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Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader TJL forwards a message from an Indian exchange student in Tokyo. It seems that making sure no foreign resident leaves Japan (because only foreigners won’t be let back in, even if they’re Permanent Residents) isn’t enough hardship — now Japan is making it more difficult for them to live here. Jobs are disappearing with the pandemic, affecting the arubaito economy and students in particular. So the Ministry of Education (MEXT) has launched a program to assist all students in Japan in financial distress, with up to 200,000 yen cash paid out. That is, unless they’re ryuugakusei (foreign exchange students). Even though foreign students already face enough hurdles to their success and stability of life in Japan, MEXT has decided only the NJ who are in the top 30% of their class qualify. (Naturally, Japanese slacker students need not worry — they’re all part of the tribe.)
MEXT’s justification, according to the Kyodo article below, is “いずれ母国に帰る留学生が多い中、日本に将来貢献するような有為な人材に限る要件を定めた”, or “In any case, what with many exchange students returning to their home countries, we decided to limit applications only to those promising people of talent who will be contributing to Japan’s future.” Boy, that’s full of presumptions. Read on. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
Indian Exchange Student: You may have read in the news that the GoJ wants to support students with extra financial assistance (of up to 200,000 Yen) as part-time jobs have evaporated. BUT, the govt has drafted different rules for Japanese vs. foreigner students. While ALL Japanese students are eligible to apply, the govt has decided to hold foreigner students to a high standard of academic performance (as a cut-off).
This double-standard in rules is surprising, given how ALL students have suffered due to lack of jobs and how many foreigner students in Japan (the bulk of whom have no scholarships) will suffer. This discrimination is also appalling, especially when Japan seeks to position itself as a destination for foreigner students.
There is a link to an online petition, as well as a link to the MEXT inquiry page. If you or your friends feel like supporting the cause of foreigner students (since many of you came to Japan as students yourselves), please sign the petition and help the foreigner students!
= = =(Message)===
You can sign a petition and donate here for foreign students. It is immoral for the Japanese government to treat foreign students differently from Japanese nationals and to determine the receipt of financial support based on academic performance for foreign students only. I donated a small amount to support:
MEXT inquiry page (where you can voice your opinion in Japanese):
Statement in Japanese:
UPDATE: More conditions for Foreign Exchange Students mentioned in the article below, underlined.
Only top 30% of foreign students to be eligible for gov’t handouts
KYODO NEWS – May 21, 2020
The Japanese government has set an additional criteria for foreign students hoping to receiving cash handouts of up to 200,000 yen ($1,900) for students in the country struggling financially amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, making only those in the top 30 percent of grades eligible.
The additional condition, which will create a gap in the financial support for students facing hardship in paying for tuition or living costs, has sparked criticism as many foreign students experience the same challenges as their Japanese counterparts.
Members of a student advocacy group that has been calling on the government to reduce school expenses called the decision “complete discrimination.” On Twitter, a Japanese hashtag meaning “The education ministry should give all foreign exchange students the cash handout” has also been gaining traction.
In explaining its decision, the education ministry has said, “With many foreign students eventually returning to their home countries, we have set a condition to limit the handout to promising talent most likely to contribute to Japan in the future.”
As the government will rely on institutions to determine which of their students should receive the assistance, those not meeting the criteria may still be eligible for the handouts, it said.
Education minister Koichi Hagiuda indicated that students from overseas would be eligible for the program during a press conference Tuesday, when he announced that cash handouts would be provided to around 430,000 university and other students in Japan.
But he made no mention of the additional criteria foreign students needed to fulfill, which only came to light during communication with universities and other institutions.
According to the ministry, requirements for program eligibility include a reduction of over 50 percent in the monthly income from part-time jobs used to support tuition fees and, in general, a yearly allowance of less than 1.5 million yen from family. The student must also be living outside of home.
In addition, foreign students must be achieving high marks and have attained a grade point average of at least 2.30 in the past academic year. This accounts for the top 25 to 30 percent of students, the ministry said.
Foreign students must also have a monthly attendance rate of over 80 percent, receive less than an average 90,000 yen allowance per month excluding registration and tuition fees, and not be a dependent of someone in Japan earning more than 5 million yen a year.
On top of the conditions, those “deemed by their institutions as unable to continue their studies due to financial difficulties” will be eligible for the handouts, the ministry said.
