ESRI Discussion Paper Series No.283
An Analysis of Japan's Immigrant Settlement Process:
Social Stratification Occupational Attainment and Intergenerational Mobility

Research Fellow, Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office

The full text is written in Japanese.


The number of noncitizen residents in Japan accelerated after the reform of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in 1989. As a result, it reached 2,217,436, or 1.74% of the total population of Japan at the end of 2008, which was 2.2 times larger than the level at year end 1989. Throughout those years, Japanese society has experienced significant and meaningful change, even though the overall size of noncitizen residents is still low compared to other developed countries. Along this change, the importance of an analysis from the viewpoint of social stratification has been growing; this analysis focuses on socio-economic status attainment, especially occupational status attainment.

These social changes, and the immigrant settlement process itself, have recently become common issues among developed countries; it is not limited to Japan alone. On the other hand, many Japanese studies in this field have mainly focused on institutional/structural aspects, although none has yet fully revealed the actual attainment process; how each individual noncitizen residents climb social ladders.

Therefore, the present study used micro-data of all noncitizen residents in Japan from the Japanese population census of 2000, which was conducted about 10 years after the reform act. The present study analyzed the immigrant settlement process in Japan from the viewpoint of social stratification, revealing socio-economic status attainment process of the first generation and the educational attainment process of the second generation, highlighting differences in human and social capital accumulation among immigrants.

As a result, it was revealed that the disparity in status attainment among noncitizen residents in Japan could be explained by human capital disparities. And yet, the opportunity structure of status attainment is stratified/segmented by each group, mainly by reducing the effect of human capital. As a result, it was also revealed that the disparities between Japanese and noncitizen residents were very large, a finding in sync with previous institutional/structural studies. Moreover, the disparity of the first generation could be transmitted to children's educational attainment, which could fix the socio-economic intergenerational disparity. Those results are both innovative and useful from the viewpoint of individualistic approach, including intergenerational mobility, although the previous studies were mainly institutional/structural deterministic.

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