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The Rapid Increase in Foreign Workers
The Current Situation, its Background, and the Workers' Standpoint

(From "Labor and Liberation" Oct. 1990)

Written by Kiichiro Taguchi
Translated by Roy West


Recently it is no longer unusual to see the appearance of foreign workers in the streets. In the past few years the number of foreign workers in Japan has increased steadily. Last year (1989) the government revised the immigration laws, and from this June a new immigration law will be enforced which includes stronger restrictions on so-called "unskilled workers" from foreign countries. However, even after the passing of this law, entry to Japan will not cease. Foreign migrant workers are now an established reality. It is certainly no exaggeration to say that these workers have become indispensable for construction companies and medium and small businesses who are now troubled with a labor shortage.

Many of the foreign workers are engaged in construction work and odd-jobs that Japanese youth avoid for being dirty ('kitanai'), dangerous ('kiken'), and difficult ('kitsui') (the "3 D's, or in Japanese the "3 K's"). The working conditions in these jobs are very bad. In addition to their low wages compared to Japanese workers, foreign workers are subjected to horrible conditions including the non-payment of wages, and lack of compensation for work injuries. One major factor in the horrible treatment of foreign workers is their condition of illegality.

Even though the government has taken the position of forbidding "unskilled workers" on principle, in the midst of the recent serious labor shortage, they are in fact allowing entrance under the name of "training". Likewise, the labor unions have changed their stance from "absolute opposition to acceptance", to approval of acceptance under a fixed framework. However, whether it be the government or labor unions, the recent attitude of accepting workers from foreign countries reflects the naked interests of capital.

In what manner, then, should the question of foreign workers be addressed? This essay will look at this question, and consider the approach which workers should take by examining the policies of the government, capitalist groups, the Communist and Socialist Parties, and trade unions.

1. The Increase in Workers From Asian Countries

The "undocumented employment" of "unskilled workers" from foreign countries is now considered a social problem.

The number of so-called "undocumented" foreign workers who have remained in Japan after the expiration of their period of stay to work illegally has steadily increased over recent years. According to statistics from the Ministry of Justice, the number of foreigners uncovered in "undocumented employment" in 1983 was only 2,389. In 1985 the figure was 5,629, in 1986 it reached over 10,000, and in 1988 it was 14,314. This represents an almost six-fold increase in only five years.

Around 1985 most of the "undocumented workers" were women from the Philippines, Thailand, and Taiwan working as hostesses, etc. Around 1986, however, the increase in male workers began to become striking, and by 1988 the number uncovered had reached 8,929 (a 108% increase from the previous year). This was the first time since the increase in "undocumented workers" first began in 1979, that the number of men was greater than women. If we look at this according to nationalities, Bangladeshi workers were the most numerous(2,939), followed by Pakistan (2,495), The Philippines (1,688), Korea (769), and Thailand (369). Workers from these five countries comprised 92.5% of the total.

Of course, the number of people uncovered doesn't reveal the actual employment conditions of foreign migrant workers in Japan. However, one important point of the immigration authorities statistics is the change from women to men workers. Furthermore, if we include those workers who voluntarily went to the immigration authorities to return to their own country, we can see that the number of male workers from Asia has increased rapidly in recent years. Hiroshi Komai, assistant professor at Skuba University, described the overall situation in the following way:

"The history of foreign workers is relatively new, but the sudden increase is surprising. According to the estimates of the immigration authorities at the Ministry of Justice, the number of illegal workers was about 100,000 in July of 1989. The estimated number at the end of 1986 was only 28,000, and in 1987 about 50,000. Thus, the number of foreign workers in illegal employment has rapidly increased by about 1.8 times per year. If this pace continues, by the end of 1992 the number will have reached about 940,000." ("Economist",0 August 22, 1989)

Of these foreign workers, the overwhelming majority of the women are working as bar hostesses or in the sex industries, while most of the men are engaged in construction, manufacture, or service industries.

