Japan Education Ministry Eyeing Financial Aid for Certain Non-Japanese Students

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry

The education ministry plans to expand the scope of its financial aid provision for non-Japanese students’ college education in April.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry will solicit public comments later in February before its implementation. The aid is meant to support an increasing number of children of foreign workers, whose number has also been rising amid a declining birthrate and aging population in Japan.

The ministry currently operates the financial support program through the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO). The aid includes eligibility for scholarships and loans, and tuition reductions or exemptions under the New Learning Support System for Higher Education. Aid eligibility is currently limited to Japanese citizens and permanent or special permanent residents.

From April, eligibility will expand to students with a “dependent” status, which covers spouses and minor children of foreign workers in Japan. Those eligible must have graduated from elementary through high school in Japan and intend to work and settle in Japan after graduating from university.

The ministry estimates that about 200 non-Japanese students would qualify for the program each year.

In Japan, labor shortages have spurred a reliance on foreign nationals for the workforce.

A record 2,048,675 foreign workers lived in Japan as of the end of October, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. Along with this increase, the number of residents listed as dependent has also grown, doubling over the past 10 years to about 245,000 at the end of June, according to the Immigration Services Agency’s statistics.

To secure their opportunities for higher education, the Liberal Democratic Party’s Special Committee on Foreign Workers proposed in May the need to expand the financial aid program for children under the dependent status, in consideration of their human rights.

Support groups nationwide have also requested the ministry to expand the support system for children of foreign workers, as they are more likely to be economically disadvantaged due to their parents’ working environment.

“Non-Japanese students will support Japan in the future,” one of the supporters said. “Expanding the scope of the program is a big step forward, but it would be desirable that the support further expands, such as to students entering high school.”