasks that producers need labour for is still a long way off.

22

Collin Street 02.21.20 at 10:03 am

The future is japanese, I guess.

23

J-D 02.21.20 at 10:43 am

I can imagine (I stress, imagine) a government that adopted stricter restrictions on immigration as part of a strategy to place pressure on employers to improve the lot of the bulk of employees, including by raising their pay (and which would then presumably adjust policy in the course of implementation, as developments indicate how best to work towards that goal of improving the lot of employees). But in this instance we’re talking about the Conservatives, right? and more specifically about Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, right? So that’s not the natural expectation, is it? The natural expectation is that they will be almost entirely indifferent to the impact of what they’re doing on the bulk of employees and will make no adjustments in the interest of employees as events unfold. Who thinks Conservatives will be pleased with their leaders if wages do rise sharply? How would that happen, exactly?

24

Hidari 02.21.20 at 12:07 pm

There seems to be an absolutely bizarre assumption here that because employment is high, and unemployment is low, NOW, that this will always be the case. Hello? I mean…does anyone remember 2008?

One thing we know about capitalism is that it has recessions, indeed, depressions, and that this is the nature of the beast. At some point in the next few years, there will be a recession, unemployment will rise, and there are your carehome providers etc.

Some companies will undoubtedly go bankrupt as a result of these immigration laws, but, again, that’s the nature of the beast. What will happen is that they will be eaten up by larger companies: the tendency of capitalism is always towards monopoly (although it might not in fact finally reach this stage) as a certain K. Marx pointed out over a century ago. What will NOT happen is that areas of the economy simply so to speak ‘lie fallow’. If there is a buck to be made, someone will work out how to make that buck.

As for the rest: look to other countries with similar draconian immigration policies. E.g. Japan. We all look at Japan with its emphasis on robotics (e.g. human-like robots); this is usually given the ‘oh those crazy Japanese they so cute’ spin in the Western media.

The reality is that Japan has gone down this route to avoid having large numbers of immigrants. On an earlier CT thread we had a discussion of self-driving cars. It was not noted that in the countries most aggressively pushing these technologies (e.g. Singapore) one of the key (stated) aims is to automate (e.g.) taxi driving so that immigrants aren’t needed for these jobs. A key use of robots in Japan is explicitly in care homes. Farming as well can be automated much more so that it currently is in the UK.

As another posted pointed out: if British firms can’t get legal immigrants, they will assuredly try to get illegal immigrants. And they will certainly succeed, to a certain extent. Or look to Australia as per @20.

In any case, if British farming takes a knock because of lack of turnip-pickers, that will only bring Britain back to its so to speak ‘natural level’ of farming. Most people don’t understand that the tradition of Britain as a farming nation is very modern: it dates from WW2. There is more farmland and green spaces in the UK now than in Edwardian times. It was the desire to be able to feed its own people in WW2 and in the event of WW3 that led to the (historically unusual) emphasis on pro-agrarian policies: that and the CAP. If the amount of farmers/farmland drops, it will only restore things to ‘normal’.

Care home staff is a deeper problem but a combination of Australian style corruption, American style emphasis on illegal immigration, and the rise in UK unemployment when the inevitable next recession comes will plug the gap.

In short: if you want to argue in favour of immigration, do it because it’s morally the right thing to do. Don’t invent stories in which Britain will become ‘North Korea on the Med’ (!!!!) because then you look stupid when it doesn’t happen.

25

Tim Worstall 02.21.20 at 12:42 pm

“as a certain K. Marx pointed out over a century ago.”

Well, yes, One of the things he pointed out being that it requires the reserve army of the unemployed for it to be possible for the capitalists to keep labour wages down. In the absence of such an army then when full employment arrives (if) then the capitalists will have to compete with each other for access to those workers they wish to exploit.

Real wages rise when there’s full employment.

At least some part of Britain’s reserve army has, in recent years, been ordinarily resident in Brno, Kracow, Wroclaw. €50 flights make it easy enough to come when the labour force needs expanding, leave when it contracts. Some to many have been doing so.

I do get that CB has certain views on migration, open borders and the rest. But the economic effect of this restriction of mobility (and only the economic effect) is pretty clear. Higher low end wages in the UK.

As a purely economic observation it’s difficult – for me at least – to see what’s wrong or undesirable about that.

26

Chris Bertram 02.21.20 at 1:14 pm

@Tim Worstall “As a purely economic observation it’s difficult – for me at least – to see what’s wrong or undesirable about that.”

Granting you the facts, for the sake of argument, it is not a “purely economic observation” to prefer the welfare of people from one place over the welfare of people from another place.