In the case of construction, they are employed by bosses who compose the lowest level of the subcontracting layers, and in the case of manufacture they tend to work for medium small, or tiny businesses. All of these are the kind of dirty, dangerous, and difficult jobs that Japanese people don't want to engage in. The service industries as well, are small, and unstable, and the working conditions are terrible. In this sense, the majority of foreign workers compose the lowest stratum of labor in Japan. While individual foreign workers change (constantly) overall they are increasing, and are becoming indispensable.

Most of these workers are "undocumented workers" who have extended their permitted stay on a tourist visa. They often work under horrible working conditions in which they have almost no holidays, must work late without overtime pay, are forced to give kickbacks to brokers, and are paid lower wages than Japanese workers. Moreover, since the work is illegal, they are deported as soon as they are captured. With these dangers to brave, why do they come to Japan?

The following background reasons for the increase in foreign workers from Asia should be pointed out.

(1) The extreme "economic gap" between Japan and other Asian countries (the per capita GNP for Japan in 1987 was 5.9 times that of Korea; 12.8 times that of Brazil; 26.7 times that of the Philippines; 35 times that of Indonesia; 45 times that of Pakistan; and 98.6 times that of Bangladesh). (2) The advantage of working in Japan because of the "strong yen". (3) the recession in the Middle Eastern oil producing countries where the foreign workers had previously worked. (4) The economic difficulties in Asian countries and the large rate of unemployment. (5) The shortage of "labor power" in medium and small businesses in Japan.

Let's look at the case of Pakistani "migrant" workers as an example.

Pakistan is said to be the country in Asia with the largest percentage of workers in other countries with reportedly over four million in 1985. The number of these migrant workers is ten percent of the total working population of Pakistan. This is the highest rate in the world.

In Pakistan, as well as The Philippines, Korea and other countries, it is a national policy to export labor power abroad. The migration of workers from Pakistan to other countries has passed through several stages. First, after independence in the Fifties, this migration was primarily domestic servants heading to Pakistan's former colonizer England. In the Seventies there was a noticeable large scale advance into United States and Western Europe. By the end of 1982 the number of migrant workers from Pakistan in the U.S., Canada and Western Europe reached a total of 570,000. During this stage, the government established an emigration authority (1971) which marked the beginning of migrant work as a state policy.

The second stage was work abroad in the Middle East. Pakistan was the earliest of all the Asian countries to have migrant workers in the Middle East. In 1979 the number of workers there shot up from 40,000 in the previous year to 140,000. In response to this development, the government enacted emigration laws and regulations, and granted permission to employment agents. The emigration authority was reorganized to become the "foreign emigration employment authority". Those working abroad were required to notify this foreign emigration authority, and evaluate the working conditions. At the same time, a foreign employment company was established under direct government control. By 1982-3, it was estimated that there were about 1.7 to 2 million workers abroad, with about 1.1 to 1.4 million of them working in the Middle East. The Middle Eastern countries had small populations, and production was dependent on foreign labor, particularly from Asia, but with the boom based on the rise in oil prices they attracted even more foreign workers.

The third stage is the period since the end of the oil boom. In this stage the number of workers in the Middle East decreased suddenly. In 1988 new emigration was only 80,000. However, it is said that 1.2 million workers remain in the Middle East. (These statistics are from Komai's research.)

The economic difficulties of Pakistan were serious. In 1988 the financial deficit was close to three times greater than the national budget, and foreign debt had reached 300 billion dollars. according to the 1980 survey on migrant workers, 63% were from the cities, 37% from the countryside, and those from the cities made up two thirds. Of these workers, 70% were married, and 63% had left their family in their home country.

In Pakistan, because of the undeveloped state of industry, it is difficult to find employment, and so work is sought outside of the country. Furthermore, the state, which is suffering from chronic foreign debt, has gone so far as to positively encourage the families of migrant workers through preferential treatment because the money these workers send back to Pakistan is major source of foreign currency. Sending workers abroad relieves domestic unemployment, improves its international credit balance, and has become a structural part of the economy. The majority of these migrant workers have gone to the Middle East, but with the end of the oil boom they were forced to find another destination. This new destination became Japan which had achieved remarkable economic development.

