Saturday, May 28, 2005

Japanese evenly divided on immigrants

The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

WASHINGTON: The Japanese are evenly split over whether foreigners are a good influence in their society, an Associated Press poll on immigration attitudes found.

Forty-four percent of respondents said immigrants were a good influence on their country, but the same percentage called immigrants a bad influence, researchers said. The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,000 Japanese residents, conducted between May 7 and 9, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Seventy-four percent of respondents said they believed foreigners take the jobs that Japanese nationals do not want. Fifty-eight percent said it was better for the country to have a variety of people with different religions, while 37 percent said a population that shared the same customs and traditions was better.

There are 2 million foreigners living in Japan, a country with 127 million people. The largest group is Koreans, many of them descendants of laborers taken there during Japan's 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

The second-largest group is from China, and the third group of immigrants is from Brazil, many of them descendants of Japanese who emigrated to South America.

Foreigners, particularly those from other countries in Asia or developing countries, face discrimination in employment and housing, and there have been incidents in which they have been barred from certain shops, bathhouses or bars. Authorities and media reports suggest that illegal aliens are behind a recent crime surge, but statistics show that foreigners commit crimes at about the same rate as Japanese.

Some are calling on Japanese leaders to loosen immigration laws to bring in more foreign workers to keep the economy growing, but the push so far has been unsuccessful. Japan's birthrate is among the lowest in the world, and many are concerned the country will not have enough taxpayers in the future to support the growing elderly population.