In order to quickly provide assistance, the government has left the screening of eligible students to each institution. Universities and other schools will select eligible students from a pool comprised of Japan Student Services Organization scholarship recipients and other records.
The education ministry has not calculated what percentage of the roughly 430,000 students eligible for the program are foreigners.
Koki Saito, a university student and student advocacy group member, said foreign students are in just as dire need of help but unlike their Japanese counterparts have to face a grade eligibility requirement.
“The government has been taking steps to attract foreign students but when things go wrong, are you going to drop them? This may become an international issue, and I want this requirement scrapped,” Saito said.
May 21, 2020 | KYODO NEWS
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26 comments on “Discriminatory govt financial assistance for students: All Japanese can apply, but foreign students must be in top 30% of class. MEXT’s rationale: “Many NJ students go home anyway and don’t contribute to Japan’s future.””
I wrote this as feedback to the MEXT site:
Thank you for blogging about this discriminatory policy, Debito. Let’s hope the Ministry will see how absurd it is through your efforts and scrap this ridiculous policy.
Well, many will go home and not contribute to Japan after this discrimination. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy.
I couldnt’ help but chuckle after reading this. Self-fulfilling prophecy indeed.
Thank you for this, Debito. I was pleasantly surprised after reading in the JT that foreign students would also qualify, joke’s on me now.
is that what they subconsciously wanted all along?
How do they decide who is “foreign”?
There are obviously MEXT scholarship recipients being invited from overseas, but there are also people of foreign nationality who take the ordinary entrance exam and enter the same way that locals do, particularly at the postgraduate level.
The condition 日本に将来貢献するような有為な人材に限る (“only capable people who can contribute to Japan’s future”) would be particularly galling if a postgrad who was already contributing to Japanese society as a taxpayer were excluded, purely because s/he had grades that were only in the top 31% of the class and not the top 30%.
If the targets of this policy are specifically international students coming to Japan on scholarships and student visas (i. e. people who have not yet begun to make significant contributions to Japanese society), that’s bad enough, but if it’s anyone with a non-Japanese passport, that’s a lot worse.
— Great points. Say so on MEXT’s website.
Thank you, Debito, for sharing this story! Special thanks to Todd san for passing on my message. This statement is so preposterous, not to mention downright racist, that it riles me to no end.
Just signed off and made my contribution to the campaign.
The MEXT is famous for making a pie-in-the-sky, self-fulfilling promise that rarely bears fruit. Their education policy and practice(especially in K-12) primarily inculcate the superiority of ethnocentricity into Japanese students —rather than diversity. I have an issue with their treatment of students in the matrix of high/low skills because that clearly stands against the principle of equal education opportunity.
Moving the goalpost for international students to impose this merit-based system is a clear red flag. Hagiuda should be called out for this racist sham.
Not surprising. The even bigger human rights issue is that those married to a Japanese national cannot re-enter Japan however the spouse and children can. Japan not only believes it is OK to discriminate against students but the separation of families is ok.
Debito-san this should be the topic of an article somewhere (even in the paper you are now writing for).
This! Just to speak of my personal possible worst case. Both my parents are in their 70s with several medical conditions. If one of them passes away while this overzealous border regime is in effect I couldn’t even go to the funeral. If I’d go anyway, I’d loose my livelihood because I couldn’t get back to home, family, and work. To me this border regime is the most disgusting one of Japan’s botched responses. I wonder if it does actually warrant a Dejima Award to the ministry of justice, which I suppose is responsible for this cruel bs.
Jaocnanoni – My opinion is that this warrants the Dejima award of the decade.
Debito had personal experience with a private business in Otaru several decades ago. You would think over the period of several decades Japan would have improved.
No…..instead what Japan has done is Japan has taken what a private business did to Debito and codified this into LAW. This is separation of families which is now actually codified into Japanese law.
Imagine a family with small kids. They are returning to Japan and mom (or dad) and the kids can return to Japan but the other spouse cannot. This is an unforgettable message which would be delivered to the children (and the spouse). Mom (or dad) is OK because they are Japanese but your other parent is dirty, or unworthy of re-entering Japan.
I have been in Japan well over 2 decades and during my time in Japan this is the absolute worst human rights issue I have seen; nothing even comes close.
It has literally turned friends and acquaintances of mine who liked Japan (some were extreme apologists) into people that despise Japan. It is rather sad to see … it is what I would expect from China or North Korea.
This. It has literally turned friends and acquaintances of mine who liked Japan (some were extreme apologists) into people that despise Japan. It is rather sad to see … it is what I would expect from China or North Korea.
Once again, supporters of Japan leave as detractors of Japan. Slow hand clap.
UPDATE: More conditions have come to light thanks to Kyodo News’s investigative journalism:
“According to the ministry, requirements for program eligibility include a reduction of over 50 percent in the monthly income from part-time jobs used to support tuition fees and, in general, a yearly allowance of less than 1.5 million yen from family. The student must also be living outside of home.
“In addition, foreign students must be achieving high marks and have attained a grade point average of at least 2.30 in the past academic year. This accounts for the top 25 to 30 percent of students, the ministry said. Foreign students must also have a monthly attendance rate of over 80 percent, receive less than an average 90,000 yen allowance per month excluding registration and tuition fees, and not be a dependent of someone in Japan earning more than 5 million yen a year. On top of the conditions, those “deemed by their institutions as unable to continue their studies due to financial difficulties” will be eligible for the handouts, the ministry said.”
Full Kyodo article at https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/05/5d7d3c646139-only-top-30-of-foreign-students-to-be-eligible-for-govt-handouts.html
Or if link is behind a paywall by now, page back up to this blog entry, where it is reproduced in full.
Will sign and distribute to friends who are studying or DID study in Japan.
To quote an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, it’s hard to stand on your own two feet when your legs keep getting kicked out from under you.
Ironically, only the bottom 20% will end up staying very long in Japan after graduation because everyone else will have job opportunities in countries that won’t treat them as second class, and glass-ceiling their career track.
Meanwhile, certain elements of the domestic media are using headlines that make make the U.S.’s practice of not giving financial assistance to overseas students appear to target Japanese students specifically.
I also can’t help but get a giggle out of the photo the article uses – Cambridge University, U.K.!
This is sickening. And as someone who is IN THE WORK of supporting foreign students and Japanese students in Japan, I can only recommend all foreign students reconsider ever coming to study in Japan for serious studies if this is how quickly Japan and MEXT will abandon support during times of need.
Disgusting discrimination, especially considering foreign students are those that usually have the LEAST support in Japan.
On the subject of the difficulty for foreign residents trying to live in Japan / leave Japan, have a look at the following article about 2 Vietnamese students in limbo due to the coronavirus.
I am not sure if this is of interest to most readers of this website (not sure how many still live in Japan) however this is a good article about what is currently going on with immigration
I am assuming most read Japanese. The article speaks for itself
I have been told the incoming students who were supposed to start studying at Japanese universities from April on MEXT governmental scholarships have their visas rescinded and their studies cancelled (not postponed). You can probably seek for more information in this avenue as well.
Kudos to Kobe city for offering volunteer jobs and allowances to foreign students in need of work.
West Japan city to offer volunteer jobs and allowances to foreign students in need of work
May 27, 2020 (Mainichi Japan)
KOBE — The Kobe city government announced on May 25 that it will introduce foreign students to volunteer work and also pay them an allowance to help them get by during the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered schools and many businesses where students work part-time.
【Related】Foreign graduates in Japan can’t leave due to virus, can’t work due to visas
【Related】2 Vietnamese students in limbo due to coronavirus tell of hardship being stuck in Japan
【Related】Nagoya recycling firm to offer part-time jobs to foreign students in need of work
Kobe, capital of western Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, plans to recruit around 100 people to engage in volunteer work from June to August. The tasks include checking information signs along hiking paths and reporting if they are easy to understand from the viewpoint of a foreigner, as well as cleaning parks, among other jobs. Students will work three hours a day and be given an honorarium of 3,500 yen for their work, and to help with food expenses and transportation. The city expects to have about 10 of these volunteering days per month.
A large number of foreign students who graduated from Japanese language schools and other institutions in late March can neither go home due to flight cancellations, nor work legally after they have converted their residency statuses from student to short-term stay. Because they cannot be compensated for labor, these individuals will receive a smaller sum of 2,000 yen a day from the city, to cover their food and transport expenses.
A total of 8,091 foreign students lived in Kobe and attended local universities and Japanese language schools as of the end of March, according to the city’s international affairs section. A lot of students pay tuition and meet their living expenses with part-time work, but the pandemic has forced many businesses — especially in the hospitality industry — to close. The national government is considering supporting students with handouts of 100,000 or 200,000 yen each, but eligibility will be determined by academic performance and other limiting factors.
Dao Thi Hai Van, 24, a Vietnamese student who studies at a Japanese language school in Kobe’s Hyogo Ward, said, “I’m glad to hear about the volunteer recruitment. It’s been a difficult time since part-time work opportunities have decreased. I can also learn more Japanese as I’ll have more chances to talk with Japanese people.”
Yoshihisa Saito, an associate professor at Kobe University’s graduate school who is an expert on foreign student issues, commented, “The national government has accepted foreign students into the country, with expectations for them to be de facto workers. Although the scale of support given out by Kobe cannot be said to be enough, the fact that they took immediate measures as a local authority is to be commended.”
(Japanese original by Kwanghoon Han, Kobe Bureau)
神戸市が留学生支援 ボランティアでの受け入れ先紹介し謝礼 約100人募集
That is good. And kudos to Saito for calling out the government. Kobe City is at least (even if only out of rational self-interest) trying to address the reality of the situation instead of using word games and denial.
More kudos – this time to Japan academia for opposing discriminatory treatment of foreign students in Japan’s virus aid.
The full statement (in Japanese) from professor Hamada et. al. can be found here.
Update on my previous post: the professors sent their petition to the MoE.
Let’s see what happens next.
Update (June 2021): The International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) reported the issue to the United Nations in June of 2020. Then in February 2021, Tendayi Achiume (special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance) plus three other experts sent a letter to the GoJ stating that they were “concerned that the program discriminates against students” and that “for minority students, this further jeopardizes their access to an education that facilitates the promotion of their national, ethnic, cultural and linguistic identities”. And for good measure, they also stated that “difficulties international students face have nothing to do with their academic performance.”
Well, a month later, the GoJ puts the kibosh on the handout scheme, but then denied that the scheme had discriminated against minority students! Hmmmmmm….
Japan cash handout discriminated against Korean students: UN experts
Japan cash handout discriminated against Korean students: UN experts
June 22, 2021 (Mainichi Japan)
A copy of a letter, dated Feb. 19, 2021, by four U.N. special rapporteurs urging the Japanese government to correct criteria for its cash handout scheme for financially troubled students. (Kyodo)
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Four U.N. human rights experts said in a letter revealed on Tuesday that the exclusion of students at Korea University from the Japanese government’s cash handout program to mitigate financial difficulties amid the coronavirus pandemic was discriminatory.
The letter was sent to the government in February, and a month later the financial aid scheme ended. But Japan ignored the experts’ views at that time, denying the claim in April that the scheme, which no longer existed, had discriminated against such minority students.
The letter had been sent by Tendayi Achiume, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and three other experts on the right to education, human rights of migrants, and minority issues.
The cash handout program was launched in May last year to offer up to 200,000 yen ($1,800) to financially troubled students in universities, junior colleges, and other schools such as the Japan campus of foreign universities.
But the scheme excluded students of Korea University in Kodaira in western Tokyo as it fell under a category of “miscellaneous schools” along with English language schools.
The experts said in the letter that they were “concerned that the program discriminates against students” attending certain schools “in particular minority students at the Korea University,” characterizing such exclusions as posing the risk of undermining these school’s institutional autonomy.
The letter went on to say, “For minority students, this further jeopardizes their access to an education that facilitates the promotion of their national, ethnic, cultural and linguistic identities.”
They then asked the government at the time for “all necessary interim measures be taken to halt the alleged violations and prevent their re-occurrence.”
The government said, though, that the cash handout program was not discriminatory as some Japanese students who are attending institutions not covered by the program are also not eligible.
While international students were also eligible for the handout, the education ministry required them to be among the top 30 percent of students.
The U.N. experts also took issue with the additional academic performance criteria imposed on international students when applying for the handouts. They said the “difficulties international students face have nothing to do with their academic performance.”
Civic groups in Japan have criticized the scheme as discriminatory since its launch, with the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, a nongovernmental organization, reporting the issue to the United Nations in June last year.