With the "strong yen" adding to the differences in wages, more and more workers from developing countries have moved to Japan. In the case of Pakistan, wages are one sixtieth of those in Japan. Even if migrant workers cannot earn the average wage for Japanese workers, if the "yen" earned is sent back to their country and converted into the local currency (of course all of the wages cannot be sent home, and most of their earnings must be spent on living expenses as well as the transit costs, etc.) it is possible to earn ten times or more than the income that could be earned in their own country. Moreover, it is also possible to purchase products that are very expensive in their own countries such as electronic devices. If we look at how the income sent back to Pakistan is spent, the majority was spent ceremonial events, and the purchase of foreign goods and real estate.

What we have seen in the case of Pakistan is common to other developing countries with a high rate of unemployment such as the Philippines, Bangladesh, and India. The people with large debt in these developing countries are willing to brave the danger of arrest and forced deportation for the dream of "getting-rich-quick"

2. The Deceptive Government Response

With the rapid increase in foreign migrant workers, the government, with the approval of the (former) Socialist, (former) Democratic Socialist, and Komei Parties, established a newly revised "immigration law" that will be in effect from this June. The content of this law is the following:

(1) To increase and concretize the kinds of legal residence, and clarify their scope. (2) To simplify the immigration screening procedures through such means as the granting of "official certificate of official residence" at a pre-screening. (3) Clarify the regulations on "undocumented activities", establish a system to grant "proof of legal employment" to people engaged in recognized employment, as well as establishing penalties for undocumented workers, their employers, and those who promote illegal employment (imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of up to 2 million yen). However, those who were employed before the establishment of the law would not be subject to penalties.

The biggest issue in this "reform" was the establishment of penalties for employers of "undocumented workers", and those who promote illegal employment. Currently there are over 100,000 "illegal workers", but in order to restrict the further inflow of foreign workers, the government has established new penalties. The government says that the new regulations will control the entry of "undocumented workers" into the country, and eliminate the unjust kickbacks to brokers. But will this really be the result?

As we have already seen, as long as the situation continues to exist in which there is a large "economic gap" between Japan and other countries, these countries continue to have economic difficulties and chronic unemployment, and there is a demand in Japan for low wage workers, there will be no way to end the inflow of foreign workers through the enforcement of penalties. Moreover, the new establishment of penalties will not eliminate the illegal brokers. As long as the inflow of foreign workers is inevitable, black market brokers will not be eliminated, but only driven increasingly underground, and the underground paybacks will only become more terrible. It is a fact that foreign workers are compelled to grin and bear deportation, horrible treatment and discrimination. The brokers and employers who take advantage of this situation force harsh working conditions and kickbacks on the workers. Because the migrant workers are in the weak position in which their employment is "illegally" and they can be forcefully deported, they cannot protest even when horrible conditions are forced on them. The employers and brokers take advantage of their weak position, and don't pay wages, enforce long working hours, and provide no worker compensation for injury. It is clear that the excuse that the enforcement of penalties under the new immigration law will force the employers and brokers to "bear the danger" will in fact force even more harsh working conditions on foreign workers.

The government's policy, as can be seen in the "new immigration law", is to declare the strengthening of restrictions on "unskilled workers", on the one hand, while on the other hand it plans to expand the number of foreign workers through the expansion of the framework of employment regulations. The revision in the "immigration laws" will recognize new requirements for the length of stay of foreign workers employed in the fields of law, education, research, accounting, and medicine. This is because along with the "internationalization" of business, there is a need for technicians and lawyers from abroad. However, the number of people employed in these areas is very small compared to the total number of foreign workers. The basic plan of the government is to loosen regulations on those areas that are most convenient for capital overall.

