Associative activism : organizing support for foreign workers in contemporary Japan
Author(s)Shipper, Apichai W. (Apichai Wongsod), 1968-
Organizing support for foreign workers in contemporary Japan
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
Richard J. Samuels.
MetadataShow full item record
Japan is a country known for its suspicion of foreigners, but Japanese citizens have established non-government organizations to support illegal foreign migrants. The problems and conditions of illegal foreign workers are rooted in Japanese government policies. The 1990 Immigration Control Law created a category of illegal foreign workers. Later, the Ministry of Health and Welfare excluded illegal foreigners from Japan's insurance system. Illegal foreign workers face challenges in dealing with employers, state officials, medical institutions, and family life. These problems range from unpaid wages and enormous medical cost to marriage/divorce registration and the forced break up of the families due to deportation. To solve these problems, Japanese engage in associative activism and institutional experimentation, which has transformed local politics in Japan. Illegal Asian workers in Japan rarely seek assistance from existing government organizations or ethnic associations. Government organizations provide mainly information and interpretation services and government officials lack the know-how to help illegal foreign workers with serious labor and immigration problems. Ethnic associations in Japan do not support their illegal compatriots. Illegal foreigners turn instead to Japanese NGOs, which have extensive experience in helping the underprivileged in Japanese society. Japanese activists, who found these NGOs, came from other social movement organizations. Christians, community workers unions organizers, women activists, labor lawyers, health workers, and civil rights activists have created separate support groups to help solve problems for illegal foreigners. Japanese activists created these groups in order to: a) acquire and accumulate knowledge on how best to help illegal foreigners; b) strengthen their bargaining power with employers and state officials; and, c) gain financial support for their activities. By working on behalf of illegal foreigners, these Japanese activists build a new community of action. Local governments have invited these activists to share their expertise and are increasingly relying on these support groups to provide public services to illegal foreigners. In some localities, local government officials have joined these groups and experimented with new institutions of governance. As a result, local governments are now breaking with national policies regarding illegal foreign workers. Japan has done quite a bit over the last two decades to open its borders and accommodate immigration. Associative activism by Japanese citizens impresses upon other industrialized societies that Japan's efforts to accommodate immigration are surprisingly humanitarian for a historically xenophobic culture.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Political Science, 2001.Includes bibliographical references (v. 2, leaves 460-481).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology