Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Environmental Studies

Program Name/Specialization

Human Geography


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Professor Margaret Walton-Roberts

Advisor Role



Japan is ageing, and its population is declining. Given the potential detrimental economic and social consequences brought about by this sort of demographic change, it has been suggested that the Japanese could benefit from the implementation of more liberal (im)migration policies. This thesis studies the demographic change – immigration policy development nexus from the perspective of the state in the context of Japan and assesses the role that immigration plays within the larger population debate. A constructivist grounded theory methodology is utilised to analyse primary and secondary qualitative data. Additionally, two theoretical approaches of political demography (Robbins and Smith, 2016) and policy mobilities paradigm (see Baker et al. 2016) are employed in order to explore how demographic change may be informing immigration policy design and how Japan might be interacting with other nations and international organizations in such process. The thesis concludes with the observation that the immigration option has not been prioritized to address the various challenges that have been brought about by population decline and ageing. The available evidence gathered for this project also indicates that the latest amendments to the law – which are more liberal in nature – do not consider immigration to be a replacement for the loss in population. These amendments do, however, facilitate the mobility of foreign human resources with a view to partially alleviating specific labour shortages and having newcomers contribute to economic growth while, at the same time, respecting the current ‘façade’ regarding immigration control policies as well as the country’s nationhood regulatory principle. As such, this work makes the case that Japan’s strategy regarding immigration policy change is that of ‘highly selective, cautious, progressive incrementalism’. This thesis also suggests that Japanese policy-makers closely examine other countries’ systems and keep track of the latest trends regarding immigration control management but remain reticent to actively engage with other nations and international organizations in the design of the legislation.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season