Labyrinth of Highly Skilled Migration in Japan: Society, Labour and Policy

  • Daisuke Wakisaka

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Japan is enigmatic for migration scholars. The country will lose a quarter of its population in 40 years with the elderly ratio climbing to nearly 40%, remaining one of the most aging economies. Nevertheless, it still retains the lowest share of migrants in the labour market among OECD members. It seems no grand design for the future generation is shared by policymakers or citizens: how should the country open up a practical prospect under this hard reality?

This research addresses the enigma through the optics of highly skilled migration which has been one of the pivotal agendas of the recent policy development in Japan. In attempting to fuel the economy, the Japanese government has lately devoted themselves to attracting highly skilled migrants (HSMs). One of the implemented policies is a points-based system; however, it has failed to deliver the expectation at the outset. With this policy failure in mind, this study aims to fill the important research gaps on HSMs in Japan: the mechanism of skilled migration and its interplay with policies. In other words, what makes HSMs decide to work in Japan and how the public policies influence their decisions. The study centres on these micro-macro interplays.

The dissertation is structured to explore the labyrinth made up of three mazes—societal, labour and policy dimensions that HSMs in Japan face. Based on the qualitative inquiry, the study will unfold the dynamism of the mazes through the perception of HSMs and migration experts. In so doing, the research offers new insights to academic arguments by producing concepts such as ‘coerced harmonisation’ and ‘no choice democracy’, whose implications are not limited to skilled migration but cover the overall migration agendas. Throughout, the discussion will present how the lessons drawn from Japan can contribute to addressing the pressing migration issues in other countries.
Date of Award25 Sept 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorAnn Singleton (Supervisor) & Jonathan V Beaverstock (Supervisor)

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