More children born with a foreign parent

Japan needs to deal with legal ramifications, experts say

Kyodo News

One of every 30 babies born in Japan in 2006 had at least one parent originating from overseas, according to a recent government survey.

The survey by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry found that the mother, father or both parents of 35,651 babies born here originated from countries other than Japan. This represents about 3.2 percent of the 1.1 million babies born nationwide in 2006.

The survey indicates that an increasing number of foreign nationals coming to Japan for employment or study are settling in the country, experts said.

While the increase in children with at least one non-Japanese parent will broaden the range of cultural background among the country’s residents, a lot more needs to be done to accept and provide legal protection for people from different backgrounds, they said.

Around 19,000 of the babies had non-Japanese fathers, 26,000 had non-Japanese mothers and 9,000 had parents who were both from abroad, according to the survey.

North and South Korean nationals formed the largest group among non-Japanese fathers, followed by Chinese and Brazilians. Among the non-Japanese mothers, Chinese were the largest group, followed by women from the Philippines and North and South Korea.

The trend reflects the increasing number of foreigners marrying Japanese nationals. Of newly registered marriages in 2006, 6.6 percent involved at least one foreign national.

Of the year’s 49,000 marriages of mixed couples, about 36,000 involved a Japanese husband and non-Japanese wife.

Of the babies with at least one non-Japanese parent, 5.7 percent were born in Tokyo, followed by 4.9 percent in Aichi Prefecture and 4.5 percent in Mie Prefecture.

Kids’ language woes

A record 25,411 foreign students needed assistance with the Japanese language in everyday life or in the classroom as of last September, up 13.4 percent from a year earlier, according to a study on public schools by the education ministry.

It was the fifth consecutive annual increase. The number of such students has increased 46.9 percent since 1997 as more foreign workers have settled here and started to have school-age children.

Of the total, 21,206, or 83.5 percent, said they were receiving Japanese-language education, down 2.1 percentage points.

A panel of experts proposed in June that the education ministry step up training of Japanese-language instructors in light of the growing need.

A breakdown by native languages indicates the largest group of such children speak Portuguese, accounting for 40.2 percent.

A majority of them are thought to be Brazilians of Japanese ancestry. They were followed by Chinese speakers, forming 19.9 percent, Spanish speakers at 13.7 percent and Tagalog speakers at 11.4 percent.

By prefecture, Aichi had the largest concentration with 5,030 children, followed by 2,631 in Shizuoka, 2,601 in Kanagawa and 1,913 in Tokyo.

Of the total, 18,142 attend elementary schools, 5,978 go to junior high and 1,182 are in high school. There are 1,276 schools nationwide that have five or more such students, and there are 112 schools with 30 or more such students, according to the ministry.

The number of Japanese students who needed language assistance also increased to a record 4,383. Many of them were returnees from overseas or born to Japanese and foreign parents.