Oscar Boyd

Conference "Open and closed societies: historical reasons and modern consequences of inequality in Japan and Europe"

Japan being an advanced state, the world's 3rd economy, and a member of the G7, is often set up as an Asian role model of a liberal and democratic society where the rule of law prevails and human rights are protected and guaranteed to all people. However, on a closer look, every society has its problem topics, and noticing them for the analysis and comparison with other countries with similar issues becomes a crucial starting point to move further in acknowledging and solving the issues of inequality in the modern world. 

The conference aims to focus on inequality in education and the labor market. It does that from the perspective of immigration and socially vulnerable groups of minorities and non-citizens by the example of Japan and the countries of the European Union. It aims to offer a platform for the scientific approach and further discussions about the minoritized communities in the multi-layered and divided society where human rights and equality are not always protected, and not everybody is enjoying the social benefits of the democratic society in the same way. The conference and workshop aim to focus on the historical and legal roots of these problems and bring forward multifaceted discussions that only the interstate comparison under the guidance of experts can provide. The issues mentioned above are discussed from an academic perspective, including interactive discussion methods and problem-solving approaches.


Questions and topics addressed at the conference and workshop include but are not limited to:

  • Historical reasons for the inequality in Japan and the EU countries:
    • Historical remnants of inequality and their influence and existence in the modern society
    • Inadequacies of the legislation (e.g., lack of anti-hate speech legislation)
  • Inequality and injustice in the educational system and labor market in Japan and in the EU countries:
    • Problems of immigration and foreign workforce, the necessity of foreign workers to meet the labor shortage and the disparity in the labor market
    • Problems with the educational system, access to education, and quality
    • Discrimination of ethnic minorities in Japan (e.g. the Ainu, the Zainichi Koreans) and social groups (e.g. hibakusha, burakumin) and in the EU countries (e.g. ethnic minorities and minoritized communities based on social status); xenophobia and racism
    • Seeking solutions and examples of good practices (e.g., the current refugee crisis in the EU has forced governments and NGOs to act decisively and efficiently)


The conference is free of charge. The event will be held in-presence style, but depending on the situation of travel restrictions, it may be switched to online.

For the participation, please fill in the application form


Preliminary timetable

Day 1: October 13th

8.30-9.00 Conference registration

9.00-9.30 Opening words

9.30-10.30 1st presentation - Historical background of Japanese migration, legislation, and current refugee policy (Sara Park, lecturer, University of Helsinki)

10.30-11.00 Coffee break

11.00-12.00 2nd presentation - Diversity and integration of Europeans in Japan - the role of whiteness and conceptual issues (prof. Miloš Debnár, Ryukoku University)

12.00-13.00 3rd presentation - Immigrants in Estonian educational system (Maria Erss, research fellow, Tallinn University)

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00-15.00 PhD students' panel (Rennan Okawa, Osaka University; Kristjan Kaldur, University of Tartu)

15.00-17.00 Workshop

Day 2: October 14th

9.00-10.00 1st presentation - Pandemic and socio-economic condition of Immigrants: experience of inclusion and exclusion in Japan (prof. Wako Asato, Kyoto University)

10.00-10.30 Coffee break

10.30-11.30 2nd presentation - Inequalities in Integration among Immigrants in Japan (prof. David Chiavacci, University of Zurich)

11.30-12.30 3rd presentation - Tolerance for Socioeconomic Inequality — Evidence from Japan and Estonia (Joanna Kitsnik, Kyoto University)

12.30-13.30 Lunch

13.30-14.30 PhD students' panel (Mohammad Abu Sayed, Estonian Business School; Anastasia Sinitsyna, University of Tartu)

14.30-16.00 Workshop


The conference is organised by the University of Tartu Asia Centre. In case of any questions or comments, please contact Ene Selart (

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