Saturday, June 07, 2014

Bloomberg Businessweek: Japan's Incredibly Shrinking Empire

"Japan of course is scarcely the only society to have fallen prey to epic hubris or unbridled xenophobia. (The list pretty much winds back to the Babylonians.) Yet Japan’s brand of cultural bigheadedness is proving an obstacle to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s three-pronged policy to revitalize the country with a mix of radical monetary easing, fiscal stimulus, and pro-growth measures. Abenomics, as these initiatives are known, requires foreign capital and younger overseas workers to offset Japan’s graying masses. Last year, Abe pledged to double foreign direct investment to 35 trillion yen ($340 billion) into his country. 'Turning our eye to the world beyond Japan, we find a great number of non-Japanese who are brimming with ability,' Abe said in an early May keynote speech at an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ministerial council meeting in Paris. “I wish to have such people more actively engaged within Japan.' Japan is a jus sanguinis (right of blood) country, meaning that even if you were born and bred on the archipelago, speak the local tongue as eloquently as the emperor, and recite long passages from The Tale of Genji with ease, you’re out of luck if your parents aren’t Japanese. Naturalized citizenship is a possibility, but it requires five continuous years of residence, no run-ins with the law, and the financial wherewithal to support oneself. The rules governing work and permanent residency visas are among the strictest in the world. Foreign nationals account for only 1.6 percent of the nation’s population, the third-lowest proportion after Poland and Slovakia among 26 members of the OECD that provide such data. In the U.S. the rate is 6.8 percent, and in Switzerland it’s 22 percent. All of this matters because Japan is simultaneously aging and shrinking." (Businessweek)

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