27

Z 02.21.20 at 1:54 pm

@Chris I think, not necessarily, as they may be driven by short-term political considerations rather than having worked out some long-term strategy

Certainly. But in that respect, they are just like everybody else. I think it is dangerous in principle and probably empirically false in the case under discussion to believe that people who want less unskilled immigrants do so because they haven’t thought through the likely consequences. Probably, they have, in just about the same proportion as others think through the likely consequences of their policies of choice. The most likely explanation for their continued support is their perception that they will overall be among the winners (according to their own criteria), not their mistaken belief that there will be only winners.

Since global inequality isn’t going away, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing if there are options in wealthier countries that are attractive to migrants but not so much for natives.

I disagree profoundly with you on that. I believe that a fundamental tenet of a just society, indeed a necessary condition for the concept of just society to endure, is that every place in this society is equally acceptable in principle for everybody. That runs directly in contradiction with the idea that some options should be unattractive to any given class as defined by arbitrary legal properties (such as being native). If a society or some sectors thereof cannot function without such fundamentally unjust schemes or if it cannot accommodate its immigrant population influx without, then this society has to change deeply, and among the necessary changes, there are not many reasons to believe that preserving the influx of immigrants is a priority, and even far fewer reasons to believe that the priority should be to preserve the endangered sectors. Same argument of course for shoes manufactured by children in Laos or for limes grown in Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Let me repeat though that I doubt that the UK is actually such a society; it seems to me clearly wealthy and productive enough to offer its unskilled immigrants a welcoming society, with decent wages and working conditions aligned on those offered to natives, while having a functional agricultural sector. Not under free-market principles, with international competitions against other countries with far lower standards, and not without dynamic redistribution mechanisms (for instance to ensure living wages to agricultural workers while maintaining affordable prices for locally grown vegetables), but that is another debate (or maybe precisely the right debate).

Your observation about global wealth inequalities indicates, under this analysis, that the global system is very far from a just society (not a big surprise). The way to build one is not destroying the preconditions of justice at a national or local level.

Ultimately, my concern is that if the debate is framed as “unskilled immigrants or no turnips”, or at a more macro level “the EU or a recession”, the some people will chose “no turnips” and “a recession”. They have, already. The problem is with the alternative. We want locally grown vegetables. We want the workers picking them paid a decent wage and offered the full protection of labor laws and the welfare state. We want this option to be an acceptable one for our own children. We want their children to go to good school. We want to be able to afford the vegetables. All of that is possible, without mutual contradiction. All of that at the same time is in stark contradiction with other political principles. These should be the ones argued against. There should the rhetorical battle be waged, not in conjuring contradictions between our legitimate desires.

28

Chris Bertram 02.21.20 at 2:08 pm

@Z I agree with you that everyone working in a society should have “decent wages and working conditions aligned on those offered to natives”. Minimum wage laws and health and safety laws should protect everyone working in an economy. But, even given that, it is not surprising that some jobs will turn out to be more attractive options to people travelling from lower-income societies than they are to nationals of the destination state. (Of course you are right to notice the parallels with some of the sweatshop labour issues too.) I’m 100% in favour also of giving such migrants a path to membership, while recognizing that this may not be what they want for themselves since their long-term projects may involve return. (Incidentally, I’m published rejecting the economists’ enthusiasm for reducing migrant rights to boost their income, but I think we also have to respect their choices and ambitions and those may lead them to different economic niches to the ones citizens typically find themselves in.)

29

Tm 02.21.20 at 7:01 pm

The assumption that unskilled labour will be „driven out“ is completely baseless. Immigrant labour will be available as long as capitalists are asking for it. Whoever thinks that the Tory fascists will say no to the capitalists is deluded.

The difference will be that they – the immigrant workers – will be far more vulnerable, economically and legally. Which is precisely what both the capitalists and the Tory fascists want.

30

Chris Bertram 02.21.20 at 7:07 pm

“Whoever thinks that the Tory fascists will say no to the capitalists is deluded.”

You’ve not been paying close attention.

31

Tm 02.21.20 at 7:52 pm

32

Chris Bertram 02.21.20 at 10:02 pm

Well, linking to a 16-year-old article from George Monbiot definitely makes your point ….

33

nobody 02.21.20 at 10:39 pm

@24:

My quip that future England-Wales will be North Korea on the Channel is based more on the rise of authoritarian, isolationist, politics and the likelihood of substantial relative decline in living standards (particularly for those under pension age), not on any serious belief that the English-Welsh economy will literally collapse to the point that people will be forced to eat grass.

(I say England-Wales here because some form of greater independence for Scotland and Northern Ireland seems increasingly likely.)

34

John Quiggin 02.22.20 at 1:50 am

One thing that a lot of Brexit supporters& probably don’t realise yet is that migrants who qualify under the points system will, on average, be quite a bit browner than those who got in under EU freedom of movement. That’s true even if they can somehow rig the system in favour of countries like Australia (nearly 30 per cent of the population foreign born, many from Asia, and that proportion would be larger for young people with STEM degrees, the supposed ideal immigrant).

