International Migrant Integration through Education in Japan

by Curran Cunningham

Following on from my previous blog, which showed the importance of migrant remittances, I now turn my attention to the role of education in assimilating second generation international migrant families into Japanese society.

Yasuko Kanno’s paper ‘Sending Mixed Messages: Language Minority Education at a Japanese Public Elementary School’ focuses on that very subject. This blog will look at her interpretation—and criticism—of the Japanese education system at an elementary schooling level in this area.

Until the 1990s, it was considered a must that all courses and classes in Japan should be taught in Japanese. The purpose was to encourage integration among non-Japanese residents into Japanese society (Kanno, 2004).  Yet the method of teaching Japanese to non-native elementary students has thus far been ineffective. It has neglected the linguistic, thus academic, needs (due to the exclusively Japanese taught curriculum), of immigrant children. It has left migrants lagging behind, condemning them to become academic underachievers and marginalized as immigrants.

The system needs fixing. It cannot be disputed that a high proficiency in local language aids the understanding and even adoption of local culture. So it follows that Japanese language proficiency would allow second generation migrants to ascend the social hierarchy more easily. Without language proficiency, many migrants find their occupational choices narrowed to work not requiring Japanese fluency—work that is normally menial or at least low paying. And limited income affects educational opportunities, leaving no choice bur for parents to enroll their children into public schools instead of private schools, which must adhere to the Japanese Board Education’s defined curriculum, funding, and programs—notably lacking in L2 language support. This creates a self-perpetuating vicious circle, as generation after generation would be forced into a public school system which does not prioritise their needs.

Kanno underlines the importance of the role of teachers in the process of helping the next migrant generation assimilate into the host society. Teachers individually voice and project their messages, their beliefs and ideas onto the student, whether through simple language learning, cultural awareness-raising or even showing how to participate in a democratic society (Vaipae, 2001).

Teachers who educate migrants do not tend to be professionally trained and can communicate very little in the migrant’s first language (Kanno, 2004). Though the idea of diversity and ‘being proud of your origin’ is promoted in Japanese schools, little is done in keeping the migrant’s mother tongue alive (Kanno, 2004). Students may not develop knowledge of their first language much when learning their host country’s language, mastering neither properly in the end. Also there is a disconnect between Japanese and migrant students as they are taught in separate parts of the school. This obviously hinders communication between students, and stops Japanese student in turn taking advantage of migrant student presence to learn about the outside world.

Kanno wholeheartedly supports Cummins’s theory that “orienteers of culture and linguistic diversity are reflected in the policies and practices of school” (2000a, 2000b). Yet teachers in this respect engage in the ‘coercive relations of power’, as they do not question the social inequality found in Japan and reaffirm the status quo for minorities (Cummins, 2000a).  The education system is based around suppressing minority students’ linguistic and cultural identity as well as accepting the rules and values imposed by the dominant group as ‘natural, normal, universal…’ (Heller & Martin-Jones, 2001). With this, Kanno believes that not only teaching skills in general need improvement, but one must study the ins and outs of a society to create understanding.

Since the beginning, classes taught to migrants are academically lagging behind Japanese students of their age group. This gap widens as time goes on. Eventually they may find themselves in dire need of help and unable to compete in the job market. Interviews of teachers by Kanno at this particular Japanese elementary school showed that their lack of work ethic was in fact their parents’ responsibility. Teachers do not look at themselves as a potential reason for the problem and hence no changes are likely to happen in the near future unless there is a shake-up and reform of the Japanese schooling system.

References

Cummins, J. (2000a) Language, power and pedagogy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J. (2000b) Negotiating intercultural identities in the multilingual classroom. The CATESOL Journal 12 (1), 163-178.

Heller, M. and Martin-Jones, M. (2001) Introduction: Symbolic domination, education and linguistic difference. In M. Heller and M. Martin-Jones (eds) Voices of authority: Education and linguistic difference (pp. 1-28). Westport, CT: Ablex.

Kanno, Y. (2004). Sending mixed messages: Language minority education at a Japanese public elementary school. In A. Pavlenko (eds) Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Vaipae, S. (2001) Language minority students in Japanese public schools. In M. Noguchi and S. Fotos (eds) Studies in Japanese bilingualism (pp. 184–233).

Tokyo Sonata and contemporary Japan

by Keita Sakato

The film ‘Tokyo Sonata’ is one of the nice films which shows recent precarious situations in Japan. Recently, the Japanese economy has not been stable. Some major Japanese companies have left Japan for developing countries, where they can hire a lot of workers with lower wages. Because of this, the domestic economics has no vigor and keeps declining. Most companies end up deciding to fire many incompetent workers.

One of the fired workers was the ‘father’ in the film. He was fired though did nothing about some punishments, because of the company’s circumstances. He was just the type of the fired workers who are over 40 years old and have no special abilities. Some companies think that they do not need the older workers because they have no long future. Instead of hiring the older workers who are expensive to hire, they want to hire many younger able workers. This is the situation of recent Japan.

After that, the ‘father’ tried to get a good job, which means that it gives workers enough money. However, it is not easy to get such job because there are a lot of fired workers in Japan. Of course, he could not get the good job that he wanted. When he visited a company to get an interview, he was said ‘Let me see your ability.’ It means that what ability he has for company, but he could not show anything. He was not hired by the company, of course.

