日本語

Govt to Train Immigrant Support Staff

Japan plans to train in several years more than 300 professionals who will help immigrants sign up for government services or address everyday issues as part of broader efforts to facilitate their adjustment to new lives.

Under a proposal compiled by experts on 24 Mar, 2023, the government will provide the training and those who complete it will be certified as support coordinators. The curriculum will be set by fiscal 2023, with the program starting in fiscal 2024. Certified supporters will help newcomers with registering addresses with city governments, enrolling children in school, and signing up for public insurance, among other issues. The government’s core strategy for assisting long-term foreign residents involves providing language education and addressing everyday issues arising from living in a new country.

As for language, the government looks to develop an infrastructure that will help foreigners attain intermediate proficiency in Japanese. To ensure the quality of language education, it plans to create a national standard for Japanese teachers. Local governments are setting up immigrants consultation services for day-to-day issues, such as child-rearing and accessing medical care. But training for professionals who can fill such positions has lagged. Support staffers will be assigned to consultation offices run by the central and local governments. They could also be sent to private-sector companies or schools where immigrants work and study. The goal is to have 300 personnel by fiscal 2026 and 600 soon after.

Foreign residents in Japan have complained about government red tape. Many call for a one-stop center for discussing issues regarding employment, public insurance or other matters. They also want support staffers who can speak their native languages. In a 2022 survey by the Immigration Services Agency, nearly half of foreigners requested “appropriate advice about where to consult.”

In local governments, immigrants often encounter separate contact points for resident registration, school enrolment and other paperwork. This is on top of applying for residency with the central government. The central government is providing local governments financial support to field centralized support offices. In fiscal 2022, 251 local governments are receiving 1.02 billion yen ($7.8 million) toward this effort. Ota in Gunma prefecture has a consultation office staffed with five people to serve the city’s 12,000 foreigners. These services will soon become available in communities with smaller immigrant populations. 

In a survey of local governments, many respondents reported shortages of personnel and expertise. Foreigners living in Japan reached a new high of 3.07 million at the end of December — up 50% from a decade earlier. Training support staffers has become a pressing issue. Foreign workers are increasingly visible in rural areas, making further assistance for immigrants a must even as Japan’s overall population shrinks.

The curriculum under consideration would start the training with 64 hours of online instruction, followed by a first-round qualifying test. Candidates would receive on-site training along with group training, which would be capped by the final certification test.

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