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Migration experts in UK and Japan focus on post-Brexit labour challenge

Migration experts from the University of Birmingham and Waseda University are launching a major new research partnership that will examine a key challenge faced by both the UK and Japan – a shortage of skilled and unskilled labour.


“At a time that Japanese society is opening up, this collaboration presents a great opportunity to also link Japanese academia to the outside world,” said Professor Gracia Liu Farrer of Waseda University.

(Photo credit: Kaique Rocha on Pexels)

After leaving the EU on 29 March, Britain faces the prospect of looking for labour beyond Europe, whilst, one month after Brexit, Japan opens its doors to large scale labour migration for the first time and is faced with the new challenge of diversification.

The universities’ partnership brings together British and Japanese researchers with expertise in social sciences, arts and humanities – with Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) and Waseda University’s Institute for Asian Migration (IAM) at its heart.

Backed by funding from the UK’s Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), the partnership begins with a workshop in Brussels, in June, when key IRiS and IAM academics outline five key research themes that will unite leading scholars in migration and superdiversity studies with early career researchers.

Professor Jenny Phillimore, of IRiS, commented: “Japan and the UK have many political, economic and social differences, yet share one major challenge: a shortage of skilled and unskilled labour. Both have resisted mass migration but now understand that future prosperity depends on access to foreign labour.

“As Britain re-embraces labour migration and Japan’s relatively homogenous society faces an influx of migrants, our nations have much to learn from each other. The University of Birmingham and Waseda University each have world-renowned expertise in migration and superdiversity. We’re looking forward to establishing a new era of Japan/UK scholarship.”

IRiS and IAM are well-networked in their countries and form the hub of the new research network. They will open a call for research papers to other migration academics within the UK and Japan – aiming to secure an equal number of Japanese and UK scholars co-authoring papers.

“At a time that Japanese society is opening up, this collaboration presents a great opportunity to also link Japanese academia to the outside world,” said Professor Gracia Liu Farrer, Director of IAM. “Migration and diversity research is rapidly developing in Japan. IAM is a new institute. We hope to gain many inspirations and know-hows by working together with IRiS and the UK migration researchers.”


Professor Gracia Liu-Farrer (left) and Professor Jenny Phillimore

The project will share existing knowledge and develop new ways of thinking to explore key questions identified in the Brussels workshop. A subsequent call for research papers will lead to a five-day Tokyo symposium, in December, which will unite leading scholars in migration and superdiversity studies with early career researchers, policymakers and practitioners.

The project complements a strategic joint research partnership between the Universities of Birmingham and Waseda, started in 2016, that is producing collaboration across areas such as robotics, corpus linguistics, atmospheric environmental science, urban studies, language education, creative writing and Shakespeare.

For more information or to request interviews, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or +44 (0)782 783 2312. Out-of-hours enquiries: +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

Notes to Editors

• The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, with its work bringing people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

• Waseda is one of Japan’s most prestigious private universities. Based in Tokyo, it was one of the first Japanese universities to accept foreign students, and it currently hosts 5,000 international students from 100 countries, the highest number in Japan.

• Birmingham and Waseda research staff leading the project include:
o Professor Jenny Phillimore (IRiS, UoB)
o Professor Gracia Farrer (WU)
o Professor Glenda Roberts (IAM, WU)
o Dr Nando Sigona, (IRiS, UoB).

• The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. For more information visit

• The ESRC is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective.

• UK Research and Innovation is a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas. Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England.

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