However, domestically the labor shortage, especially in medium and small size businesses, is severe, and the demand for foreign workers is increasing. While the government is forbidding the entrance of foreign workers, on the other hand they make an exception for immigrants of Japanese descent seeking employment in Japan (under the immigration laws foreigners of Japanese descent can remain in Japan for three years to visit relatives, and can engage in "unskilled labor" during this period). Medium and small size companies, suffering from a labor shortage, have taken to placing recruitment advertisements in the newspapers of South American countries which have accumulated massive debt and are reeling from skyrocketing inflation. There has been a remarkable increase in the number of migrant workers of Japanese descent from South America (especially from Brazil).

In this situation a problem became the acceptance of "unskilled workers" by using an "system of training".

Last August the Ministry of Justice presented the results of a survey of forty companies engaged in this kind of "training". Of these companies, eight of them were visited to inspect the conditions, and the following was found.

None of the courses of study submitted by the eight companies were carried out, and the foreigners were immediately put to work. There was also no time allotted for the study of Japanese. According to one inspector: "The stench and heat in the workplace was terrible, the work was close to unskilled manual labor, and there was nothing even resembling training. Because of the shortage in manpower, there was not even any time for classes."

As can be seen, even though this is not training, but work in the literal sense, the workers are treated as "trainees" and thus given very low wages. For example: Two Chinese workers in a foundry in Kawagushi City earn 50,000 yen/month (1$=120Yen), two Thai women in a food processing plant in Hokkaido earn 40,000 yen/month, seven Korean workers in a rubber processing plant in Osaka earn 50,000 yen/month, and in an automobile parts plant in Nagoya three Filipino workers are paid 120,000 yen/month. Furthermore, even though "trainees" are forbidden to work overtime, in the case of the workers at the rubber plant they are forced to work overtime for an hour and a half. (Information from "Asahi Newspaper" June 20, 1988)

This shows the typical situation of employment that goes on under the name of "training". There are fundamentally three kinds of "training". In the first, the expenses of the "trainees" are born by the government, an international cooperative business group, Asian Productivity organization or UNIDO. In the second model, a private technology cooperative organization is the subject of the training and while receiving some financial assistance from the government the technological training is entrusted to a private company. In the third case, a private company independently accepts trainees. The problems with pseudo-trainees occur mainly in this third situation.

Companies take advantage of "trainees" to conceal the introduction of foreign workers because in addition to being legal, it allows them to force harsh working conditions on the workers. Since the workers are considered "trainees" and the supposed goal is technological training, the bosses only have to provide food and shelter and some allowance for everyday expenses (in the case of construction jobs generally this means 2,000/day or about 60,000 yen/month). Any payment above this is viewed as a deviation from the scope of training. This is just an excuse for the companies to force low wages on the workers.

In addition to the problem of wages, another big problem is that basic labor standards are not applied in the case of "trainees" for the reason that they are supposedly there for technological "training" not for "labor". Since they are not protected by workers compensation insurance, in the case of work related injury they cannot receive compensation according to the law.

In the case of training, it is also common for contracts to include the condition that the "trainees" cannot terminate a contract before they begin working without prior reasons, and "training" cannot be abandoned half-way. This gives companies the advantage of restricting the workers. If the "training" is abandoned it would mean forced deportation, and in the case of the middlemen brokers, not only does the borrowed money have to be repaid, they can even ask for compensation for damages. For these reasons, the abandonment of training in fact does not occur.

These "trainees" are used by businesses to conceal their employment of foreign workers. The exact number of foreign workers disguised as "trainees" is not known. However, according to government sources the overall number of trainees increased greatly from 1985 when there were about 14,000, to 1988 when the number was estimated at 113,000. Of the total number in 1988, about 15,000, were in completely private organizations.

In the government media the Labor Ministry and Foreign Ministry, who have viewed the acceptance of foreign workers in a positive light, put forth a number of different plans. The Ministry of Labor brought out the idea that in order to facilitate the acceptance of workers from developing countries to private companies as "trainees", an agreement should be reached with the other country on the length of stay, and publications should be established to promote the acceptance of "trainees". The Ministry of Labour presented the idea of accepting ten thousands "trainees" per year as an objective. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs idea to expand the system of visas, pay wages to "trainees", apply the labor laws and regulations, and establish agreements with other countries was also broadcast by the mass media.

Moreover, even the Ministry of Justice, which had assumed the stance of the firmest opponent to the acceptance of foreign workers, has said that it will work to ease the judgement criteria for "training". According to these guidelines, the current condition of "one trainee allowed per 20 employees" will not longer apply to small and medium size companies with less than three hundred workers who will be able to accept from 3 to 15 "trainees" depending on their size. This reflects the dissatisfaction of medium and small businesses with the current criteria which only allows large businesses to accept "trainees".

According to the ideas of these government bodies, while unskilled labor remains forbidden, under the name of "training" "unskilled labor" is in fact accepted. The characteristic of this system is that the government maintains strong control, refuses permanent stay in Japan, and permits temporary employment only with the prerequisite that workers later return to their own country. This reflects the shameless desire of capital to make use of cheap foreign labor at its own convenience, while avoiding the problems that accompany the employment and permanent stay of foreign workers.

3. The Business Group's Response to Acceptance

The stance of business groups in regards to the acceptance of foreign workers includes all sorts of opinions ranges from supporters to opponents.

The view of the supporters of acceptance is represented by the Kansei Economic Friendship Organization in their "Proposal on the Problem of Foreign Workers" (February 1989). This was the first group to propose that conditions should be made to accept foreign workers without specialized skills or ability. Concretely they established a "dispatch center" for foreign workers to be independently employed and dispatched to businesses. The foreign workers would return to their home country when their period of employment ended. Other things proposed was that there should be checks that the treatment of foreign workers are equal to that of Japanese workers.

The group also proposed a "practical program system" of a law to accept "unskilled workers" (March 1989). This was intended to ease the labor power shortage domestically, as well as ameliorate the employment situation in the countries which sent the labor power. After studying language on the spot, they would be sent through a national coordination agency to work for companies as "apprentices". After 1-2 years they would return to their own country.

The characteristics of this proposal was to open the door to the acceptance of "unskilled workers" who had heretofore been prohibited, through a combination of dispatch and training. In other words, this was a plan to use the word "apprenticeship" to get around the regulation against the employment of "unskilled workers", and in fact "dispatch" or employ workers in companies.

This was an attempt to open the road to the introduction of so-called "unskilled workers" under the name of "training" and "dispatch". It is clear that the background to this was the deep-rooted demand of small and medium size businesses for the acceptance of foreign workers. This partially "open-door" theory aimed for the employment of foreign workers in the form of "training" or "dispatch". Even though the workers themselves are made to work as workers, legally they were not viewed as workers but rather as "trainees". As a result of this interpretation, they have to work without any rights asasorkers.

The attitude of the financial world towards foreign workers has been negative. This year the labor problem study group of the "Japanese Economic League's" wrote the following in their presentations:

"The most important point regarding the problem of foreign labor power is not to take the near-sighted approach of focusing on the current supply and demand of labor power. If we calmly look at the experience of other countries, it should become clear that the idea that foreign labor power should be brought in simply because there is a shortage of labor power, is fundamentally mistaken.

What is desirable is that each country stabilizes their own society, develops their economy and builds an excellent country. The acceptance of migrant workers will not help improve the economy of the country from which they come. What is needed is that Japan cooperates with the particular country to improve its industry, create jobs, and encourage autonomous development.

In this sense, what should be strongly promoted is the dispatch and acceptance of talented people for educational and technical training ranging from business spirit and management skills to various kinds of technical skill. At the same time, regarding the current, as yet unsolved problem of undocumented workers, the ministries concerned must cooperate fully, and bear in mind the meaning of the reform of the immigration laws, so that they can take the appropriate action to fundamentally solve this problem."