Of course, if it’s all about labour market competition at the bottom end, that won’t be a problem.

* I get the impression that Boris Johnson may be among those who don’t get this. He goes on quite a bit about the year he spent teaching at Timbertop (upper class private school) in the 1980s, but that wouldn’t be very helpful in understanding Australia in 2020.

35

Barry 02.22.20 at 2:55 am

I’ve been predicting (to myself) that one of the results of Brexit will be the expulsion of most currently resident EU citizens. For example, IIRC there was a 50% denial rate on the first wave of EU citizens who applied for permission to stay. A right-wing xenophobic government which will impoverish the UK will need scapegoats, and ‘furriners’ are the easiest.

This will, of course trigger a matching expulsion of UK citizens from the EU.

Lots and lots of hatred, which right-wing governments love.

36

Collin Street 02.22.20 at 6:06 am

I mean, you can drive your economy into a recession to keep things stable, and that’s what fascists usually do… but if they don’t sink some money into say the south london suburban railways pretty damned soon things are going to start severely and obviously failing, and they can’t spend the money they need to and keep the economy depressed.

The LDP had a country in much better physical shape, so they could do this. The tories can’t. But they don’t realise it, because they don’t realise quite how much spending is needed.]

37

ph 02.22.20 at 6:25 am

UK Japan robots, etc. The crucial difference is the ethno-historic ethos – namely the notion of inter-dependency over independence. Independence is generally regarded (without much critical examination) as a positive attribute. Interdependence is favored in more socially-conservative societies. So, yes, the drive towards robotics (not robots) for self-cleaning rooms, transportation vertically and horizontally, and automated monitoring and testing are all part of the Japanese future. The three-generation family still matters and Hidari is exactly correct in suggesting that preserving a national ethnicity (avoiding a great deal of unwanted cultural dilution) is absolutely a desired outcome.

Preserving the constructed idea of a Japanese cultural identity (or identities), colonial warts and all, incidentally preserves the liberal arts in the universities. Very recently the mandarins determined the nation would be better off with all students in STEM, but the guardians of the national culture in their various institutions, including the imperial household and national universities, wouldn’t have it – and that the liberal arts survive in Japanese universities, at least in the short term.

A very large number of people I know, neighbours etc., consider caring for their own elderly a genuine joy, as well as a duty and an honour. Modern ‘liberalism’ with its unchallenged notion that independence trumps interdependence leaves very little room for duty to parents and for honouring the elderly, who it seems can only be blamed for the bad in the world. What good does exist appears only to lie in self-loathing, guilt, and a desire to atone for the ‘crimes’ of those who came before.

Nobody wants to be forced to pick turnips, nor is the work much fun. The fact that so many believe that ‘caring for the elderly’ should be out-sourced to strangers might be seen as a mark of selfishness,ingratitude, and stunning myopia. None of us will live forever, and being cared for by our children and grandchildren in home we have built seems a great deal more attractive to me, than lying in a care facility waiting to die surrounded by strangers, many of whom may well be caring professionals, but strangers all the same.

Quality of life is something we can improve without doing much more than engaging in some serious reflection and introspection. The world is a bridge and all we have is on loan – everything. The importance of our relationships with our elderly is superseded only by the importance of our relationships with our children. Sadly, we seem unable to manage or even remember the value of either today. The reward for all is in the labor, not in shopping, writing a great novel, or getting published in a top journal.

38

Chris Bertram 02.22.20 at 8:25 am

@Barry “For example, IIRC there was a 50% denial rate on the first wave of EU citizens who applied for permission to stay. “

At the point where there was an 85-page form to complete to secure “permanent residence” there were a lot of refusals because any “mistake” got pounced on by Home Office officials with a culture of refusal. There are far fewer under the “settled status” scheme. Not that things are perfect with the new scheme, but they are much much better.

39

Tm 02.22.20 at 9:51 am

CB 32: „Well, linking to a 16-year-old article from George Monbiot definitely makes your point ….“

Yes it does, doesn’t it?

40

Moz in Oz 02.22.20 at 9:53 am

I’m not convinced that there’s a pool of non-white Australian kids hanging out for the chance to even visit the UK, let alone be exploited as cheap labour there. Even the pool of white kids in that group is shrinking from what I can tell. And “exploited labour” very much means working in a bar or other tourist venue, maybe nannying, but not elderly care and definitely not picking turnips. If they want that they can stay home and at least have decent weather for their agricultural labour (hint: they’re not doing it).

It’s worth noting that heading to *Europe* is increasingly easy if you’re just off to burn a bit of jet fuel while you can. If the EU bureaucrats saw England relying on anglonesian youth and wanted to play games they could just make that process easier. I suspect much the same applies to North Americans, they’re both less white and more flexible than perhaps the little englanders think.

41

Hidari 02.22.20 at 10:45 am

‘I mean, you can drive your economy into a recession to keep things stable, and that’s what fascists usually do’.

