National

One in 29 babies in 2014 had at least one non-Japanese parent

Kyodo

One in 29 babies born in Japan in 2014 had at least one non-Japanese parent, a Kyodo News analysis of government data found, increasing the need to provide language support to such families at schools and medical facilities.

Of the 1.02 million babies born in Japan in that year, an estimated 35,000, or about 3.4 percent, had at least one parent who is not Japanese, according to population statistics compiled by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The proportion is close to the record high of 3.4 percent in 2008.

With the percentage trending higher over the long term — 1.7 percent in 1990 and 2.6 percent in 1995 — the proportion could rise even higher if more foreigners come to Japan as guest workers through deregulation.

The number of babies whose parents are both non-Japanese is estimated at about 15,000, compared with the nearly 20,000 who are believed to have been born to Japanese and non-Japanese couples, according to the ministry data.

A separate survey by the education ministry showed that children in public schools with Japanese citizenship who need special help to learn the Japanese language have been increasing.

These children tend to struggle with Japanese if they speak a different language at home, according to support groups for foreign nationals.

By nationality, Chinese nationals accounted for the largest number of both foreign-born fathers and mothers of babies born in 2014. Koreans accounted for the second-largest and Americans the third-largest number of foreign-born fathers, while for mothers, Filipinas constituted the second-largest group, followed by Koreans.

By prefecture, the greatest number of such babies — just over 5.9 percent — were born in Tokyo, followed by 4.9 percent in Aichi Prefecture and 4.8 percent in Gunma Prefecture.

Local governments in such prefectures as Shizuoka, Aichi and Mie have taken steps to ensure such children enroll in schools and are provided with special language training. But the issue is often overlooked in areas with smaller populations of foreign nationals, said Kosei Sakuma, professor emeritus at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University. Even Tokyo has room to improve, he said.