The position of the financial world is that the desire to open the door to "unskilled workers" under the impetus of the shortage in labor power is "fundamentally wrong", and they reproach the demand among some capitalists for a deep-rooted "opening". What they fear above all is that the acceptance of foreign workers will disturb their social order. What the report is referring to by the experience of other countries is the large scale introduction of "foreign workers" into France and West Germany in the Fifties and Sixties. They claim that the introduction of foreign workers gave rise to unemployment and social friction in education and social welfare. As we will see later, in order to avoid the occurrence of these problems, the financial world has insisted that "unskilled workers" should not be accepted, and should be limited to "training".

Of course, the position of the financial world that the acceptance of "trainees" and the development of other countries' industry through foreign aid is necessary is deceptive. It should be clear that the acceptance of "trainees" and foreign aid would help Japanese companies achieve bigger profits.

4. The Position of the Labor Unions and the Communist Party

Until two or three years ago, the labor unions and the Communist Party were opposed to the acceptance of foreign workers. However, in response to the cries, particularly from medium and small size businesses, about the shortage in labor power, their standpoint of opposition has changed to partial or conditional acceptance. This type of stance can be seen in the JCP and the National Construction Union which organizes construction workers and craftsmen.

Formerly, the National Construction Union took the strong stance of opposing the acceptance of foreign workers with such proposals as "obstructing the employment of illegal foreign workers, and removing all dishonest, businessmen." However, last February they toned-down their stance to say that "they will oppose the acceptance until the authorities concerned agree not to cause chaos in the labor market in construction". Recently, they have taken the policy of holding out the banner of "opposition" as an organization, while leaving the final decision in the hands of each of the union branches." However, this does not represent perspective of solidarity with foreign workers. The construction companies are reeling from a serious "labor power shortage". Previously foreign workers were opposed for the reason that they appeared as competitors, took their jobs, and brought about a worsening in working conditions. However, with the labor power shortage, the intentions of the union bosses could not be ignored and this is the reason that this is being left to the autonomous decision of each union branch. There is no guarantee that the National Construction Union, which works for the bosses and superficial interests instead of the standpoint of working class solidarity, will not once again push its line of nationalism and xenophobia when the next recession arrives.

Three years ago when the winds of downsizing and "rationalization" were blowing, the Japan Communist Party insisted in its central organ "Red Banner" that foreign workers were one of the primary reasons that Japanese workers were losing their jobs, and working conditions were worsening. "Among big businesses cheap labor is attractive, and the voices demanding "unskilled", or close to unskilled workers from foreign countries are growing stronger. If a large number of these foreign workers enter the country, it is clear that this would be a major factor to further spur the firings, 'rationalizations', lowering of wages and worsening of working conditions already being advanced by big business and the financial world." (December 18, 1987). However, from last autumn, without any reflection, the JCP changed its stance to the policy of "orderly acceptance". The JCP laid out its "fundamental position" towards unskilled foreign labor in the following manner:

"(1) The principled acceptance of unskilled foreign workers, and maintenance of conditions for this. Unlimited acceptance cannot take place. (2) To stand on the position of principled acceptance of the international movement of workers,cThe government must immediately consider the following points and concrete measures. The observance of the third article of labor regulations preventing discrimination of working conditions because of nationality, the conclusion of agreements an agreement between the two countries concerned, the establishment of a framework for acceptance, the limitation of the period of stay, penalties against violators (employers), etc. (3) Regarding the so-called problem of "illegal workers", it is not sufficient for the government to order their deportation in order to protect the human rights of these people. Urgent measures must be taken to improve the situation." ("Red Banner" editorial October 10, 1989)

While the JCP advocates the "principled acceptance" of foreign workers, they propose that the number of entrees be established, and the period of stay limited through an agreement between the two countries concerned. The JCP says that the entrees should be "limited" because they will inevitably produce harmful effects:

"The harmful effects include: (1) the acceptance of foreign wage workers will lead to a worsening of the working conditions for Japanese workers, and an increase in unemployment; (2) this is also connected to the creation of a new underclass, slums, and an increase in crime; (3) social costs such as education, welfare, and social security will rise. It is an easy assumption that the unlimited acceptance of foreign workers would lead to this sort of situation. The experience of West Germany and France also demonstrates this." (ibid)

The "harmful effects" that the JCP mentions are the same ones given by the government, financial circles, and the labor unions for opposing the entrance of foreign workers. They say that these problems are inherent to the acceptance of foreign workers. However, this argument only sees the surface of things.

