The president said the US economy was growing “because we welcome immigrants” and that other countries were constrained economically by anti-immigration policies.

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that U.S. ally Japan was struggling economically because of xenophobia, along with other countries including China and Russia.

Speaking at a fundraiser in Washington that marked the start of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Biden said the U.S. economy was growing in part “because we welcome immigrants.”

“Think about it,” he said. “Why is China so economically stagnant? Why is Japan having problems? Why is Russia?”

“Because they are xenophobic,” he said. “They don’t want immigrants.”

Japan is a longtime U.S. ally in the Asia-Pacific, and Biden has strengthened security ties with Tokyo to counter China in the region, having hosted Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for a summit and state dinner in Washington on last month.

There was no immediate reaction from Japan on Thursday, which is largely on vacation this week.

While many experts agree with Biden’s statement, “it’s not a diplomatic thing to say about one of America’s closest allies, especially since America has its own problems with the xenophobia that Japanese people see in the news all the time,” Jeffrey said. Hall, Japanese studies professor at Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. “So it seems to me like something unnecessary to say in this context,” he told NBC News.

“It will look like America is once again talking down to the Japanese,” Hall said, “and that’s not really an effective way to get Japan to solve a lot of problems in its society that even the Japanese would agree are problems.”

Like many other countries in Asia, Japan faces demographic problems, including an aging and declining population.

The country of 125 million people has been trying to attract more foreign workers, but is hampered by restrictive immigration laws that make it difficult to obtain permanent residency.

In March, the Japanese Cabinet approved legislation that would more than double the cap on skilled foreign workers to more than 800,000 and replace an internship program with a training system for unskilled foreign workers that could provide medium- to long-term residency. said local media. reported.

To maintain economic growth, the country will need 6.74 million foreign workers by 2040, the Japan International Cooperation Agency said in a 2022 report, up from 2.05 million in the country in October. About a quarter of Japan’s foreign workers come from Vietnam, followed by China at 19% and the Philippines at 11%, the Labor Ministry said in January.

Japan ranked 35th out of 56 countries in the 2020 Migrant Integration Policy Index, which categorized the country’s approach as “immigration without integration.” Researchers said foreign citizens in Japan were denied equal opportunities and several basic rights, especially protection against discrimination, putting it far behind other developed countries.

“Japan’s current policies encourage the public to view immigrants as subordinates rather than their neighbors,” the report states.

However, public attitudes around this issue appear to be changing.

A national survey conducted this year by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that 62% of respondents were in favor of accepting more foreign workers, up from 44% in 2018.

“People have to balance their fear of cultural change and societal change versus just unresolved economic decline,” Hall said.

The question of what it means to be Japanese has been a growing topic of discussion in the country, where three foreign residents filed a lawsuit against the government in January, arguing that police officers were violating the constitution by repeatedly detaining them and questioning them with based solely on their appearance and ethnicity.

There was also debate in January over whether a naturalized Japanese citizen born in Ukraine could represent the country after being crowned Miss Japan. (Pageant winner Carolina Shiino gave up the title in February after it was revealed that she had an affair with a married man.)

In addition to social issues, Japan has also struggled with a weak yen, which is at a 34-year low against the dollar, making the country less attractive as it competes for foreign workers with places like South Korea and Taiwan.

The yen rose against the dollar on Thursday morning in what traders suspected was another round of intervention by Japanese authorities to stop the currency’s sharp decline.

Japan already faces a serious labor shortage in agriculture, construction, manufacturing and other sectors, a problem worsened by border closures during the Covid-19 pandemic. Authorities are also trying to address the shortage by encouraging greater women’s participation in the workforce as well as later retirement.

Once the world’s second-largest economy, Japan said in March that its economy grew at an annual rate of 0.4% in the final quarter of 2023, above an initial estimate of a 0.4% contraction, which the would have put him in a difficult situation. technical recession.

It is now the world’s fourth-largest economy after falling behind Germany earlier this year.

Written by Jennifer Jett, Asian Digital Editor, NBC News.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *