More foreign students set to be eligible for Japan government scholarships

Tokyo: The Japanese government plans to expand the scope of foreign university students eligible for its scholarships from April to provide more academic opportunities to children of the country’s growing number of foreign workers, according to officials.

The education ministry is set to include in the target students who are residing in the country with their parents under a “dependent” visa on condition they have completed education through elementary, junior high and high school level in Japan and intend to work and stay in the country after graduating from university, they said.

The scholarships, provided by the Japan Student Services Organization, are currently only available to Japanese citizens and foreign nationals with visas as special permanent residents, permanent residents or long-term residents who intend to stay in Japan permanently.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology expects that around 500 to 1,000 students would be newly eligible for the scholarships, which come in the form of a grant or loan, they said.

Lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party had been calling on the government to expand academic support for foreign children as the country looks to secure foreign labor amid the declining population.

Civic groups, including the nongovernmental organization Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, have also called for an expansion, noting that children of foreign workers tend to face financial difficulties.

Toru Takahashi, a steering member of the group, said he welcomes the government’s plan to expand the scholarships but that requiring students to complete 12 years of education in Japan is likely to be too harsh a condition as it means children will need to be living in Japan before first grade to become eligible.

“We will closely pay attention to whether the government will move to ease the rules,” Takahashi said.

The number of foreign workers in Japan as of the end of last October topped 2 million for the first time, hitting a record 2,048,675 foreign workers, up 12.4 percent from the previous year, according to labor ministry data.

In line with the increase in foreign workers, those who have entered Japan under a “dependent” visa came to 244,890 as of the end of June 2023, up 7.5 percent from the previous year, the Immigration Services Agency of Japan data showed.