National

90% of foreign residents in Japan say they need more public support with living conditions, survey finds

Kyodo

About 90 percent of foreign residents in Japan who responded to a government survey say they need more public support with their living conditions, with assistance in finding housing sought most, the internal affairs ministry said Tuesday.

The survey of 375 foreign students and workers highlighted the pressure to enhance the living environment for foreign residents, which has increased due to April’s launch of a visa system to address chronic labor shortages.

Asked about specific needs in a multiple-choice question, 63.7 percent called for more rentable residences for foreign nationals and information on them, and 44.0 percent sought more hospitals with services in English or their mother tongue, and information about them.

In the survey, 43.7 percent said they would like the pension systems of Japan and their home countries to be connected, while 33.0 percent requested the promotion of multilingual administrative services.

“Many rental properties in Japan are unavailable to foreigners and it took me about two months to find one,” said a respondent, while another said, “I wish there were government offices where even people who don’t speak Japanese well can check the rent and easily complete the procedure to move in.”

On the other hand, 82.9 percent of respondents said they are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their living circumstances, citing public safety and substantial coverage by health insurance systems, among other reasons.

In a separate survey by the ministry on companies hiring foreign workers, 38 out of 55 firms, or 69.1 percent, said public support is needed, with many calling for multilingual administrative services.

“Documents sent by administrative bodies, such as reminders of pension premium payments, are written only in Japanese, which are hard for foreigners to fully understand,” said one company.

Based on the survey result, the ministry underlined the importance of local governments in directly responding to the needs of foreign residents and called on relevant central government offices to publicize information on best practices.

Among such efforts, Fukuoka Prefecture offers round-the-clock interpretation services by phone for foreign patients with medical emergencies in 17 languages, including Tagalog and Khmer.

The number of users of the service doubled to 778 in fiscal 2018 from the previous year. The prefecture said it also dispatches interpreters for medical services due to strong demand from medical institutions.

As for housing support, the city of Yokohama has teamed up with a local nonprofit organization and others to set up a body to help foreign nationals find places to live.

In 2018, Hiroshima Prefecture created a website that provides disaster, child care and medical services tips in seven languages.

Japan’s low birthrate and graying population prompted the government to launch the new visa program, under which the country anticipates receiving up to 345,000 foreign workers in 14 labor-hungry sectors such as nursing care, construction, shipbuilding and farming over the next five years.

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