Er no they absolutely do not do that.

42

Tm 02.22.20 at 12:22 pm

35: „This will, of course trigger a matching expulsion of UK citizens from the EU.“

I hope EU governments will be better, and smarter, than that. Expelling UK citizens from the EU will do nothing to help immigrants in the UK, and will not in the least hurt the Tory fascists.

43

Barry 02.22.20 at 1:24 pm

Chris Bertram 02.22.20 at 8:25 am

” At the point where there was an 85-page form to complete to secure “permanent residence” there were a lot of refusals because any “mistake” got pounced on by Home Office officials with a culture of refusal. There are far fewer under the “settled status” scheme. Not that things are perfect with the new scheme, but they are much much better.”

‘Culture of refusal’ is a great phrase to describe my thinking. 3 million people have been moved to a situation where they have a great burden of proof against a hostile bureaucracy to continue living their lives where they have been, in some cases for many decades.

44

Lupita 02.22.20 at 6:54 pm

Migrating to a rich country in order to save some money to send it home, is not the prefered option of poor people in poor countries. Another, much better option, is to vote out their corrupt, neoliberal governments and vote in governments with actual plans to develop the poor areas of their countries so that people to not need to emigrate.

Mexico, for example, elected López Obrador and his $30 billion plan to develop southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, which is the region most agricultural workers in the US come from. The EU, UN, Germany, Spain, and Chile will be contributing to this project. Even the US pledged $6 million, though Trump later deviated that money towards Juan Guaidó.

In one of the Democrat debates, all 15 (or whatever) contenders agreed that the solution to mass emigration was the development of the regions expelling people. None gave credit to López Obrador, mentioned that there was already a plan in place, or pledged to contribute to the plan.

Relying on workers from poor countries to ameliorate the impact of demographic transition and low growth in rich countries is not a plan because we, the populations of poor countries do not want an escape valve . We want what you want: quality education and health services, clean environments, justice, sovereignty, and peace in our countries.

Migrant workers are also attracted by the first world’s overvalued currencies which stems from their privileged position in the global financial edifice and by keeping poor countries poor and dependent, in part, by “losing confidence” when nationalist and leftist governments are elected and crashing their systems. In Mexico, however, this strategy has failed.

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Stephen 02.22.20 at 8:19 pm

CB@26: if I have understood you correctly on this and previous threads, one of your fundamental beliefs is that it is entirely wrong for the government of a state to differentiate between the welfare of its citizens and the welfare of non-citizens.

Well, that’s interesting. If you believe it is true, then of course it is wrong for a government to deport non-citizens, or to restrict entry into the state of some non-citizens.

But I think there may be some counter-examples. Citizens giving aid and comfort to an enemy of the state in wartime have been charged with treason: non-citizens, not. John Amery, a British fascist, was hanged for treason for his pro-Nazi actions in WWII: a non-UK citizen, for the same actions, could not have been.

Conversely, the present UK international aid scheme delivers a rather large amount of money to non-UK citizens, and it is to be hoped they benefit from it. At the same time, UK citizens receive less welfare, in that they pay more taxes or receive less Government funding, than they would otherwise have done.

Both of these seem to me to be cases of the Government differentiating between the welfare of its own citizens, and that of non-citizens, to the benefit of the latter.

I’m not at all saying that either of these policies are mistaken. But how do they square with what I think is one of your fundamental beliefs? Have I misunderstood you?

46

J-D 02.22.20 at 8:59 pm

I argue that at the core of the plans is an intention to treat EU migrants and others as a vulnerable and exploitable workforce …

A vulnerable and exploitable workforce is a long-standing goal of the Conservative Party; it’s a large part of what they’re about. The natural expectation is that this policy as implemented will dovetail.

The policy paper does state, explicitly, that the aim is a high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy, but the natural explanation is that the ‘high-wage’ part of that (at least) is duplicitous.

Changes I intensely desire will, if effected, heavily disrupt some sectors. Changes I vehemently oppose are changing some sectors right now in much more profound ways than changes in immigration laws ever could. That a law changes the way some sectors function, sometimes quite dramatically, is the point of a law, not in itself an argument for or against it.

The argument against is not ‘This will be dramatically disruptive’; the argument against is ‘The dramatic disruptions will make people worse off’.

47

billcinsd 02.22.20 at 10:09 pm

nope should also note that when Georgia increased the severity of their immigration laws, crops rotted in the fields because even higher wages (which the untrained locals were unqualified for) could not make the back breaking work more attractive

https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2012/05/17/the-law-of-unintended-consequences-georgias-immigration-law-backfires/#9c12190492aa

48

ph 02.23.20 at 8:02 am

@44 – “Migrating to a rich country in order to save some money to send it home, is not the prefered option of poor people in poor countries. Another, much better option, is to vote out their corrupt, neoliberal governments and vote in governments with actual plans to develop the poor areas of their countries so that people to not need to emigrate”

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

How many Central Americans families have been forced from their homes by drug cartels catering to first-world appetites for drugs? And then we have Libya, Syria, and other stories of destructive western military intervention – which generate profits arms manufacturers and dealers, permanent sinecures for ‘expert foreign-affairs specialists in all mainstream parties, and , and widespread misery. People shouldn’t have to flee their homes to live in freedom and peace, or to earn a living wage.

