State to aid foreigners in dire financial straits

by Masami Ito

A government plan to support foreigners living permanently in Japan who have lost their jobs and are in financial distress amid the severe recession was revealed Wednesday by Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura.

Unemployment has become a serious issue for both Japanese and foreign workers amid the international financial crisis.

According to Kawamura, Prime Minister Taro Aso ordered the government to create a special office and take measures to support foreigners as soon as possible.

Kawamura also said that around 10,000 foreign children reportedly cannot attend school partly because of their parents’ financial difficulties.

“The government needs to see what it can do to respond to the situation,” he told a regular news conference.

The government is expected to give job support for permanent foreign residents, including Japanese-Brazilians, and educational support for children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school.

The government will also consider financial support for foreign residents, said a senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The prime minister “gave orders in light of the severe employment situation, in which permanent foreign residents are being placed in difficult circumstances and their children are having trouble going to school,” Kawamura said.

The top government spokesman said he has appointed Yuko Obuchi, minister in charge of population and gender equality, to head the new department.

“Unemployment is an issue for Japan as a whole, but the situation is especially severe for foreigners,” Kawamura said. “It is about what we can do to offer a helping hand.”

According to an official at the Cabinet Office, however, the orders were just handed down Wednesday and nothing concrete has been decided on, including when the new office will be formed or who the members will be.

Nor has the government decided on what kind of support is to be given to foreign permanent residents, the official said.