Have you ever experienced discrimination as a foreigner living in Japan? — Survey Results

Have you ever felt discriminated against as a foreigner living in Japan? This is a question that certainly affects your quality of life and well-being in here.

It’s also a major policy concern for Japan, as the country liberalizes its immigration policy. Facing a huge demographic crisis (a declining birth rate and the aging of its population), in the last few years Japan has been liberalizing its immigration policy to attract both highly-skilled professionals and lower-skilled workers.

In June 2019, the number of foreigners residing in Japan hit an all-time high of 2,282,416, up 3.6% compared to the end of 2018. This was a slowdown compared to the 7% annual growth rate in 2018, but still represented seven consecutive years of growth. Resident foreigners account for 2.24% of Japan’s total population.

As more foreigners have come to live in Japan, there have been increasing concerns about how Japanese and non-Japanese people can live and work together harmoniously in a society that is not historically multicultural. Media reports cite complaints from Japanese people about things like rising crime, noise, and lack of respect for rules about separating garbage.

At the same time, the Japanese government has put forward a raft of policy proposals to help foreign residents adapt to life in Japan, including help with opening bank accounts, getting housing, and learning Japanese. The government also plans to set up about 100 “one-stop life support centers” in each of Japan’s prefectures and designated cities. This is all in line with the new Specified Skills Visa that went into affect in April 2019, which will allow hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers into Japan in order to alleviate severe labor shortages in key industries.

The government also recognizes that discrimination against foreigners does happen. A few years ago, the Ministry of Justice commissioned the first ever survey on housing, employment, and other forms of discrimination faced by foreigners living in the country. We previously published an in-depth post on the survey results from the housing discrimination section of the survey.

Have you experienced any of these things in the last five years?

But what about less subtle things like being stared at on the train? Or being ignored when you try to speak to a Japanese person? Are these examples of discrimination or just “annoying”. The Ministry also surveyed resident foreigners on their direct, day-to-day experiences with Japanese. Below is a summary of the results in answer to the question: “Have you experienced any of the following things in the last five years?

Never

The majority of responses to all categories was that respondents had never experienced the situation described. The Top 5 situations cited as “never” having been experienced were:

  1. “I’ve been told by my Japanese in-laws not to teach my child about the culture of the country or region where I’m from.”
  2. “I’ve been asked by my Japanese in-laws to change my name to a Japanese-style name.”
  3. “I’ve been harassed because my name doesn’t sound like a Japanese name.”
  4. “My Japanese in-laws and relatives have made fun of the culture of the country or region where I’m from.”
  5. “When I’ve dated or tried to marry my Japanese partner, his or her parents were opposed because I am a foreigner.”

Sometimes

The Top 5 situations cited as “sometimes” being experienced were:

  1. “I’ve been stared at by strangers.”
  2. “I’ve felt discriminated against at school or in the work place because of prejudice against foreigners, making it difficult for me to have good relationships with people.”
  3. I’ve been harassed because I can’t use Japanese well.”
  4. When I try to talk to Japanese people they ignore me.”
  5. “Japanese people try to stay away from me when on buses, trains,
    and shopping centers.”

Often

The Top 5 situations cited as “often” being experienced were:

  1. “I’ve been stared at by strangers.”
  2. “I’ve been harassed because I can’t use Japanese well.”
  3. “I’ve felt discriminated against at school or in the work place because of prejudice against foreigners, making it difficult for me to have good relationships with people.”
  4. “Japanese people try to stay away from me when on buses, trains, and shopping centers.”
  5. “When I’ve dated or tried to marry my Japanese partner, his or her parents were opposed because I am a foreigner.”

More about the survey

The purpose of the 2016 survey was to gather key basic data in order for the government to implement policies to protect the human rights of resident foreign nationals.

The survey was mailed to 18,500 foreigners, aged 18 or above, in 37 major municipalities throughout Japan and was conducted from November 14 to December 5, 2016. Survey forms allowed for responses in fourteen different languages. Valid responses were received from 4,252 people (23.0%).


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Survey source: Foreign Resident Survey, Ministry of Justice 2017 (in Japanese)

Lead photo: Nakamisa shopping street via WAmazing


What do you think of the survey results? Please comment below.