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Japan

The demographic time bomb that could hit America

“Japan’s demographic crisis provides some lessons for where America might be headed.”

Source: www.washingtonpost.com

This op-ed looks at the demographic trends of Japan’s declining population and tries to see what this might mean for the United States. 

Questions to Ponder: What are the cultural and economic forces that lead to a declining population? What are some of the difficulties that confront countries with declining populations? 

GeoEd Tags: declining population, population, USA, Japan.

Scoop.it Tags: declining populations, population, USA, Japan.

The changing face of Japan: labour shortage opens doors to immigrant workers

Japan – once one of the world’s most homogenous societies – is starting to unwind its traditional opposition to large-scale immigration

Source: www.theguardian.com

Japan is one of the closest examples of a nation-state.  And like Iceland, that is in part because the ocean historically has acted as a massive barrier to cultural diffusion and migration. Today though, modern transportation makes that barrier negligible.  Cultural attitudes have continued to not favor international immigration but their declining population has forced a change towards the end of 2018 (see any of theses five articles from Washington Post, Japanese Times, Nippon.com, the Guardian, and the Diplomat).

Japan has traditionally been one on the countries most opposed to allowing large number of migrants into their country.  The administration is still presenting themselves as tough on immigration; the 2018 policy change will allow semi-skilled workers to enter Japan for 5 years, but they cannot bring their family members with them, and they still must pass a Japanese-language exam.  These shifts are not an abandonment of policies that seek to preserve cultural homogeneity, but they are also an acknowledgement of the demographic realities and struggles of a declining population.     

Until 2018, Japanese policy only highly-skilled migrants were allowed in to Japan, with advantages given to those with Japanese ancestry.  However, these stringent migration policies coupled with Japan’s declining birth rates meant that Japan’s population was declining substantially enough to negatively impact their economy.  There were foreign workers filling in the gaps, but only 20% of those workers had functioning work visas under the old prohibitive system. This new policy is primarily aimed at replacing workers in sectors that are facing severe labor shortages, that are being classified as “semi-skilled workers.”  The law is trying to walk a fine line, trying to bring in more workers to Japan while simultaneously making it very difficult still trying to make it very tough for these workers to settle permanently in Japan. This will have a significant impact on Japanese society, and in the near future, it’s cultural institutions.   

GeoEd Tags: Japan, East Asia, declining population, migration.

Inside North Korea’s bubble in Japan

"Why North Korea has children’s schools in Japan. This isn’t a story about a physical border. North Koreans living in Japan experience a much less visible kind of border, one made of culture, tradition, history, and ideology. The result is a North Korean bubble in Japan whose members face fierce discrimination from Japanese society, leading the community to turn to Pyongyang for support. Now that community is being tested like never before. North Korea routinely threatens to destroy Japan with nuclear weapons, prompting a spike in Japanese nationalism. Japanese politicians are feeling increasing pressure to crack down on this North Korean bubble, creating a battleground in the most unlikely of places: schools."

Source: www.youtube.com

This episode of Vox borders offers some excellent insight into a cultural enclave that feels deeply connected with a totalitarian regime.  From the outside, this raises so many questions, but understanding the cultural, historical, political, and economic context shows how this peculiar community continues.  The entire series of Vox Borders is fantastic material, dripping with geographic content.   

Tags: North KoreaJapan, East Asiaborders, political, historical.

WordPress TAGS: North Korea, Japan, East Asia, borders, political, historical.

The Japanese art of (not) sleeping

"The Japanese don’t sleep. This is what everyone – the Japanese above all – say. I first encountered these intriguing attitudes to sleep during my first stay in Japan in the late 1980s. Daily life was hectic; people filled their schedules with work and leisure appointments, and had hardly any time to sleep. Many voiced the complaint: ‘We Japanese are crazy to work so much!’ But in these complaints one detected a sense of pride at being more diligent and therefore morally superior to the rest of humanity. Yet, at the same time, I observed countless people dozing on underground trains during my daily commute. Some even slept while standing up, and no one appeared to be at all surprised by this.

The positive image of the worker bee, who cuts back on sleep at night and frowns on sleeping late in the morning, seemed to be accompanied by an extensive tolerance of so-called ‘inemuri’ – napping on public transportation and during work meetings, classes and lectures. Women, men and children apparently had little inhibition about falling asleep when and wherever they felt like doing so."

Source: www.bbc.com

If you subscribe to Edward Hall’s Cultural Iceberg model (video), we can readily see, touch, or experience many parts of a society’s culture; what they wear, the ways the communicate, the food they eat, etc.  Beneath the surface, though, are the less obvious cultural traits that aren’t so easily observed.  These aspects of culture, such as the beliefs, values, and thought patterns of a society, are critical to understanding differing cultural traits.

