Joint Japanese Studies Centre and German Studies seminar: Health-Care Professionals on the Global Labor Market: A Comparative Study of (Non-)Migration Policies in Japan and Germany

It was great to kick off our inaugural Japanese and German studies seminar with Prof. Gabriele Vogt on 17 July 2018.

Professor Vogt at the JSC
L to R: Axel Fliethmann, Gabriele Vogt, Carolyn Stevens, Jeremy Breaden

Health-Care Professionals on the Global Labor Market: A Comparative Study of (Non-)Migration Policies in Japan and Germany

Dr. Gabriele Vogt (University of Hamburg)

Filipina workers in Asakura

In the light of rapid population aging, Japan and Germany have recently jumped onto the bandwagon of recruiting international health-care professionals. They both do so via bilateral treaties signed with a number of nations in Southeast Asia respectively in Eastern Europe and North Africa; with the Philippines being the one sending country Japan and Germany alike are aiming to recruit from. Both migration systems, however, have proven to be unattractive to potential employers and employees alike. They tend to increase rather than cut costs on the employers’ side. They also add hurdles to the career paths of migrants, exemplified in the non-compatibility of degrees previously earned, and the requirement of a high level of language proficiency in Japanese respectively German. As a result, few employers are willing to hire international health-care professionals via these migration systems, while only a handful of health-care professionals choose Japan or Germany over the more common destination countries of the English-speaking world.

This research project, which is based on qualitative content analysis of government documents in both countries as well as expert interviews with politicians, bureaucrats, and members of the health-care profession, sheds light onto the policy-making processes that lead to the remarkably similar – and equally unattractive – design of both migration systems. It also explores the background of these half-hearted approaches to curb the negative effects of rapid population aging onto Japan’s and Germany’s domestic labor markets: It will be argued that even in the light of increasing demographic and economic pressure, a political and societal consensus to accept large-scale labor migration is still lacking in both countries. On the other hand, business leaders through small-scale initiatives, temporary regulations, and loopholes, nowadays contribute to an increase in international health-care professionals in both countries.

Dr. Gabriele Vogt

About the presenter: Gabriele Vogt (PhD, 2002) is Professor of Japanese Politics and Society in the Institute of Asian and African Studies at the University of Hamburg, and a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies at Waseda University. Gabriele serves as a board member to the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, the European Association for Japanese Studies, and the German Association for Asian Studies. She is the European representative of the Social Science Japan Journal. Her main research areas are demographic change and international labour migration to Japan and Germany, as well as Okinawan studies in the contexts of social movement research and International Relations. Her latest book is entitled Population Aging and Health-Caregiver Migration to Japan (Springer, 2018).