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Date and Venue

April 9 (Tuesday) | 17:00-18:30 JST

In-person at Waseda University

Room 712, Building 19, Waseda University

Online via Zoom

Event details:


David Chiavacci (University of Zurich)

David Chiavacci is Professor in Social Science of Japan at the University of Zurich. His specialization is political and economic sociology of contemporary Japan in a comparative perspective. The focus of his current research is on social movements, social inequality and Japan's new immigration and immigration policy. Recent publications include Re-emerging from Invisibility: Social Movements and Political Activism in Contemporary Japan (London: Routledge 2018), Japanese Political Economy Revisited: Abenomics and Institutional Change (London: Routledge 2019), Civil Society and the State in Democratic East Asia: Between Entanglement and Contention in Post High Growth (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2020), “Japan’s Melting Core: Social Frames and Political Crisis Narratives of Rising Inequalities” in Crisis Narratives, Institutional Change and Transformation of the Japanese State (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2021, pp. 25-50), “Social Inequality in Japan” in Oxford Handbook of Japanese Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022, pp. 451-470), “China’s and Japan’s Winding Path to the Refugee Convention: State Identity Transformations and the Evolving International Refugee Regime” in Modern Asian Studies (2023, 57/4: 1415-1447). “Tokyo Olympics 2020: Between Dream and Contention” in Contemporary Japan (2023, 35/1: 3-15.


The 2018 reform under Prime Minister Shinzō Abe (2012-2020) is a dam break in Japan’s immigration policy. Previously, the opening of the Japanese labor market for lower-qualified foreign workers was discussed for decades without a comprehensive reform being implemented despite far-reaching proposals. This standstill was also the case during the term of office of Prime Minister Junichirō Koizumi (2001-2006). This talk compares the immigration policy during the Koizumi and Abe administrations and discusses this shift from prolonged stalemate to comprehensive reform by analyzing the framing and institutional setting in immigration policy around 2005 and in the late 2010s. 

It is argued that the persistent stalemate on the most hotly debated issue of Japan’s immigration policy was due to the diversity of frames with very different policy implications and an institutional fragmentation of the policy making process without any pivotal policy entrepreneur. Koizumi and Abe, however, established a powerful core executive during their tenure, enabling both to act as policy entrepreneurs and overrule the institutional fragmentation. But while gridlock continued under Koizumi, Abe pushed through major reform from the top down in a very short time. This difference can be explained by the issue framing of immigration. Under Koizumi and through his own agenda-setting, the security framework became the most important and very influential counter-argument for a more open immigration policy due to a moral panic about crime and public safety. In the years of the Abe administration, the moral panic subsided and the importance of the security frame diminished, leading to a window of opportunity in conjuncture with the centralization of decision-making. Abe and his entourage were reluctant policy entrepreneurs, but they fundamentally changed the framework in Japanese immigration policy by opening the front door to lower-qualified foreign labor.

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