Japan and Labor Migration: Theoretical and Methodological Implications of Negative Cases
journal contributionposted on 26.10.2009, 16:16 by David Bartram
Migration scholars have frequently emphasized the tremendous increase in international migration in recent years. But several advanced industrial countries – Japan in particular – have relatively small numbers of foreign workers. Most of the literature on labor migration relates only to “positive” cases, i.e., countries that have actually experienced significant inflows of foreign workers. This paper proposes considering Japan as a “negative case” of labor migration in the post-World War II period. There has been much recent interest in the growing numbers of foreign workers in Japan, but what is most interesting about Japan is the fact that the numbers are relatively small (as a percentage of the labor force) and that they began to increase so late, in comparison to other countries. The main goal of the paper is to advocate consideration of negative cases in migration research; a proper theory of labor migration would distinguish between positive and negative cases.