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To create an immigrant-friendly Japan, start with education reform

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HONOLULU – The Japanese economy has been suffering in part because of an aging population, resulting in an extreme shortage of young labor. To compensate, Japan has begun actively allowing in foreign workers. Government data released in April 2019 show that the number of resident foreigners hit a record high of 2.22 million, 1.76 percent of Japan’s population.

Has Japanese society welcomed these foreign workers with open arms? Not always. Shunsuke Tanabe, a Waseda University professor, explains that “many people in Japan think public security is getting worse as the number of foreign residents increases,” an attitude that leads some to discriminate against newcomers. Many foreigners living in Japan feel alienated, often experiencing verbal or even physical abuse. For example, according to a survey conducted by the Anti Racism Information Center in Tokyo, a human rights organization made up of scholars, students and NGO workers, 167 out of 340 foreigners, including students, claimed that they have suffered from discriminatory acts.

Why is this happening? Although education is not often discussed in connection with immigration, the roots of the problem lie in the secondary school system, which elicits and encourages this type of discriminatory behavior. The Japanese school system incorporates militaristic and conformist ethics and permits strong government control over education through textbook and........

© The Japan Times