State Legitimacy and Immigration in Japan: Diversity of Frames in the Admission Policy of Non-highly Skilled Foreign Workers
David Chiavacci（University of Zurich）
In 2018/2019 a new reform in Japan’s immigration policy introduced two new visa categories and a quota system for non-highly qualified foreign workers and established the Immigration Services Agency (ISA) as new government organization responsible for Japan’s admission and integration policy. This reform is not the big bang in Japan’s immigration policy as it does not imply a sudden deregulation of immigration. Still, the speed and scope of this reform is surprising, especially in view of persistent standstill in immigration policy concerning non-highly qualified foreign workers over decades despite far-reaching proposals and heated debates.
By building on Christina Boswell’s approach to different functional imperatives of states for retaining legitimacy in immigration policy and adapting it to the Japanese case, this paper analyzes the 2018/2019 reform comparatively in its historical context of half a century of immigration debates. It discusses the changing relevance of ideational frames in admission policy of non-highly skilled foreign workers due to the functional imperatives of the Japanese state. In a nutshell, it argues that Japan’s immigration policy is not marked by a dominance of ethnonationalism as often assumed, but is characterized by a diversity of ideational frames that led to a persistent standstill until an ideational window of opportunity opened in the late-2010s.