But that would mean we in the west might have to pay a bit more for bananas and coffee – and find better solutions to caring for the elderly.

49

Chris Bertram 02.23.20 at 8:41 am

“Migrating to a rich country in order to save some money to send it home, is not the prefered option of poor people in poor countries.”

How do you know this? Did you ask them? Did you observe the preferences revealed by their behaviour? Of course, different poor people (and not just poor people) in different relatively poor countries have different “preferred options”. Migration of workers from poor countries to rich ones does give them access to more productive economies and higher wages and also enables them to transfer sums of money that vastly exceed foreign aid transfers.

50

Hidari 02.23.20 at 10:47 am

‘Southern and eastern European countries are more concerned about emigration than immigration, according to a wide-ranging survey of attitudes in 14 EU countries.

In Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, Hungary and Romania, six countries where population levels are either flatlining or falling sharply, more citizens said emigration was a worry than immigration, according to the poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

The steepest falls are in Romania, where the population has decreased by almost 10% over the past decade as an exodus of mostly young people move to work in western Europe.’ (From the Guardian).

I’m very much in favour of immigration rights (although not in a liberal ‘handwringing’ way: Alain Badiou is unquestionably and unarguably correct that the best way to view ‘immigrants’ is as, first and foremost, workers, and that, therefore the solution to their problems is the same as for any other worker: join a union and elect militants who aren’t afraid to withdraw their labour to force concessions from management. If the immigrants aren’t up for that, there’s a solution to that problem called ‘The Closed Shop’. I’ve never ever ever heard any pro-immigrant campaigner mention this).

But these discussions always take my breath away with their cultural assumptions. Like the idea that there are (inherently and intrinsically) such things as ‘rich’ countries and that everyone in these countries is rich, and such a thing as ‘poor’ countries, where everyone is poor.

Even in the list above, Spain didn’t use to be a middling wealth country: when it was the Spanish Empire (the first Empire ‘on which the sun never set’) it was the wealthiest country on Planet Earth. South America and even (to a slightly lesser extent) Africa used to be extremely wealthy before the Europeans invaded and annihilated these countries’ economies.

Not all immigration is good: it depends on the context. For example, the ‘immigration’ of Europeans to North America and Australasia was a wholly bad thing: it was colonisation and led inevitably to the obliteration of the indigenous populations: cf, nowadays, European and North American immigration to ‘Israel’ (i.e. occupied Palestine). Likewise, not all emigration is good. Branko Milanovic pointed out opinion polls (which I can no longer find) that pointed out that for some African countries, the number of people who want to emigrate is roughly 100%: free borders might essentially lead to the collapse of Africa as a viable economic entity. He states that this might be a price worth paying and I agree, but let’s not pretend that immigration/emigration is an unalloyed good.

Likewise, the ‘United’ Kingdom is not, per se, a ‘rich’ country. It is a vastly unequal country with large ‘packets’ of wealth in the South of England. English colonies (the 6 counties, Wales, Scotland) have areas which are amongst the poorest in the whole UK.

In one of those dumb history magazines you can get in supermarkets (the ones that invariably have articles on Hitler, and various ethnocentric takes on, for example, the 100 years war) I see that Simon Jenkins has a new book (or whatever) out, in which he attacks the Welsh intelligentsia (essentially for being conquered by the English, which is their own fault, apparently) and praising his own father for emigrating from Wales (and, therefore, to England) and stating how great a decision this was, and then attacking the Welsh (again) for ‘letting’ their best and brightest leave. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Jenkins why the ‘United’ Kingdom is so incredibly dominated by London (essentially, the ‘U’K is London plus some other places) or why the Global North is so much richer then the Global South (hint: 500 years of imperialism and colonialism which continues to this day. My doctor is Iraqi: why did she leave? Well we all know that don’t we).

Incidentally the extreme hard right libertarian Bryan Caplan has just written a book/comic promoting ‘open borders’. That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing, libertarians aren’t wrong about everything, but we might want to reflect for a second as to why he did that, or why the Koch brothers are so keen on open borders as well.

51

Chris Bertram 02.23.20 at 12:28 pm

(I see we’ve got to the “everything I think about immigration” stage of the discussion, together with the “I’ve never heard any pro-immigrant campaigner mention” argument.)

