Japan is home to about 250,000 Filipinos and 74,000 Nepalis, many of whom hope to settle down and build a life in the land of the Rising Sun. More and more Filipinos work as caregivers, but restrictive labour laws force youth raised in Japan to leave school and fall into delinquency and poverty.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/JT) – Although seemingly hostile to immigration, Japan is home to many migrant workers – housekeepers, caregivers, cooks – well as spouses of Japanese nationals, who have built a life for themselves over the years in the land of the Rising Sun. Two of the most important are Filipinos and Nepalis.
According to the Japan Times, government data show that Filipino residents in Japan numbered 251,934 as of June 2017, making them the third-largest foreign group after the Chinese and the South Koreans. For purpose of comparison, Japan’s population now stands at 127 million.
Half of Japan’s Filipino residents have permanent resident visas – much higher than the 29.9 per cent mark for foreign nationals as a whole. And a majority of them are women: 71.9 per cent vs 28.1 per cent for men.
According to Marian Jocelyn Tirol-Ignacio, minister and consul general of the Embassy of the Philippines in Tokyo, Filipino women in their 30s to 50s are mostly permanent residents.
Some of whom entered the country on entertainer visas in the 1980s and settled here after marrying Japanese men. Many face issues related to their marriages, their visas and citizenship for their children.
Overall, data shows that Filipinos have built lives in Japan’s 47 prefectures, often near a church. Work for them is wide-ranging. Men are mostly engineers, information technology professionals and construction workers, whilst women work in food-related factories or as housekeepers, assistant language teachers and caregivers.
“With the aging population and declining birthrate, Japan is left with no other choice but to embrace foreign (nationals). But it is a give-and-take relationship with Filipinos,” said Maria Carmelita Kasuya, a University of Tokyo research associate professor and head of the Gathering for Filipino Groups and Communities, which conducts activities such as charity concerts with a choir of Japan-based Filipinos.
For their part, Japan’s Nepalis are fewer than Filipinos, 74,300, but a number that rose impressively since 2012 when it was 24,071, an exponential growth driven by an influx of students as well as chefs opening restaurants and their dependents.
“The surge in Nepali migrants to Japan is a fairly recent phenomenon, so they tend not to be recognised as long-term residents,” said Masako Tanaka, a professor at Sophia University who is an expert on Japan’s Nepali community.
Nevertheless, “Quite a few families migrate here with the intention of settling, even contemplating the possibility that their children will receive an education in Japan,” she explained.
Under the existing system, students on a dependents visa are essentially banned from working full-time immediately after graduating from high school – a problem that experts say risks throwing them into poverty and marginalising them from mainstream society.
Holders of a dependents visa are not permitted to work for more than 28 hours a week, a condition that forces a sizable number of foreign high school students – especially those from Nepal, the Philippines and China – to abandon their aspirations of starting a career upon graduation.
They can switch to more stable work visas if they advance to universities and complete higher education, but even then, their status as dependents means they are ineligible for state-sponsored student loans.
This has led to a rise in their dropout rate, a condition that can lead to poverty and delinquency.