Ainu outside Hokkaido also marginalized: poll

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

Ainu living outside Hokkaido had lower income and education levels compared with the nationwide average and some faced discrimination, a government survey released Friday showed.

A government panel to promote Ainu policies held its first national survey on members of the ethnic group living outside the prefecture following the historical 2008 Diet resolution in which the they were officially recognized as indigenous people. A similar poll has been conducted on Ainu living in Hokkaido.

“We found that the Ainu living outside Hokkaido were also placed in very difficult situations, and especially surprising was the disparity in income,” said Wakio Mitsui, deputy transport minister and a member of the panel.

Out of 132 households, 44.8 percent lived on an annual income of under ¥3 million, while the nationwide level was 33.2 percent. Also, 7.6 percent lived on welfare, while the national average was a mere 2.3 percent.

There was also a clear difference in education: only 31.1 percent of Ainu who are 29 years old or younger went to college, whereas the percentage was 44.1 percent for the same age group nationwide.

The government survey also showed that 20.5 percent said they faced ethnic discrimination, many saying they were “made fun of for being Ainu” or were “called out on their physical characteristics.” The panel members said the rate of discrimination was higher than expected.

“These Ainu left Hokkaido because of discrimination, but I heard that they still face strong discrimination in various areas, including education and employment,” Mitsui said.