National | Regional Voices: Fukushima

Fukushima Prefecture to conduct survey to better understand foreign residents' needs

Fukushima Minpo

Amid a growing number of foreign residents, Fukushima Prefecture is set to initiate a survey in October that will look into their needs and concerns.

Due to the revised immigration control law that took effect in April — which opened the door nationally to more than 340,000 foreign workers over the next five years — the prefecture expects more job opportunities for them and increased diversity.

Thus it aims to create policies that will better match foreign residents’ situations to provide an environment in which they can live and work comfortably, which would help the prefecture attract workers from abroad.

With the help and cooperation of the Fukushima International Association and local municipalities, the prefecture is sending questionnaires written in Japanese, English and Chinese, among other languages, to about 2,800 foreign residents, which amounts to roughly 20 percent of all foreign residents living in the prefecture.

Through the questionnaire, the prefecture hopes to find out more about its foreign residents, including the duration of their stay, whether they seek permanent residency, their visa status, whether they’re studying Japanese, in which fields — such as medicine, education and work — they seek language assistance, and instances in which they experienced prejudice or racism because they aren’t Japanese.

Upon gathering the results of the survey, the prefecture intends to devise more realistic ways to support foreign residents and include them in its policy plan related to internationalization, to be revised in fiscal 2020. The prefecture will also call on local municipalities to bolster their policies.

Fukushima Prefecture’s International Affairs Division hopes to work alongside local municipalities and agencies to improve the prefecture’s ability to take in foreign residents.

The prefecture will conduct such a survey for the first time in 11 years, as the number of foreign residents has been sharply rising in recent years. The number of non-Japanese residents has increased by about 1,000 annually since 2016. According to a population report by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 14,047 foreign residents were living in Fukushima Prefecture as of Jan. 1 — which amounts to 0.8 percent of its total population of about 1.85 million people.

The last time Fukushima Prefecture conducted the survey was at a time when language barriers and trouble accessing government services seemed to be a common issue.

Since then, the prefecture has been working to increase language consultation services at the Fukushima International Association and training for people who will provide direct support to foreign residents.

The trend to accept more foreign workers is expected to continue amid labor shortages.

While population size, residency status and other basic data about foreign residents can be seen in the labor ministry’s demographic survey, information about their livelihoods and struggles are more difficult to gather. As the diversity of foreign residents grows, including in terms of their nationalities, residence statuses and working conditions, the prefecture has decided that it’s necessary to find out what kind of difficulties they are facing in their daily lives.

This section features topics and issues covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on Sept. 24.

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