I Introduction -- Social changes and immigration control

The number of foreigners entering and living in Japan has increased and the relationship between the Japanese people and foreigners has become closer, resulting in foreigners having a greater influence on Japanese society.

As a result, it has become difficult to realize proper administration of immigration control by simply determining whether or not to permit foreigners to enter and stay in Japan one by one. It has now become necessary to formulate and implement comprehensive and systematic measures. Moreover, as a result of the increased awareness of foreigners in Japan, the numerical increase of foreigners and the expansion of their activities, the immigration control administration is increasingly calling for ways the Japanese people should live with foreigners in harmony.

In response to such requirements, the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (Cabinet Order No. 319 of 1951, amended in 1989, hereinafter to be referred to as the Immigration Control Act) stipulates that the Minister of Justice shall establish a "Basic Plan for Immigration Control" to set forth immigration control guidelines and other measures, after clarifying the situation of foreigners entering and residing in Japan (Article 61-9 of the Immigration Control Act). The Basic Plan is designed to establish Japan's basic guidelines on immigration control and to increase the transparency of administration by clearly presenting these guidelines at home and abroad and by implementing measures in line with the guidelines.

In the Basic Plan for Immigration Control, (stipulated in 1992 and hereinafter to be called "1st Basic Plan for Immigration Control"), the main objectives were "the promotion of smooth exchanges of personnel" and "measures against illegal foreign workers." This was based on the idea that the immigration control administration should be the one that contributes to the sound development of the Japanese society and international cooperation through "smooth acceptance of foreigners" and "rejection of unfavorable foreigners." The above is the very mission of immigration control, and the Basic Plan for Immigration Control will keep this basic direction unchanged from the 1st Basic Plan for Immigration Control. However, specific measures, especially those on which emphases should be placed, would be reexamined to reflect the needs of the society.

The Japanese society is now witnessing a rapid progress in internationalization and globalization brought about by the progress of telecommunications, transportation, and the liberalization of economic systems. Japan should seek prosperity and stability of people's livelihood in a society more open to the international community. It is therefore necessary for Japan not only to create an environment for smooth exchanges of personnel but also to conduct smooth and proper immigration control to meet the need for flexible use of manpower in response, in particular, to changes in industrial structure and corporate behavior.

Moreover, with the population rapidly aging with less childbirth, and with the total population expected to begin decreasing in the 2000s, Japan is faced with the task of coping with the decreasing workforce and finding measures to cope with it. Faced with decline in population that is forecasted to have far-reaching impacts on society, it is necessary for Japan to first accept it as a part of the social maturity process and cope with the situation by securing a workforce within the country by increasing per-capita and societal productivity. Some people would say that Japan should maintain its affluence by replenishing the declining population and workforce with foreigners.

However, if you trace back the history of Japanese society and give thought to the Japanese people's perception of society, culture and their sensitivity, it would not be realistic to suddenly introduce a large number of foreign labor. Rather, it is necessary for Japan to aim at maintaining the vitality of the socio-economy and enhancing tangible and intangible affluence of social life by accepting foreigners in a way that would cause little friction with society. We should solve the problems step by step; the scope of acceptance (In which fields do we like to accept foreigners?), the conditions (What experience or background should foreigners have in order for Japanese people to live together with them in harmony?), and the treatment (What social-life environment can we offer to the foreigners once they are accepted?). To this end, it is necessary to study how society should be in order to get ready for the advent of the era of declining population beforehand. The Basic Policy this time will underscore this point.

Meanwhile, the progress of globalization in the international community calls for a stronger system to ensure safety in various fields of the society. In fact, the internationalization of the Japanese society and facilitation of the acceptance of foreigners should be promoted only on conditions that social safety and order would be maintained. The fact of the matter is that there are about 270,000 foreigners confirmed to be residing in Japan illegally and, if those who smuggled themselves into Japan were included, the number would be much greater. And recently, "smuggling of human beings" has become shrewd and organized as international criminal syndicates have become increasingly active behind the scenes. Crimes committed by foreigners in Japan have become serious. They are posing grave problems to the safety of the Japanese society. In the Basic Plan this time, we intend to present much tougher and more effective measures to cope with these problems.

Through these measures, the immigration control administration will promote the acceptance of foreigners who meet the social needs, based on the respect of human rights, while at the same time maintaining safety and social order. It must contribute to the creation of an ideal society and achieve a society where the Japanese people and foreigners can coexist comfortably.

While thinking about the rapid changes now emerging in various aspects and of various uncertainties involved, we have worked out the Basic Plan, taking the next five years in our perspective.