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The government must do more to protect Japanese-Brazilian workers who have been severely affected by the protracted recession, Japanese and Brazilian scholars said at a symposium held Tuesday in Tokyo.

During the symposium, organized by the Foreign Ministry, academics said the financial plight of Brazilians in this category has extended the average length of their stay here.

Brazilians of Japanese descent, who are legally allowed to engage in simple manual labor in Japan, began flocking to the country in the mid-1980s.

There were 265,962 registered Brazilian residents in Japan as of the end of December, according to the Justice Ministry.

Kiyoto Tanno, a lecturer at Tokyo Metropolitan University, said that the role of Brazilian workers has gradually been marginalized by Japanese part-timers, who are increasingly willing to work for low wages amid the economic downturn.

“Workplaces that still maintain Brazilian workers are usually those with harsh working environments,” he said.

In a survey on Japanese-Brazilian workers and their families conducted last year by a labor ministry affiliate, 12.9 percent of the 1,578 people who responded said they were unemployed, while 36.3 percent said they were unable to send any money home to their relatives in Brazil.

Ironically, 57.2 percent of respondents said they wanted to live permanently in Japan.

Meanwhile, officials involved in educating the children of Japanese-Brazilians here spoke of the difficulties involved.

Pedro Mendes Neto, president of an association of schools that educate children of Brazilian residents in Portuguese, said that these schools have played an important role in teaching children who cannot keep up at public schools and those who face a cultural identity crisis.

“Most Brazilian children who attend public schools (where lessons are conducted in Japanese) forget Portuguese and face difficulties in communicating with their parents,” Neto said.

In 1999, the Japanese and Brazilian governments reached an agreement over the establishment of an educational system for Brazilian children.

The accord allows students who attend Brazilian schools that are recognized by the government of Brazil to transfer to or enter schools in Brazil.

At present, 2,362 students are studying at 23 authorized schools across Japan, according to Neto.

But many parents cannot afford the tuition fees and thus send their children to public schools, according Masato Ninomiya, a professor at the University of Sao Paulo.

Ninomiya said that many children cannot understand lessons in Japanese, leading to truancy — and sometimes to delinquency.

“(In order to prevent them from refusing to attend schools and committing crimes), more teachers who speak Portuguese and can provide assistance are needed at public schools,” he said.

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