Be careful what you wish for

My daughter has discovered manga too, and this is one of her Pokemon books. Japan is sort of our promised land.
My daughter has discovered manga too, and this is one of her Pokemon books. Japan is sort of our promised land.

Someone shared a poster on Facebook yesterday. It was a comment about health care, and the message was that if Japan could the USA could just as easily do it. It sounded like everything you want, and more. We have something similar in Norway, and it is true that being poor here is a lot better than being poor in the USA, but nothing is perfect.

Comparing countries isn’t that straightforward. The Japanese don’t like immigration, so they don’t have any. That is going to make it increasingly harder to provide the services they have had so far. According to Human Rights Watch 7 586 people applied for asylum in 2015 and just over 5 000 in the first half of 2016. Only 27 were recognized as refugees in 2015 and 4 in the first half of 2016. The birth rate is alarmingly low, as it is in most industrialized countries. Most countries avoid collapse by allowing enough immigration to keep the population at a stable level, but because Japanese authorities don’t allow immigration they lose 250 000 people a year. This is such an unusual development that some conspiracy buffs were looking at the statistics and connected it to the Fukushima accident. They noticed that the population dropped by a staggering one million people in six years, but that’s how dramatic it looks when both the birth rate and immigration is almost non-existing. This is a far worse problem than Fukushima at the moment.

Japan has 200 000 migrant workers, mainly from China and Vietnam, and because of weak legal protection there is a lot of abuse (illegal overtime, unpaid wages, dangerous working conditions, confiscaction of passports, prohibitions of having cell phones and staying elsewhere over night, forced return).

I don’t know enough about this, but if what I have read online is correct there are major issues in Japan. Women, minorities and young people in general are marginalized, pushed to the edge of society and ignored. It seems like there is a lack of respect for people in this society. I have never heard about it anywhere else, but train groping is apparantly bad in Japan.

According to this schocking article in Independent half a million young people barely leave their homes. They want to go out, and they want friends, but they can’t. They have a word for this, hikkimori. The Japanese Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry define this as young people that haven’t gone to school, worked or tried to socialize in six months. This is another challenge the country can’t afford to get bigger.

Many of us have grown up with stereotypes of the Japanese people. They are creative and intelligent. They make the technology we buy. I grew up with anime and manga, and reading about buddhism and Shinto, but I suspect that life there isn’t quite like it was in my fantasies.

The same can be said for Norway. There are things I don’t like about my own country. Many immigrants also have ideas about how it is here, and I suspect that some experience moments of anger, irritation and disappointment. Most foreigners still like it here because when you consider the pros and cons, life here isn’t bad at all. You can’t make assumptions, though. Many people assume that the USA is like they see on TV, and maybe poor Americans think life here would be effortless. It has been compared to most of the world, but I think that’s about to change. It will probably be a good place to live, but less equal than it has been, and health care may cost us more. We may become the USA we don’t know about.

Human Rights Watch on Japan

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