English as a Gateway? Immigration and Public Opinion in Japan
Japan, like most of the developed world, faces potentially extreme demographic shortfalls brought on by a rapidly aging society with a long life expectancy and low birthrate. Where other western countries have utilized greater levels of immigration to help fight these tendencies, immigration levels in Japan are comparatively much lower. Increasing immigration to Japan is one suggested solution to the demographic problem, yet research examining public opinion on higher levels of immigration in Japan is surprisingly rare. Rather, public opposition to immigration is often unquestioningly taken as a given. This paper, utilizing nationally-representative data from the Japan General Social Survey, digs deeper into public opinion on immigration at the national and regional levels, considering factors that can influence respondents' perceptions. In addition to some regional variation, we find that English conversation ability is most strongly associated with favorable perceptions of immigrants in Japan.
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