We need immigration. This shouldn't be a matter of argument or dispute, it should be a matter of fact. Without immigration our society - the civilisation too many claim is threatened by migration - withers and dies.
Though demographers have long anticipated the transformation Japan is now facing, the country only now seems to be sobering up to the epic metamorphosis at hand.
Police and firefighters are grappling with the safety hazards of a growing number of vacant buildings. Transportation authorities are discussing which roads and bus lines are worth maintaining and cutting those they can no longer justify. Aging small-business owners and farmers are having trouble finding successors to take over their enterprises. Each year, the nation is shuttering 500 schools.
One of the world's oldest and greatest civilisations, Japan is slipping slowly away. Whole abandoned villages, towns populated almost exclusively by the old, shuttered businesses closed from lack of a workforce. Without new blood Japan will die - not a sudden violent shock but a gradual decline to the point where the assets and value of the nation are devoured by the old. Yet Japan still keeps one of the world's strictest immigration systems:
Abe, however, ruled out any significant change to Japan’s closed-door approach to immigration at the UN general assembly in New York in September.
“It is an issue of demography,” he said. “I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees, we need to have more activities by women, elderly people and we must raise our birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants.”
This is the demographic equivalent of tilting at windmills or commanding the tide not to come in - yet it is actively promoted as a policy by politicians eager to exploit people's distrust of migrants, a distrust built on race, religion, culture and language:
“Look at nurses, they believe their income will be cut if we let in Filipinos and Indonesians,” said Katsuyuki Yakushiji, a sociologist at Toyo University in Tokyo. “They also say that these people can’t speak Japanese well and that could be risky. Yet, at the same time, they complain about severe overwork and say we need to add nurses.”
Familiar rhetoric to Europeans and now, tragically for an immigrant culture, in the the USA - short-term fears and self-interest are placed above the fact that there aren't enough people to do the jobs we want done. And that it's not just high skills we need but also old-fashioned labour from people willing to kill chickens, clean lavatories and help old people get in and out of bed.
It's great politics - easy pickings - to wind people up about immigration, to claim that it's damaging our culture or society. But it's lousy policy - we need those immigrants for, as Japan shows us, without them the basis of society, the social compact that forms our civilisation, slowly washes away.