 

Questions to Ponder: In this article about sleep in Japan, what elements of external culture (above the surface) are present?  What elements of internal culture (beneath the surface) are present?  How do the cultural traits beneath the surface shape the cultural traits that are above the surface?    

Scoop.it Tags: culturecultural norms, labor, JapanEast Asia.

WordPress TAGS: cultural norms, culture, labor, Japan, East Asia.

Which Countries Have Shrinking Populations?

Source: www.youtube.com

This video explores some of the impacts of a declining population on a country (for example, a smaller workforce, economic decline, and growing public debt).  Eastern Europe as a region is used as the principle example and the countries of Bulgaria, Moldova, and Japan are highlighted. 

 

Tags: declining populations, population, demographic transition model, models, migration, Bulgaria, Moldova, Japan.

10 countries that desperately want people to have more sex

Roughly half the countries around the world experience low fertility rates, and some get pretty creative in how they encourage procreation.

Source: www.businessinsider.com

While many countries have anti-natalist policies (policies to discourage more births), other countries with declining populations have pro-natalist policies in an attempt to increase fertility rates.  While not an exhaustive list, this list gives a few more examples that teachers can use to show how countries in stage 4 of the demographic transition are dealing with declining fertility rates.  

 

 

Tags: declining populations, population, demographic transition model, modelsunit 2 population. 

‘This is death to the family’: Japan’s fertility crisis is creating economic and social woes never seen before

Shrinking GDP and a falling population are poised to turn Japan into what economists call a “demographic time bomb,” and other countries could be next.

Source: www.businessinsider.com

The article headline is quite click-baity, but there is some real substance to this article.  The graphs are especially useful to teach concepts such as population momentum and the age-dependency ratio. These were the key parts of the article that caught my eye:

  • An aging population will mean higher costs for the government, a shortage of pension and social security-type funds, a shortage of people to care for the very aged, slow economic growth, and a shortage of young workers.
  • Following feminism’s slow build in Japan since the 1970s, today’s workers strive for equality between the sexes, something Japan’s pyramid-style corporate structure just isn’t built for. That’s because institutional knowledge is viewed as a big deal in Japan.
  • The elderly now make up 27% of Japan’s population. In the US, the rate is only 15%. Experts predict the ratio in Japan could rise to 40% by 2050. With that comes rising social-security costs, which the shrinking younger generations are expected to bear.
  • To make up for an aging population and aversion toward immigrant work, Japan’s tech sector has stepped up its efforts in robotics and artificial intelligence.

Tags: culture, genderlabor, populationmigration, JapanEast Asia.

Japan forces a harsh choice on children of migrant families

Born in Japan, Gursewak Singh considers himself Japanese. The government doesn’t. But it offers children like him a chance to stay – if their parents leave.

 

Gursewak’s parents, who are Sikhs, fled to Japan from India in the 1990s. For several years, they lived without visas under the radar of the authorities until they were put on a status known as “provisional release” in 2001. It means they can stay in Japan as long as their asylum application is under review.  While there were almost 14,000 asylum cases under review at the end of 2015, Japan accepted only 27 refugees last year. The year before that, the number was 11.

The low acceptance rate stands in stark contrast to Europe, which has seen hundreds of thousands of refugees arrive from countries such as Iraq, Syria and Eritrea. In the first half of the year, European countries ruled on 495,000 asylum applications, approving more than 293,000.

 

Tags: culture, Sikhdeclining populationpopulationmigrationrefugees, JapanEast Asia,             .

Source: www.reuters.com

Getting Japanese Citizenship

“To become a Japanese citizen, a foreigner must display ‘good conduct’, among other things. The rules do not specify what that means, and make no mention of living wafu (Japanese-style). But for one candidate, at least, it involved officials looking in his fridge and inspecting his children’s toys to see if he was Japanese enough (he was). Bureaucratic discretion is the main reason why it is hard to get Japanese nationality. The ministry of justice, which handles the process, says officials may visit applicants’ homes and talk to their neighbors.”

Source: www.economist.com

Japan has a remarkably homogeneous population, in large part because they have very tight immigration laws (here is a more extended list of the requirements to obtain a Japanese citizenship).

 

Questions to Ponder: How is the notion of Japanese citizenship different from American citizenship?  As Japan’s population continues to decline, how might that change Japan’s migration/citizenship policies?   

 

Tags: JapanEast Asia, place, perspective, cultural norms, culture.

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