by Yoshimichi Sato, Tohoku University and ISA Executive Committee
I participated in an international symposium on “Today’s Trends of Global Migration in Japan and Indonesia” in Bali on October 29. This symposium was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Social Stratification and Inequality, which I direct. It had two Japanese speakers (including me) and two Indonesian speakers. While the Japanese speakers talked about transnational migration — immigration to Japan in particular — the Indonesian speakers reported on domestic immigration to Bali. Although the migration steams were different, they shared some common themes: the effect of globalization on migration and the effect of migration on the host society.
It is obvious that globalization has facilitated domestic as well as transnational migration. However, it is still unclear how domestic policies such as screening of immigrants through visa policies affect immigration patterns. For example, in 1990 the Japanese government opened its door to Brazilians who are descendants of Japanese immigrants to Brazil in order to compensate for the shortage of semi-skilled and unskilled workers. Over the years, however, some Brazilian immigrants who had been manual workers entered the middle classes, becoming, for example, shop owners utilizing their ethnic resources or middle-level managers functioning as a liaison between Brazilian workers and Japanese higher-level managers. These phenomena are consequences unintended by the Japanese government and lead to interesting research topics about the interactions among globalization, migration, and local institutions (or policies).
Another intriguing topic discussed at the symposium concerned the prestige of occupations. An Indonesian speaker talked about Balinese farmers who hire immigrant workers from Java instead of relying on the labor of children. They want their children to go to college, despite farming income being higher than other jobs. The speaker attributed this to the low prestige of farming, which then becomes a factor in determining migration.
In sum, the symposium was a successful exchange of findings on domestic and transnational migration in Japan and Indonesia, deepening our understanding of migration in the era of globalization.