Japan’s parliament, the Diet, has responded to the steady growth of foreign residents by passing a law making the government responsible for Japanese-language education. The legislation is seen as a step in the right direction to help municipalities take action to teach the language to foreign residents.
New resident visas were introduced in April to allow more immigrants to work in blue-collar jobs, as Japan’s demographics have resulted in a shortage of younger workers, but the visa moves lacked accompanying provisions to help new immigrants integrate.
Proposed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and approved unanimously, the legislation calls on the government to take comprehensive action, including legal and fiscal steps, to provide opportunities for foreign residents to be trained in Japanese.
The law, which covers children, students, salaried workers, technical interns, and refugees, states that foreign residents “who wish to study Japanese must be guaranteed as much as possible of the opportunity to do so, in a way that would match their needs, abilities, and circumstances they are placed in.”
However, the law does not contain specific measures that need be taken, so its effectiveness will depend on how much funding it receives. It does require the central government to implement “fiscal measures” toward the objectives.
It also calls for improving the quality of Japanese language schools and increasing teacher salaries, and it requires the government to set up a special council to foster coordination among the education ministry, foreign ministry, and other relevant agencies.
Government statistics show that the number of non-Japanese residents hit a record 2.73 million at the end of 2018, up 6.6% from 2017.