52

faustusnotes 02.23.20 at 1:39 pm

Everything Hidari says about Japan at comment 24 is wrong, of course. It’s probably not worth trying to dispute it, since the HK thread some time back showed most people here aren’t interested in facts about Asian life, but let’s try …

look to other countries with similar draconian immigration policies. e.g. Japan

Japan’s immigration policies are nowhere near as draconian as the UK or Australia. Visas are cheap, take no time to get, come with lax work rules (e.g. students can work 28 hours per week) and until this year weren’t even managed by a full ministry (they were managed by an agency-level bureaucracy). This is why my kickboxing gym is routinely able to hire a couple of retired Thai kickboxers to help with training fighters and teaching students, on a salary that would never pass the thresholds in the UK. There is no financial barrier to bringing your partner to the country, and especially since Abe became prime minister all the rules for life as a foreigner in Japan have been regularized and made less discriminatory. Asylum seekers in Japan are allowed to work and access health insurance, unlike asylum seekers in the UK. There is no comparison, and the horror stories you regularly hear from the UK, Oz and US don’t happen here.

The reality is that Japan has gone down this route [robotics] to avoid having large numbers of immigrants

This is simply not true. The majority of robotics investment in Japan has been in factories and high-tech environments where immigrants are not present and never have been; or in service environments where language skills would prevent immigrants from getting a job anyway. Just like in the west, robotics here are used to eliminate desk jobs in insurance or other such jobs, or in factories. I have never in 15 years had to speak to a person when getting my packages redelivered, for example – that’s robotics.

A key use of robots in Japan is explicitly in care homes

Because you saw a random article in the guardian (whose Japan correspondent cannot read or speak Japanese, I think) about an experimental care home robot, doesn’t make you an expert on the Japanese care system. Robotics are explicitly for use in factories, and there is very little robot use in care home environments. Care homes in Japan employ lots of immigrants, and it is explicit Japanese social care policy to find more. In fact right now the Japanese government is working on expanding its nursing and care home licensing system to include India. Japan runs training programs for nurses from across SE Asia to get the language skills required to work in Japan, and e.g. the International University of Health and Welfare has a program of subsidized language + medical training to train non-Japanese people to be doctors in the Japanese system. Yes there are some support systems e.g. to enable lifting and carrying but care work is still human work and the Japanese response to the staffing crunch here has been to hire foreigners, not to build robots.

There are lots of problems with racism in the Japanese migration system (e.g. Vice has an excellent documentary on the TITP system – if you want to crystallize Japan’s attitude to migrant labour, look to the use of TITP trafficking victims in the oyster-shucking industry, not robots in care homes), and lots of problems with how they treat asylum seekers, but it really helps if you’re going to talk about this stuff that you try to get at least one fact right. The Japanese system is vastly superior to whatever crap the UK and Oz are doing now, and the major barrier to migration here is language skills in foreign migrants. Japan is actually massively increasing its migrant intake and widening the criteria to allow unskilled labourers, and making life much easier for migrants here (e.g. new laws requiring all Prefectural governments to provide language training, something their welfare agencies have been demanding for years) but if everything you learn is from western media you’d think they’d built a wall along the Pacific. Really Hidari, it would help if you tried to at least get some basic facts right some time.

Let’s also consider Hidari’s quote from the EU survey: “the population has decreased by almost 10% over the past decade” in Romania as a result of migration within the EU. Compared to ordinary life in Japan or China, this is nothing. 50% of the population of Changsha is from other parts of China, and at Chinese New Year something like 40% of the population of Wuhan leave that city to return to their homelands. Japan’s hinterlands were depopulated at 10% a decade over the past 40 years as young people flocked to the cities. If Europeans can’t deal with a 10% reduction in population of a small country over a decade, the problem is their infrastructure and civic management, not migration policy. The only thing that makes that 10% decline special is that it is across borders, which in any case are completely artificial and also trivial – Europe is tiny and all its people are similar to each other. If your problem is that your 20 year old child left your village your problem is modernity, not the fact that they went to London instead of Bucharest. Just grow up already.

Chris, there is a 4th option for your article: the industries most dependent on migrant labour collapse, the government is forced into a humiliating climbdown that leads to massive hiring of non-EU labour, and somehow the media find a way to blame it on Labour.

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Lupita 02.23.20 at 2:46 pm

@48
How do you know this?

As I mentioned, AMLO won the presidency, in part, on his plan to solve the mass emigration problem that started with NAFTA. Emigrants are forced to abandom their families and communities that have then been taken over by drug cartels. Emigrants, mostly young men, are the healthiest sector of the population when they leave. After two years in the US, they are the unhealthiest, due to bad diets, overwork, loneliness, and drugs. In Mexico, AIDS is most prevalent among agricultural workers and in rural areas.

I know much about emigration, and so do most Mexicans, by talking with many of them and through journalistic and academic studies of the phenomenon, but I will mention only this: it is a tragedy and it is not the future of any nation. Surely you must know that there are two sides to this coin?

