Volume 34
Issue 3
Spring '20

Screen Door, Side Door, Closed Door: How Immigration Policies for Three Homogenous States are Decidedly Not “Open”

Written By: Josh Cohen

Abstract

Homogenous states face a tricky predicament when it comes to labor migration. Unlike “settler” countries that pride themselves on immigration, homogenous states face cultural barriers that complicate the process of incorporating a large foreign population. This clashes with the situation on the ground, as these states have relied, and are increasingly relying, on migrant workers. Nonetheless, homogenous states cannot be treated as a monolith in their reception of newcomers. This paper compares three homogenous states— Israel, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—in their treatment of foreign labor. To offer a metaphor, imagine an illustrative “door” that immigration advocates seek to remain open. Israel represents a screen door. As the “Jewish democratic state,” it encourages the immigration of Diaspora Jews but restricts the right of its non-Jewish foreign workforce to settle. Japan embodies a side door. It desires an ethnically uniform Japan but has allowed slow reforms to fill growing labor shortages. The UAE is a closed door, where purely temporary migrant workers make up a large majority of the population. Recent trends have initiated some concessions. For example, Israel faces pro-caregiver popular campaigns, and Japan has a rapidly aging population. Lastly, one must distinguish between migration and immigra- tion, which are in tension here. For these homogenous states, migration of foreign labor—while filling economic needs—disrupts the preferred ethnic immigration. This paper tackles the movement of foreign workers that hampers these states’ homogenous ideals.

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