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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Acting like a state : the politics of foreign labor admission in Japan and Taiwan Kalicki, Konrad


This doctoral dissertation examines the contentious issue of international labor migration in an ever more competitive global environment. It seeks to explain why similarly advanced economies opt for different admission schemes for supplementary foreign manpower. Specifically, it examines why Japan and Taiwan – two cases that share many structural features – have adopted divergent admission mechanisms for foreign unskilled/low-skilled workers. Since the late 1980s, Japan has turned to thinly disguised labor importation channels, while Taiwan has relied on official guest-worker schemes. By examining the path of policy-making in these empirically neglected states, this study explains in theoretical terms the reasons behind adopting such divergent institutional arrangements for recruiting supplementary overseas labor. Injecting an explicit political science perspective into international migration research, it explores how preferences and autonomous interests of the state leave an imprint on the content of labor importation policy. The study argues that pressures to internationalize the Japanese and Taiwanese domestic labor markets were, at base, filtered by two interrelated factors: the state’s perception of security risks involved in admitting particular groups of migrants (be they co-ethnics or others) and inter-ministerial bargaining over authority in this policy area within the state apparatus, mediated by the state’s institutional structure. This state-centered perspective contributes to the understanding of the politics of labor importation in East Asia in particular, and to the comparative scholarship of immigration in general.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada