Japan an outlier in its definitions of citizenship? Japanese
Only author Debito Arudou asserts that Japan is, indeed, an
outlier. “Because Japan’s citizenship laws are jus sanguinis,”
he writes, “only those with blood ties to Japan may be Japanese
(as opposed to just about every other developed country, where if
you are born there, you are automatically a citizen). This means
that if Japan behaved like a normal developed country, the Zainichis
[JRN eds.—Japan-born children of Korean and Chinese decent] would
be Japanese citizens.” (Arduou, pg. vii) This assertion is taken
at face value by Daily Yomiuri staff writer, Tom Baker,
when he repeats from the book "Close to half of all registered foreigners
in Japan were born and raised here as native speakers and be
would citizens already in just about any other developed country
[JRN eds.—emphasis added]." 1
explore the validity of this claim: we reviewed “Citizenship
Laws of the World” by the United States Office of Personnel
Management Investigations Service (IS-1, March 2001) which had a
summary of the citizenship laws of 190 states. Our study included
a tabulation of each state’s citizenship laws in terms of jus
solis, jus sanguinis, dual-citizenship and naturalization.
employ both their definitions of citizenship and statistical population
sample. Jus sanguinis, or “citizenship by decent,” is a
method whereby citizenship is “passed onto a child based upon at
least one of the parents being a citizen of that nation, regardless
of that child’s actual state of birth.” Jus solis, or “citizenship
by birth,” is a method whereby citizenship is simply “granted due
to birth within the state…regardless of the parents’ citizenship
or status.” States that do not automatically confer citizenship
upon birth, but carry complicated ethnic2
exceptions to the general rule—including Japan’s own exception of
conferring Japanese citizenship to “children born of unknown parents”—are
ignored for the purpose of this study.
analysis includes discussions of “samples and populations” in the
statistical sense—that is, a sample of sovereign states with publicly
available information on citizenship laws and the rights to citizenship,
the aggregate of such states from which these samples are drawn
(a population), and their respective quantitative analyses. Thus,
the percentages below treat each state and its respective citizenship
laws as a sample datum within larger political aggregates. A census
of the civilian population is not considered. Therefore, if we consider
the G-7, for example, 42.9% or 3 out of 7 states at the time of
this study employ jus solis as a means of obtaining citizenship.
results indicate that Mr. Arudou’s assertion does not hold up to
Japan falls within the majority—not the minority—of states worldwide
without automatic jus solis conferral, regardless of whether
or not a definition of “development” is necessary.
2. Jus Solis conferring states are only prevalent among
the Organization of American States (OAS)—a political entity of
the Western Hemisphere that combines both “developed” and “developing”
3. There is no obvious correlation between “development” and jus
solis conferring states.
4. Japan, to be sure, does fall within the minority of
developed states that do not offer dual-citizenship.
5. However, trend analysis and anecdotal evidence both suggest that
states are moving away from—not towards—the automatic conferral
of citizenship based on birth, or at least increasingly question
its theoretical and constitutional legitimacy in these changing
social scientists compare Japan against its peers in either the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or
G-7. We expand that list to include the other permutations of the
G-7, the European Union (EU), the Organization of American States
(OAS), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the
world population of states. Table 1 tabulates our findings.
contrast to naturalization opportunities afforded legal aliens in
Japan, there are only seven states worldwide that explicitly frown
As they are a small fraction of Third World states, we have excluded
that column from Table 1. Jus sanguinis is also omitted
because of its virtual7
universality among the world population of states.
that confer citizenship to all foreign nationals born within its
borders, regardless of the nationality of the parents, and under
all circumstances, including those born unto foreign
diplomatic personnel, transient parents, or ships flying the state
flag in international waters, are a small sample of the world population
of states. This phenomenon we call “pure jus solis.” Only
22 out of 190 states, or 11.6%, according to our analysis of the
data, offer such citizenships rights. Moreover, only three states
within that category may be considered truly “developed” by way
of their OECD membership: Ireland, France and Mexico.
Percentages of Total Membership by Political Identity
Jus Solis and Dual-Citizenship
automatic (read: pure) conferral under all circumstances
 automatic conferral plus states with restrictions on
children born to transient parents and foreign diplomatic
"Citizenship Laws of the World"; Wikipedia;
our definition of jus solis—for the purpose of this study—is
more generous. In our tabulations of jus solis, we consider
states that carry exclusionary caveats against transient parents
(e.g., Canada) and children born to foreign diplomatic personnel
(e.g., New Zealand) to still confer citizenship based on birth as
jus solis. The point was to test for trends and clusters
that showed how different Japan was from other jus solis
conferring states such as those exemplified in North America, following
the definitions and parameters of the United States Office of Personnel
Management Investigations Services.
Table 1 indicates, "developed" nations conferring citizenship by
birth fall within the clear minority regardless of the political
identity used; in the EU, only two states (i.e., France and Ireland),
or 8%, confer such rights; in the OECD—a larger definition
of "development"—registers 20%. Those states are
Canada, France, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and USA. Indeed, the
only political identity conferring jus solis as a majority
is the OAS—an American mixture of "developed" and
"undeveloped" states, and not considered to be representative
of the "developed" world by most social scientific definitions.
But, again, the OAS is neither representative of the world population
conclusion: Japan is not an outlier in its definitions of citizenship.
and the Birth-Rights to Citizenship
there a correlation between economic development and a state’s adoption
of jus solis citizenship laws? Again, we tested this hypothesis
on a statistical sample of world states (170) where data were available
for both real GDP per capita (constant US dollars, inflation adjusted)
and legal status.
developed nations are defined as states that have achieved (currently
or historically) a high degree of industrialization, and which enjoy
the higher standard of living that wealth and technology make possible.
This so-called “standard of living” is generally measured by real
(i.e., inflation adjusted) income per person. For the sake of this
study we employ real GDP per capita—FY2000 data sourced at Penn
World Tables 6.1.
bivariate display is used to examine the relationship between two
variables: GDP per capita (a measure of economic development) and
states with jus solis. These variables are categorical.
The relationship is depicted below where states with and without
jus solis are represented by values of 1 and 2, respectively.
A problem arises with the graph because cases having the same or
similar values on the Y-axis (real GDP per capita) are sometimes
plotted on top of each other and cannot be discerned—an instance
of overplotting. We reduced this problem by adding a small random
value to each case’s score on the X-axis, which helps spread out
the points. This technique is known as “jittering.”
assessing our jittered scatterplot, column "1" plots the
number of states that automatically confer birth-rights to citizenship
and column "2" plots the number of states that do not.
Our parameters for "developed" states are defined by statistical
observations from the OECD: the range of real GDP per capita values
are from approximately US$8800 (Mexico) to US$44,000 (Luxembourg).
The large oval drawn around a portion of column "1" represents
the theoretical area where—assuming the hypothesis were correct—"developed"
states conferring jus solis would be found en masse.
Nevertheless, we can see that there is little correlation between
the two variable sets. In fact, among the so-called “developed states”
the percentage of those states adopting jus solis citizenship
laws was statistically low: 13:41, or 32 percent of the sample states
in column "1".
conclusion: there is virtually no correlation between economic development
and the adoption of jus solis citizenship laws. If "truth"
is really nothing more than a "correspondence" with the
facts, it is incorrect to argue that Japan's definitions of citizenship
are inconsistent with those of "normal developed countries."
States Moving “Towards” Jus Solis?
previous sections have disproved some of the conventional wisdom
about Japan’s allegedly abnormal behavior towards its permanent
residents: that Japan is an outlier in its citizenship conferral
based on place of birth (jus solis); and that most economically
developed states tend to confer such rights on its residents. This
section presents rudimentary tests of the contending argument: that
developed states are slowly adopting jus solis citizenship
laws. To be sure, from January 1, 2000, Germany adopted some
jus solis provisions (see footnote 5), albeit not automatic,
provided that “one parent has lived in the state for eight years.”
Is this part of a much smaller trend?
are several ways to approach this question. Both trend analysis
and anecdotal evidence seem to indicate that more states are “moving
away from”—not “towards”—the automatic conferral of citizenship
based on a child’s state of birth, as well as question its theoretical,
economic and constitutional legitimacy.
let's go to the numbers. According to data collated by the United
States Office of Personnel Management Investigations Service, 26
Germany—have (or had) statutory limitations and restrictions
(suggesting change) and/or clear changes to the law. Of those 26
states, at the time of this study, half do not confer birth-based
citizenship automatically. But by themselves these absolute percentages
tell us nothing about the reasoning or type of citizenship conferral
behind the decisions. For that, one should also look at other measures.
four "developed" states (i.e., Australia, Canada, Germany,
and New Zealand) changed their laws, indicating a mostly Third World
phenomena. The observation is not surprising as many states were
former African and Asian colonies that gained their independence
from a European power. Of these four developed states, Canada and
New Zealand allow for automatic birth-rights to citizenship; Australia
and Germany do not.
makes some states adopt such citizenship provisions and others not?
This is a complex issue, but we suspect the roots lie in the national
interest. States that have traditionally sought immigration allow
for such carrot-and-stick birth-right incentives. Technologically
developed states with already high standards of living obviously
have less political incentive to increase immigration, thereby forcing
more workers to compete for limited public and private resources.
Indeed, a June 2003 study conducted by the The Netherlands Bureau
for Economic Policy Analysis, part of the Ministry of Economic Affairs,
concluded that "the overall net gain in income of residents
[to an increase in immigration] is likely to be small and maybe
evidence reinforces the hypothesis, and suggests that anti-jus
solis trends will continue among developed nations as globalization
intensifies. In the United States, for example, discussing the subject
of citizenship—its rights, requirements and refusal—is
no longer a right-wing exercise. Scholarly writings10
on the subject are offering up new theoretical and constitutional
challenges to such things as jus solis, non-citizen local
voting, campaign contributions, and the right to certain forms of
public welfare. But while the United States has yet to seriously
present amendments to its Constitution or changes to Title 8 of
U.S. Code 1401-1409 conferring citizenship to children born in the
state, other states have.
Ireland—only one of two states in Europe to automatically
confer citizenship based on place of birth—it began discussing its
modification in 2001. A referendum proposed to insert the following
section into Article 9 of the Constitution:
any other provisions of this Constitution, a person born
in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and
its seas, who does not have, at the time of his or her birth,
at least one parent who is an Irish citizen or entitled
to be an Irish citizen is not [JRN eds.—emphasis
added] entitled to Irish citizenship or nationality, unless
otherwise provided for by law.
the other European state affording pure jus solis citizenship
rights to children born to non-citizens, appears to face similar
doubts. In 1998, the French Civil Code (Act n° 98-170 of 16
March 1998, Articles 21-7: 21-11) implemented restrictions on birth-rights
to citizenship and now follows the Italian legal model. This was
followed by the surprising rise of French nationalist Jean-Marie
Le Pen and the National Front, a political party composed primarily
of urban and working class, that seeks to completely replace jus
solis with jus sanguinis citizenship rights.
the entire EU appears to have mixed feelings about the nature of
immigration and the birth-rights to citizenship. "Although
the numbers of Europeans who are actively tolerant outnumber those
who are intolerant, the most common responses can be classified
only as 'passively tolerant' or 'ambiguous'", according to
a study by The Foreign Policy Centre. The study goes on to note:
"In 2000, 48% of Europeans felt immigrants had enriched the
cultural life of their country. However, a majority of Europeans
voiced concerns over minorities and think that they threaten social
peace and welfare. The polls show that Europeans tend to be particularly
concerned about the impact which migration can have on unemployment,
social welfare and educational standards."11
evidence cited above belies the notion that the Japanese government's
definition of citizenship falls outside the norm of either "developed"
or "developing" states. More importantly, there is little
correlation between birth-rights to citizenship and economic and
institutional development. While some prominently developed states
afford children born to non-citizen parents such automatic birth-rights,
Japan's legal convergence with this world minority is neither automatic
nor inevitable. Indeed, as the net benefits of globalization to
domestic economies and their existing inhabitants are weighed and
calculated, public policy among the handful of states conferring
such rights may even shift someday to join the global majority.
Baker writes that such "background information" is "startl[ing]."
Tom Baker, "The Water's Fine, But Don't Come In," The Daily
Yomiuri, Book Review Section, January 16, 2005.
Based upon the Law of Citizenship (1961), Sierra Leone, for example,
only confers jus solis to persons of "African Negro" (sic;
Several states do not confer automatic citizenship to children born
out of wedlock. According to the Citizenship law (1965) of Austria,
for example, a child born out of wedlock to a foreign mother and
an Austrian father is not considered a citizen.
The British Commonwealth (ex Canada) tend to impose restrictions
on the conferral of citizenship. In Australia and the United Kingdom,
for example, one parent needs to be either a citizen of that state
or a permanent resident. Conferral of citizenship is not automatic.
Under the Nationality Act (May 4, 1950), Japan carries a similar
law: a child, whose father is a citizen of Japan (jus sanguinis
a patre), regardless of the child's state of birth, or a child
born to a Japanese mother and unknown or stateless father, is awarded
Japanese citizenship. The Nationality Law was subsequently amended
in 1985, so a child now acquires Japanese nationality if either
of the parents is a Japanese national. Nevertheless, conferral of
citizenship is still not automatic.
Several states impose time constraints on children born within their
borders. Conferral of citizenship is not automatic. In Iran, Italy,
and Mozambique, for example, children born to non-citizens must
wait until the age of 18 and continue to reside in the state for
at least one year thereafter before being granted citizenship. Sometimes
constraints are imposed on the parents. In Germany (post-2000),
for example, citizenship can be acquired only if one parent has
lived in the state for eight years. We hesitate to include France
in the temporal restrictions category. According to one source,
the French Civil Code (Act n° 98-170 of 16 March 1998, Articles
21-7: 21-11) implemented restrictions on birth-rights to citizenship
and now follows the Italian legal model. If true, France cannot
be considered jus solis, let alone "pure jus solis."
However, we defer to our primary resource for methodological consistency.
Those states are Brunei Darussalem, Ghana, Kuwait, Malaysia, North
Korea, Palau, and Syria. Naturalization may only be possible with
a "special act of government" or other extraordinary requirements.
North Korean citizenship, for example, is only granted by the Presidium
of the Supreme Peoples' Assembly. It is unclear if a defection implies
eventual naturalization. (viz. Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins.)
We say "virtual" because only 12 out of 190 states fail
to provide information on its conferral. In most cases, the omissions
are logical; the state either exists in name only (e.g., Yugoslavia)
or is in legal transition (e.g., Iraq).
Those states are Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh,
Belize, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Grenada, Guyana, Indonesia, Kiribati,
Lesotho, Libya, Malta, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinnea,
St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Trinidad
and Tobago, Tuvalu, and Uganda.
CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis Home Page.
30 June 2003. Hans Roodenburg, Rob Euwals, and Harry ter Rele, "Immigration
and the Dutch Economy," <http://www.cpb.nl/eng/pub/bijzonder/47/bijz47.pdf>
Recently, there has been a growing trend within the Anglo-American
literature to discuss the boundaries of citizenship. See, for example,
Holston, J., A. Cities and Citizenship (Chicago University
Press 1999), Steenbergen, B.V. The Condition of Citizenship
(Sage 1994), Hutchings, K. and Dannreuther, R. Cosmopolitan
Citizenship (Macmillan 1999), Jacobsohn, J., Dunn, S. and Williams
College, Diversity and Citizenship: Rediscovering American Nationhood
(Rowman & Littlefield 1996), Vogel, U. and Moran, M. The
Frontiers of Citizenship (Macmillan 1991). A new journal has
even been launched devoted entirely to the study of citizenship,
appropriately entitled Citizenship Studies.
Policy Group (MPG) Website. Mark Leonard and Phoebe Griffith,
"The European Inclusion Index: Is Europe Ready for the Globalisation
of People?," <http://www.migpolgroup.com/uploadstore/brussels-inclusion-index.pdf>
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