Waseda Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies Seminar Series
The Impact of COVID-19 on Foreign Residents in “No Immigration” Japan: “Unwanted Isolation”, Structural Inequity, and the Loss of Social Capital
Date and venue:
October 29th, 2021 (Friday) at 15:00-16:30 (JST) / Online (Zoom)
Chris Burgess is a Professor of Japanese Studies at Tsuda University, Tokyo, where he specialises in migration, multiculturalism, and identity in Japan.
While few have remained untouched by the effects of COVID-19, migrants have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic in terms of mobility (movement restrictions), employment (loss of jobs), and health (high infection rates). A further risk unique to migrants is that the progress made to date on integrating into host communities could be reversed or even erased. Clearly, increased pressure to “stay home” and “social distance” – institutional restrictions on movement and human contact – has resulted in isolation and loneliness for many; however, for migrants who lack connections, support networks, and social capital in a host society this isolation can be especially debilitating. This presentation looks at the impact of COVID-19 on foreign residents in Japan. One finding was that while government physical health and financial support policies during the pandemic generally treated foreign residents equally, structural inequity meant that many foreigners had difficulties accessing the resources. However, one significant gap in the support was mental health: measures addressing “unwanted isolation” and loneliness were directed solely at Japanese citizens. Given the importance of building social capital in the integration process, the presentation argues that this oversight – coming on top of existing so-called “multicultural” polices which are already non-integrative in nature – will have serious consequences for the well-being of the foreign community in post-pandemic Japan.