Let's look at the problem of "increased unemployment and worsening job conditions". It is not necessarily the case that the entrance of foreign workers immediately leads to this result. In West Germany and France from the late Fifties through the Sixties a large number of foreign workers were accepted to meet the labor power shortage. The acceptance of foreign workers did not cause the immediate worsening of working conditions or unemployment in these countries. On the one hand, the foreign workers supported production as the lowest stratum of workers with low wages and terrible working conditions, while the West German and French workers benefited from the terrible exploitation of foreign workers to gain a relatively improved position. It even came to be said that these countries had a "two-tier structure" with foreign workers bearing most of the dirty and difficult jobs. During periods of the development of capitalism, foreign workers are seen, not as competitors, but rather as a primary factor for increasing the standard of living. The scapegoating of foreign workers by right wing reactionaries started from the time of the serious recession during the oil crisis. The reactionaries accused the foreign workers of stealing jobs, and bombarded them with nationalism and xenophobia. However, in the midst of the repression, it was the low-level foreign workers themselves who lost their jobs.

This fact clearly shows that the idea that the acceptance of foreign workers would threaten Japanese workers' jobs is one dimensional. Of course, it can't be denied that even in times of non-recession, the low wages of foreign workers appear to Japanese workers as competitors. However, the position which opposes the acceptance of low wage foreign workers based on the idea that they steal jobs and cause the worsening of working conditions, dazzles the eyes with apparent interests, but cannot understand the essence of things, and spreads xenophobia and divisions among the workers.

Capital introduces all sorts of discrimination among the workers: main company and subcontractors, temporary and part time workers, etc. Capital uses "disposable" part time and temporary workers as a control valve for business fluctuations. When the business climate worsens, the first ones to get the sack are these low level workers, and those working for small subcontracting companies. It is the rule of capital that makes the workers' lives unstable. This instability will not end if the rule of capital continues, regardless of whether or not foreign workers are prevented entry.

The same thing is true for the problem of "increased crime and the creation of slums" or "social security and welfare". The greatest responsibility for the occurrence of these problems lies with the discriminative low wages and horrible working conditions capital imposes, and is not the fault of foreign workers. The results of research by the French researcher Gaspard clearly show the groundlessness of bourgeois "public opinion" which scapegoats foreign workers by saying that they are a hotbed of crime. According to her research, French people are the ones who commit the vast majority of serious social crimes, whereas the overwhelming number of crimes by foreign workers are petty crimes which come from unavoidable poverty related to their terrible treatment by capital. ("The France of Foreigners")

The position of the JCP which deflects attention away from the rule of capital as if the responsibility lies with the foreign workers, is a reactionary stance which propagates prejudice against foreign workers.

Based on this reactionary view, the JCP calls for "orderly acceptance", but the conditions of establishing a "framework for admission" and a "limitation on the period of stay" presuppose a return to the home country. This position is essentially the same as the bourgeois theory of admission. This bourgeois theory denies foreign workers the right to permanent stay, and attempts to "use" foreign workers for the convenience of capital, and avoid social problems from the permanent residence of foreign workers. They want to thoroughly squeeze these foreign workers and then send them back to their home country. In other words, they aim to introduce freely disposable "labor power". The JCP's nationalist standpoint of "orderly admission" is the same as that of the bourgeoisie. Their conversion from an oppositional position to the standpoint of "orderly acceptance" above all reflects the interests of medium and small capital which is suffering from a labor power shortage.

