In 2008, 258,498 foreigners lived in Japan on long-term residency visas , which allow descendants of Japanese citizens
The Japanese government argues that the program is merely one plank in the support platform for Nikkei Japanese, including counseling and retraining programs, and that the primary motivation is the welfare of those who might want to return to their home countries to ride out the economic crisis. On the other hand, many immigrants, researchers, and advocates deride the plan, claiming that companies and the government used foreign workers during good economic times, and are merely discarding them in bad .
Claims that the program is solely for the benefit of the Nikkei residents are obviously suspicious. The government must expect to save money on returnees—subsidized public health insurance, welfare, and unemployment benefits could easily run much higher than the cost of return airfares, even in the short term .
But to what extent is the program humanitarian as well as pragmatic? For Nikkei desperate to return to their home countries, the economic assistance is no doubt welcome. However, we must ask why this program applies only to Nikkei visa holders, and not to foreign workers in other visa categories. Unlike other visa categories, the long-term resident visa allows holders to remain in
*Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees are also covered by this visa category, although they make up only a small percentage of the total.
1. Ministry of Justice, Zairyuu Shikakubetsu Gaikokujin Tourokushasuu no Suii, July 2007 [cited 2009 October 19]; Available from: http://www.moj.go.jp/PRESS/090710-1/090710-5.pdf
2. Sakura International Legal Office, Teijuusha [cited 2009 October 19]; Available from: http://www.sakura-ilo.com/shikaku/teiju1.html
3. Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, Nikkeijin Rishokusha ni taisuru Kikoku Shien Jigyou no Jisshi, March 31, 2009 [cited 2009 October 19]; Available from: http://www.mhlw.go.jp/houdou/2009/03/h0331-10.html
4. Igarashi, Makoto, Nikkeijin no Kikokushien Jigyou Sainyuukoku Seigen ha Gensoku 3nenkan, in Asahi Shimbun, May 5, 2009 [cited 2009 October 16]; Available from: http://www.asahi.com/politics/update/0511/TKY200905110259.html
5. Nikkei Burajirujin Kukyou Shoku Ushinai Seikatsu Hogo Shinsei ga Kyuuzou, in Asahi Shimbun, December 15, 2009 [cited 2009 December 17]; Available from: http://chubu.yomiuri.co.jp/news_top/090727_1.htm
6. Tabuchi, Hiroko, Japan Pays Foreign Workers to Go Home, in the New York Times, April 22, 2009 [cited 2009 October 22]; Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/23/business/global/23immigrant.html
7. Nikeijin Shitsugyousha he no Kikoku Ryohi Shikyuu ni Sanpi no Koe, in Asahi Shimbun, April 12, 2009 [cited 2009 October 22]; Available from: