Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on February 8th, 2009
Hi Blog. JASSO (Japan Student Services Organization), the group which offers very generous packages for ryuugakusei (exchange students) to come and take up spaces in Japanese universities, is being less generous as of late. This is a problem since how much those students are allowed to make up the shortfall is limited by visa status. Here’s an essay from YYZ about what’s going on there and the impact it’s having on different nationalities. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Hi Debito. Checking out my 留学生掲示板 today I had the shock to find that the JASSO assistance to foreign students medical expenses program, which had been cut from 90% to about 30% last year, is now being cut to ZERO as of this April.
Background in English: Ryugakusei are supposed to join National Health Insurance and pay 30% of the medical costs just like everyone else. Of course, this is quite hard, especially for students from less-wealthy nations, so JASSO had been reimbursing 80% or so of that 30%, leaving the ryugakusei to pay a more tolerable 6% of medical costs in the end. Last year that 80% of the 30% became about 30% of the 30%, more than tripling medical costs for ryugakusei. For my trips to the dentist [3000 yen out of pocket], it wasn’t really even worth the trouble to apply for the aid, as the bank transfer fee of 600 yen would net me 400 yen 3 months down the road for spending all the time doing the paperwork.
As of April, that won’t even be a factor. The support will be zero. I can manage, I’m a poor grad student, but I can make decent money teaching English/translating on the side. For the typical Chinese student, it will make life a lot tougher.
Normally I don’t support handouts in the first place. But, since the Japanese government limits the amount of hours a student can legally work [28 hours per week, no more than 8 per day] thus limiting our income, [especially rough if the only job you can get is washing dishes for 750 an hour] some government consideration is only fair. We can’t live rent-free with Mama and Papa nor count on them for free food or to bail us out in times of need like most Japanese students. Not to mention the desire to travel home even just once a year. [I already can’t do that.]
Many students must be already violating their visa work conditions just to scrape by. Now, more students will delay medical care, or work even more overtime in violation of their visas. Because when the government limits a self-supporting student to 21,000 yen/week in income [at 750/hr] and already takes about 5000/month just to join NHI, losing the medical expense subsidy is a kick in the teeth, as it’s already impossible to follow the visa work laws and live as a self-supporting student without a full scholarship and/or burning up one’s life savings.
This development is especially troubling regarding the claimed plan to greatly increase the number of ryugakusei by the central government. Apparently they only want ryugakusei who are healthy and wealthy enough to live comfortably in Japan, the most expensive country in the world.
I also thought that possibly this aid wasn’t entirely altruistic, as they government would rather have students reporting their medical problems to a doctor than hiding such things as TB, Chicken Flu and the like because they can’t afford a visit to a clinic. [This would be the angle to pursue to convince the powers-that-be to reinstate this system, the concrete result of cutting the aid might be money saved on paper, but a sicker foreign student population as a danger to Japanese citizens, yielding possibly more medical expenditures in the end. These students are the ones cooking your gyoza at the izakaya, and now they’re more likely to be sick.]
The Japanese source page, found in the display department, in the unlit basement, in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the leopard” [pardon the Douglas Adams reference]
Probably English versions on individual university websites, as JASSO doesn’t seem to be prominently announcing this themselves. YYZ
ADDENDUM AFTER GRANTING PERMISSION TO BLOG THIS ESSAY:
Hi Debito. Glad I could contribute.
Thoughts keep going through my head after the initial shock.
I always wondered why this program (like so many in Japan) was never “means-tested” in some concrete way (just as we would expect some income limit on the 12,000 yen Aso handout). A student from Saudi Arabia on a full Monbusho scholarship (full tuition plus 170,000yen a month) was just as eligible for the JASSO aid as someone from Vietnam who scrubs until 2AM 5 nights a week for 750 yen and lives in a slum.
As an aside, the Monbusho scholarship (among others) stipend has been going down for the last 2 years or so. [I can’t even apply because I’m over 35, but age discrimination is another issue.] But it seems the government is not putting its money where its mouth is regarding announced intentions to rescue Japanese universities by allowing a flood of ryugakusei. Although if their intention is flood the universities only with wealthy ryugakusei, perhaps these actions are right on target, but unrealistic. But that’s Japanese policy for you.
Keep up the good fight. YYZ