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johne 02.24.20 at 2:20 am

‘…I met a British grower named Richard Harnden. He described the labor situation in the U.K. as a crisis. The strawberry pickers are mostly from Bulgaria and Romania, two of the poorest countries in the European Union. “And now we’ve got the situation where we’re trying to leave the E.U. but we haven’t done it yet, and that’s made it even more difficult to recruit workers,” he said. He wasn’t sure how growers were going to get the berries picked this season.
‘“The British don’t work in the fields?” I asked.
‘Harnden laughed. “Not any longer.”
‘Wishnatzki, who had been listening, said, “Every developed country in the world, it’s the immigrants doing the hard work.”
‘“Absolutely,” Harnden agreed. “Wherever you go, it’s somebody else’s population that’s doing the agricultural work.” In Costa Rica, Nicaraguans work on the coffee farms. In Malaysia, Indonesians harvest bananas.’

“The Age of Robot Farmers”
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/04/15/the-age-of-robot-farmers?utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_source=nl&utm_brand=tny&utm_mailing=TNY_Daily_040919&utm_medium=email&bxid=5bea14b03f92a404696df79b&user_id=32024968&esrc=&utm_content=A&utm_term=TNY_Daily

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faustusnotes 02.24.20 at 3:03 am

Hidari, Simon Jenkins knows all those things, he just doesn’t care. Jenkins was an HIV denialist for years, and the fact that he is still able to show his face in public is an indictment of the British media.

Lupita’s comment at 52 is a good example of the dangerous lies and misdirections that bedevil the “class first” analysts on this site. “AIDS” (he/she means HIV I presume) is not “most prevalent among agricultural workers and in rural areas”, it is most prevalent among sexual minorities, in particular men who have sex with men and transgender people. It has a very very low prevalence in the general heterosexual population, and in Mexico as in much of the world it is a disease of discrimination and stigmatization, not economic inequality. But for the Lupitas of the left it is not possible to consider a politics based on sexual identity or stigmatized behavior, everything has to reduce to class, so the people actually affected by the disease have to be ignored in favour of an incredibly tiny number of farmers who almost certainly got it because they were engaging in those stigmatized behaviors.

I keep saying this on this website, and I know I’m going to have to say it again, but this is an academic website and it really really helps if you get basic facts right before you give your “analysis”. Facts may not care about your feelings, but you should really make an effort to care about getting the facts right before you bother to have opinions.

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John 02.24.20 at 9:07 am

Turnips all the way downs seems to be the future for most people on the planet!

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Zhou Fang 02.24.20 at 12:38 pm

The argument about low paid agricultural migrants is surely *not* about raising wages. It’s about choking off a segment of the labour supply. Perhaps in the long term things can adjust, but in the short term there will be substantial friction required to create a new workforce from the native population. It actually takes skill to pick turnips, and specific physical attributes to manage it for a long period.

People who imagine that higher wages will solve the issue might want to ask themselves how much pay would entice they themselves to give up their current job for a life of turnip picking, and how many turnips they might expect to pick per day. And how they will find work in the off season. Consider how that penny per pound = $7000 per year is dependent on the pickers picking 3.2 metric tons of tomatoes per day, every day, for the 100 day growing season. What proportion of the UK/US non-agricultural workforce is able and willing to do that? I don’t think an additional $7000 is enough.

This argument is in a sense the *opposite* of the argument about the minimum wage – the illustration in that case is the lack of elasticity of minimum wage labour. Raising the low end wages, we saw, had little effect on the labour market. So if you want to fix your fresh produce labour supply issue with a wage change – you are going to have to raise those wages by a heck of a lot. And hope that the supply chain smoothly “pass on” the costs to consumers, instead of just opting to import instead.

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Barry 02.24.20 at 10:42 pm

Faustusnotes, would you please post sources on this? It ‘s not that I don’t believe you. It’s quite possible that what people like me believe is wrong.

In fact, I would love to see an entire blog post on this.

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faustusnotes 02.25.20 at 1:28 am

Barry, maybe I’ll make the time to write something when I’m not busy making up stories about Bangladeshi space-ship merchants. A lot of the evidence comes from reading news over many years or from watching how my own migrant life has changed – for example, I have my “foreigner registration card” pinned to my wall as a memory, because now I have a residence card (and when I first came here 14 years ago I had an “alien registration card”, but they changed the name after foreigners complained). Some of that information is inside knowledge from working in health policy, but here for example is a report in English about the program for bringing nurses, which demonstrates the importance of the language problem, here is a report on the new law requiring prefectures to teach Japanese to all foreign residents, and here is a report from the (conservative, I think) Mainichi Shinbun on plans to reform immigration (including upgrading the bureau to an agency). I hope those three articles make it clear that the Japanese government is not planning to use robots to replace foreigners.

