On 15th September 2020, the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (IFAT) has held an online discussion entitled „Migration patterns and the pandemic: comparing Japan’s and Europe’s challenges”. Two speakers, Miyai Takeshi (research fellow at The Japan Institute of International Affairs) and Viktor Marsai (research director at the Migration Research Institute and senior lecturer at the University of Public Service) shared their views regarding the possible future trajectories of the migration policy of the European countries and Japan. The discussion was moderated by Máté Szalai (program manager and senior research fellow at IFAT).
The experts mainly focused on three topics regarding the effects and the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic: the Hungarian and European positions on migration and free movement, Japan’s immigration and border policies and the changing patterns of irregular migration. The main point of difference between the European and Japanese policy on migration is that while in Japan the national government is able to establish its own framework for migration, in Europe there is a significant difference between the policies of the individual nation-states and the enforcement of border control is also proving to be more difficult. Due to the cultural, historical and geopolitical differences it is very hard to find common ground in European decision-making regarding migration.
During the discussion the participants connected the European and Japanese demographic problems and the growing demand for workers. In Japan the share of foreign-born population is very low. The country is relatively closed, so the task of bringing in foreign labour to answer the needs of the Japanese economy is not easy. The vast share of foreign workers in the country are temporary workers (mainly on technical internship program or international students). In recent years these programs fell well short of the need of workers in Japan, according to Miyai, who stressed the importance of widening the migration programs in the country, for example by permitting long term residence for the foreign workers.
In Europe the responses to the demographic issues differ, Marsai explained, as besides those focusing on immigration, many other countries put their emphasis on increasing the fertility rates inside the country (for instance Hungary), some governments combine the two tactics. Regarding the migration situation of Europe, Marsai highlighted three main strategic trends to watch. Firstly, the demographic situation, where the challenge is similar to that of Japan. Secondly, the opportunities for higher wages and the welfare states, and the relative proximity of Europe to the MENA region and Africa. Lastly, the developments of regional crises on Europe’s borderland have a huge effect on European calculations. All in all, Marsai expects that these main factors and trends in Europe will not change much after the pandemic.
During the Q&A session, the two experts answered several questions related to the possibilities provided by the current crisis to review long term predictions and policies, the effect of the resignation of Shinzo Abe on the migration policy of the Japanese government, and the expectations connected to the new European package on migration.
For the full recording please click on the link below or visit our YouTube channel!