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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Development of National Migration Regimes: Japan in Comparative Perspective


This paper offers three linked arguments. First, it argues that Japan alone amongst the industrialized democracies avoided importing guestworkers for decades due to the legacies in its experience of decolonization. The rapidity and abruptness of decolonization in Japan led to an extremely rigid entry control policy, which was closed to economic concerns. Second, the paper argues that the comparative study of immigration politics is ripe for the development of a theoretically grounded typology based on the institutional logics embedded in national migration regimes. Three ideal types are proposed: (1) decolonization (or post-colonial) regimes; (2) demographic regimes; and (3) economic (labor-market) regimes. The third argument is that “convergence” between national migration regimes exists in the layering of logics. That is, over time, most states have moved from regimes that are closer to one of the three ideal types to regimes that layer, or mix, multiple regimes.

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