You hear a lot of this stuff, incidentally, if you hang around kickboxers, because a lot of them are in mid-level management positions that are really feeling the pinch of the low birth rate. My kickboxing buddy who works in civil engineering complains that they can’t find any mid-career engineers, and have to try and grab people from university and train them up; other guys I train with who work in construction companies tell me all their basic labourers are Chinese. This is called “san k” (three k) work, meaning dangerous, dirty and difficult, and it’s super hard to find Japanese to do it in an economy with such a low unemployment rate. A lot of these jobs are not easily automated and actually require quite specialized skills – you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a Japanese removal company at work, and when you realize what they’re paid you’ll probably die – and the Japanese economy is so huge they bring in all manner of weird jobs. When I lived in Beppu I knew a Thai student who was paid to translate between two Thai elephant wranglers and their Japanese colleagues in a local zoo, which had brought them over to train the Japanese dudes.

People think of Japan as a massive industrial economy, which it is, but there is an enormous service industry supporting that industrial economy, and a lot of the service jobs cannot be automated. Japan is welcoming a growing number of foreigners as a result, and it’s super frustrating to see people who know nothing about the country making assumptions about it based on 30 year out-of-date information.

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Douglas Muir 02.25.20 at 8:55 am

Faustusnotes, super interesting and good stuff. I will add, though, that my understanding is that Japan is allowing a growing population of long-term guest workers — not of permanent residents, and certainly not of potential Japanese citizens. Correct me if I’m wrong, but most of the people coming in under the liberalizing immigration regime are guest workers on one-year contracts.

Doug M.

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Matt 02.25.20 at 10:43 am

I agree that Faustnotes comments on migration to Japan are useful and interesting, but of course it’s worth noting that the % foreign-born population of Japan – now at the highest in a very long time, if not ever – is only about 2.3%, and of those, only about 28% have permanent residence. Contrast this w/ Australia, which is about 29% foreign born, or the US, which is about 13.6% foreign born, and the perspective changes at least a little bit. We should be glad that Japan is opening up, and it does seem to be doing so more and more, but it has a long way to go before being an immigrant society, and was starting from an absurdly low base. (Japan is also really bad at granting asylum, even though the number of cases are very low. The most recent number I could find is that 42 cases are approved out of about 10,400 applications in 2018, with another 97 granted permission to stay on other grounds. Contrast this with about a 40% grant rate, with massively higher applicant numbers, in Germany. Japan does donate a lot of money to help refugees in other countries, and that’s not nothing, but it’s a bad country on actually granting asylum.)

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Faustusnotes 02.25.20 at 11:58 am

Matt, I’m not saying japan is an immigrant society (actually I have published a paper showing that ratcheting up its immigration to the level of a high immigration European country won’t fix the aging problem) but only that Hidari is completely wrong. It’s true that japan doesn’t accept asylum seekers but they are also allowed to work and access health insurance, and many have lived here in the community for a long time. Even though it accepts less it seems to treat them much better than the uk while they’re waiting (and there is pressure for further reform, not then other way as in the uk).

Doug M my understanding is that the current guest worker visas for low skilled workers are five years (and you can’t bring your family over). You may be confusing them with TITP which is a different program with many problems, which is supposed to be being reformed now. The five year guest worker visas are a significant reform and I guess that in a few years they’ll be reformed again, probably to allow a path to residency and then family reunion. (though I also read somewhere that things may get harder for some classes of visas as the govt actually starts enforcing laws it has always ignored). I don’t approve of guest worker policies but it’s a big step to opening up and will lead to move reforms . As for residency – there are no special barriers here compared to say oz or the uk, but historically it was arbitrary (now it’s less so) and most foreigners Here had no intention of staying long term and so there was no pressure to change it. Also work visas are quite easy to manage here – a single form from your work, 4000 yen and an hour at the visa office is all I need, though my visa class is easier than others I think – that there’s no great pressure for foreign residents to make the extra effort (I just failed to get my shit together on this account, so I ended up getting a 5 year work visa instead ).

The only solution to Japan, China and koreas aging population is robotics, but contra Hidari’s claim, the government of japan is thinking migration will work. It won’t, and by the time they try to automate these basic industries the country will have a lot more foreigners than it does now.

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engels 02.25.20 at 2:09 pm

I don’t know what inference should be drawn from it but having grown up in the country I did a lot more than 2 weeks of farm work during uni vacations and do have generally positive memories of it. Also when I was younger a lot of people used to pick their own strawberries, raspberries, etc (you paid by weight when you left the farm).

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engels 02.25.20 at 7:22 pm

English colonies (the 6 counties, Wales, Scotland) have areas which are amongst the poorest in the whole UK.

Your weird ‘anti-colonial’ framework notwithstanding a lot of those areas are in England:
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/dec/10/number-of-europes-poorest-regions-in-uk-more-than-doubles

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