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CAN IMMIGRANTS BE BIG IN JAPAN?

CAN IMMIGRANTS BE BIG IN JAPAN?

Japan is running out of something important: people. Low birth rates have caused the population to shrink for almost a decade, causing labor shortages in some parts of the the economy. As a prominent Japanese financier once told me, gazing out at Mount Fuji from his skyscraper office in Tokyo, “Japan makes many, many things – and unfortunately, babies are no longer one of those things.”


But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who recently won a third term in office, has a solution: let in more immigrants. His party is preparing to unveil a proposal that would grant work visas to as many as 500,000 more foreign workers over the next half decade, allowing high-skilled workers to bring their families with them as well. These immigrants would come to do jobs in specific sectors such as agriculture, construction, healthcare and hospitality, and they would not be granted residency.

The plan is a controversial one. For one thing, Japanese labor organizations are worried about foreigners driving down wages. But there is also a broader cultural and political challenge.

Japan is one of the most ethnically homogenous countries on earth. Foreign-born residents make up just 2 percent of the population, and although that number has risen in recent years, it’s still far lower than in Europe or the US where 10-15 percent of the population hails from abroad. What’s more, a majority of Japanese like it that way: close to 60 percent of Japanese think that diversity makes a country worse off, according to a 2017 poll.

Opening up to more foreigners carries a distinct political risk. Japan, almost uniquely among the large democracies, has had no problem with disruptive right-wing populism in recent years. Relatively low-income inequality is surely one reason for that, as is Prime Minister Abe’s own nationalist and anti-elitist streak (Steve Bannon openly admires him), which leaves little room for upstarts from the fringes. But a major reason is also that Japan has so few immigrants – a group universally targeted by successful right-wing political movements elsewhere in the developed world.

Prime Minister Abe therefore has a tricky task ahead of him. At a time when anti-immigrant backlashes have reshaped politics in so many other large democracies he must try to balance the needs of Japan’s economy with the sensitivities of its society

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

Today at 12 noon EST, join GZERO Media for a virtual Town Hall, "Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year," presented in partnership with Eurasia Group and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Our panel will discuss the road ahead in the global response to the COVID crisis. Will there be more multilateral cooperation on issues like gender equality moving forward from the pandemic?

Watch the event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/townhall

Our moderator, CNBC health care correspondent Bertha Coombs, along with Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, and Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, will speak with distinguished experts on three key issues:

Heidi Larson, Director, The Vaccine Confidence Project

  • How will COVID vaccines be distributed safely?

Minouche Shafik, Director of London School of Economics & Political Science

  • How has the pandemic disproportionately impacted women?

Madeleine Albright, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management; former US Secretary of State

  • What is the opportunity for global cooperation emerging from this crisis, and what are the greatest political risks?
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How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely available in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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