Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tracking the Gaijin

The Daily Yomiuri reports today that the Japanese government is planning on increasing its tracking of foreigners (gaijin). Apparently different government ministries currently perform different levels and styles of tracking (no surprise), and the data doesn't agree (again, no surprise).

The Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry (Kosei-rodo-sho) says companies have reported to it that they employee about 340,000 foreigners. But the Justice Ministry (Homu-sho), which is probably in charge of visas, says there about 2.01 million foreigners here, of whom it estimates about 800,000 are working, either legally or illegally. That's quite a discrepancy!

Apparently companies aren't required to report on the status of their employees, and reports are only accepted from firms with more than 50 employees.

Getting a work visa here is not fraught with the stress and feeling of fear that some faceless bureaucrat will make an arbitrary decision that ruins your life, as dealing with the INS in the U.S. is. However, it is a lot of paperwork, tedious and time-consuming. Among other things, they want to see your original college diploma. Not a certified transcript from the university listing your graduation date, they want to see your actual sheepskin. The end result is a stamp in your passport (these days, including a 2D barcode that apparently contains either binary or encrypted data) and a gaikokujin torokusho, your alien registration card, which you have to carry at all times. And, of course, you have to register with the local government when you move. (This is true for Japanese, too; they are surprised when they find out that Americans don't have to register when you move inside the U.S.)

And the end result of this bureaucracy is that the government doesn't know to within a factor of two how many foreigners are actually working in this country? The biggest change proposed seems to be requiring companies to report the names of their foreign employees to the government.

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