5. International Solidarity is the Standpoint of the Workers

We have seen the background to the rapid increase in workers from foreign countries, as well as the positions taken by the government, the financial world, labor unions and the Communist Party. In what way, then, should the workers grasp this problem?

The development of capitalism creates the conditions for the solidarity and contact between workers to overcome the national boundaries established by capital. Lenin described the progressive meaning of the international migration of workers which exceeds the nation state.

"Capitalism creates the particular form of national migration. Countries in which industry is rapidly developing introduce more machinery, drive other countries out of the market, and attract wage workers from foreign countries through their above average wages.

In this way hundreds of thousands of workers move far away from their hometowns. Against their will they are drawn into the orbit of advanced capitalism. They are drawn out of their remote villages to become participants in the movement of world history, and come face to face with a powerfully united, international industrial class.

Certainly, only extreme poverty causes people to abandon their homeland, and capitalism exploits migrant workers in a completely shameless way. But only reactionaries can shut their eyes to the progressive meaning of the modern national migration. Emancipation from the heavy pressure of capital cannot occur apart from the increasing development of capitalism, and the class struggles based on this development.

The bourgeoisie tries to incite the workers of one nation against the workers of another nation, and cause splits between them. Class conscious workers understand that it is inevitable and progressive to knock down all of the capitalist walls between nations, and work in order to help the organization and enlightenment of comrades from other countries." ("Capitalism and the Migration of Workers", translated from Japanese)

Advanced workers must recognize the progressive meaning of the movement of workers, and strive for solidarity with the workers of other countries from an internationalist standpoint. The government spreads the anti-foreign ideology that the admission of "unskilled workers" would widen discriminatory consciousness, and lead to the breakdown of the social order.

General Council of the Ministry of Justice Immigration Authority Eitoku Sakanaka says: "Supposing the case where our country admits unskilled labor, in addition to the fear of ruining the national spirit by dependence on foreign labor, or through discrimination arising against the foreign workers engaged in unskilled labor, there is also concern that this will effect the social order and impede the rationalization of the industrial structure." ('Sekai' [The World] January 1990)

But as we have seen, it is the government and capital who are inciting discrimination and prejudice against foreign workers, with fears that the entrance of unskilled foreign workers will enlarge the slums and increase crime. Within the country they are also bringing in various forms of discrimination against women, rural people, and among the workers. The bring out the example of Western Europe being dependent on foreign labor, but they hide the fact that foreign are discriminated against with unequal conditions, and are forced to carry out the lowest stratum of labor.

The workers' standpoint has nothing in common with this reactionary position. Workers support the freedom of foreign workers' employment. The illegal conditions of the labor of foreign workers means that capital can impose horrendous working conditions, brokers are active and in-between exploitation takes place. Of course as long as the rule of capital continues this would not end even with the legal employment. But the legality of employment would at least ease these conditions somewhat.

Furthermore, workers must oppose all discrimination, and demand equality for foreign workers and their rights as workers. Only supporting the legality of employment, is no different from the bourgeois desire for cheap labour. For foreign workers to defend their own lives, they must secure their rights as workers.

However, the current issue of foreign workers is not a simple one. This is for because: this takes the form of migrant work, and a small minority of migrant workers are upper class in their own country. Some are attracted to Japan by the wage gap between their own country and Japan, and the dream of making a large income in a short period of time. This situation makes the organization and creation of a movement of migrant workers difficult. Moreover, it is clear from the example of Western Europe, which is increasing restrictions on workers from abroad, that there are limitations on the freedom of employment for foreign workers under the rule of capital. Workers in Japan as workers must oppose discrimination by capital against foreign workers, and struggle in solidarity to support their rights and lives.

However, the international solidarity of workers is not merely limited to supporting the demands for their rights. Above all, workers must develop the class struggle against the system of capital, and overthrow this system. What must be sought is the overthrow of the rule of capital in Japan, and the realization of socialism established on the power of the workers.

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