Situation of the Filipino children in Japan

Kogure Yasuhisa, SJ (Jesuit Social Center)
Social and Pastoral issue: No. 138 / June 15th, 2007

Can you guess how many Filipino/as are living now in Japan? According to the latest statistics (2007) published by Japanese Immigration authorities, there were 195,000 registered Filipinos and 28,000 overstayers in Japan, what means that about 223,000 persons from the Philippines are, at present, living in Japan next door to us.

Nevertheless, there are many others that do not show up in these numbers. Many children that were born in Japan from the overstayers do not appear in the statistics. The same can be said of children born from Filipinas and Japanese couples that hold, in fact, Japanese citizenship, but due to divorce of their parents live together with their Filipina mothers and spend their daily lives speaking Tagalog. They are not included in such statistics with the results that they spend their lives with us confronting very rigid difficult realities.

I cannot express my reflections here now about globalization and the issues of foreign migrants, but I would like to say something about the situation of the children of Filipinos living in Japan.

As a consequence of many consultations regarding children and of my own commitment to activities with them, I came to realize that, the ordinary Japanese cannot even imagine how difficult is for those children to follow school education. This is not limited only to children of Filipino/as but it is also the same situation concerning children from other nationalities, like Chinese, Brazilians, Peruvians, etc. living in Japan.

No matter those children were born and raised in Japan, there will be a decisive gap with those children born from Japanese parents, concerning the different levels of school education and Japanese language skills. Of course, it will be even more difficult, if not nearly impossible for those children that spent their childhood in the Philippines and enrolled in Japanese schools, where cannot follow their studies.

On top of that, most of their parents with a hand-to-mouth living are working hard (their work contributes in fact to the support of the Japanese economy!) and, as a result, the parents do not have the time and money to provide education to their children. The reality is that Japan’s education system, as well as education authorities, are in no way suitable to answer the needs concomitant to the situation confronting foreign migrants. In other words, they are left to themselves. These children affected by the global phenomenon that originates in the economic theories regarding migrants’ markets, are the ones most influenced by the economic forces, in spite of not being given the opportunity to make any decision.

 If one looks at Japanese society from the point of view of these children, I think it is easy to realize how strongly neglected and ignored are people living in a weak position. How to confront them? Can Japanese society really build up a basic human rights system where people’s personal rights are given recognition? Under a system of free competition will people in a weak position continue to be neglected and disregarded? These questions will become a test for a sound society. Of course, it is clear that these issues rebound against us Japanese and question ourselves.

(Mr. Kogure is a Jesuit seminarian working for a period of 2 years at Tokyo’s Jesuit Social Center.)

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