To lose one’s job directly connects to own family, as his fired friend concealed from his wife and died in the end. The biggest difference between regular worker and irregular workers is the wage. Irregular workers have to work with lower wage. It means the family may be poor. In Japan, it is not normal and not proud that a head of a family is irregular worker, so ‘father’ could not tell it to ‘mother’. Nevertheless, it was known and ‘mother’ felt sad. The normal form of her family might fall to pieces.

To avoid such situation in the film, the government needs to guarantee a stable system for people. If the term that fired worker is searching a new job became so long, it will be the situation like in the film, so to create the situation that the fired workers can find and get a new job quickly.

Echoes of female transnational migration: Care-giving jobs in Korea

by Yoon Jee Hyun (JeeJee)

According to United Nations (2013), female migrants represent about half of all transnational migration. Among women migrants, there has been an increase of number of women migrants working in care-giving jobs and health-care workers (Pyle, 2006).

Pyle’s article reminded me of Korea’s current popular phenomena of having care-givers who are transnational migrants. Since domestic workers do not wish to work as care-givers (due to the low wage compared to working times and the low social standing), a great portion of care-givers are transnational migrants. Also, with the increasing number of double-income families, wealthy Korean families have started to hire migrants from developing countries to take care of household chores at a cheap price.

In Korea, the role of care-giver is not only for household affairs but also for educating children of Korean family. At first, female migrants were wanted as they already have skills to take care of basic household chores learned from their own country. Yet, recently, as language ability has been highly encouraged, wealthy Korean families have started to look for hiring female migrants who are capable of speaking foreign languages such as English and Chinese. Many female Filipinos and Chinese are working in the care-giving industry in Korea, as they can take charge of both housework and language education.

This care-giving job system using female transnational migrants can benefit both sides; Korean families can get cheaper labor, and migrants can get a job which pays higher salary compared to the situation in their nation, and earn foreign currency, which they can bring back to their own country. Despite these merits, this phenomena echoes throughout the world, creating an endless circle of female migrants engaging in care-giving jobs.

Care-givers who are working in a foreign country can send money to their own country and family. However, as the ‘mother’ does not exist in migrants own family, the family needs to hire another cheap labored migrants as care-givers. Thus, this female transnational migration in care-giving labors echoes the phenomena of hiring care-giver migrants from a poorer country, a poorer country, and a more and more poorer country, and so on. The endless circle of becoming and hiring care-givers is created and the continuous circle traps female transnational migrants under its re-echoing system.

Reference

Pyle, J. L. Globalization, transnational migration, and gendered care work: Introduction. Globalizations 3:283-295.

Can you live alone?

by Zhang Shiwen

Japanese animation has become one of the most influential cultural media in the world. It not only exports the interesting stories, but also expresses the Japanese values to the world. One of the phrases which appears in most animations moved me and maybe many others a lot, what I think is the core value of Japanese culture is that “the human being cannot live alone”. Due to that, no matter what type of the animation is, Japanese value always tells us the importance of being connected with others. However, to think of the situation that Anne Allison wrote in Precarious Japan, the real Japan society has been losing this core value of connection. Some of them “have been abandoned or estranged from their families”, who will be discussed following are called “denizens” or “refugees” in her book (Allison 2013:59).

It is known that “denizenship” and “refugeeism” mostly describe the migrants and foreigners, but in Japan, people “who get stranded inside their own country with access to a secure job, stable home, or normal life”, and “without a place or space where one feels comfortable and “at home”” are also called “refugees” (Allison 2013:47). However, under the constitution of Japan, all citizens have the right to enjoy the basic life, which means living healthily and getting basic insurance. While seeing the current situation in Japan, many people work to earn money which even cannot afford the housing, enough food; even if the low payment and bad health condition, the government refused to pay the insurance. Moreover, some people work but “felt superfluous: unvalued in the work” and “voided of worth or recognition as a human being” (Allison 2013:64). They felt it a hardship of living because of lacking of human relationships or no belonging.

However, as what most animations show and the reality that people need “social recognition, human belonging”, and people “relay on others for self-confirmation”(Allison 2013:67), some of those who lose the connection with the society chose to kill others to prove his own existence, such as “Akibaken musabetsu terojiken”; some of them transferred their worries of insecurity of life to dissatisfied and then “join right wing association for the national belonging” (Allison 2013:63). In Japan, “net right wing” and “hate speech” are raised, but the truth is that it is hard to master the true information. Due to that, I think that if it is difficult to say the denizenship and refugeeism lead those people seek belonging to these groups, though some groups are good.

Therefore, in my opinion, denizenship and refugeeism will not lead people to seek belonging elsewhere, although it looks like so. Firstly, I do not know how people even cannot feed on themselves have the flexibility to join some groups, of course, if entering these groups can give them some benefits. That is the economic factor which makes those denizens join the groups. Secondly, I do not deny that it is very important to be recognized and belong, but I think that like people born alone and die alone, why they cannot live alone? If join to some groups or being recognized by the society is just self‐satisfaction? Some people, like Hitler or the leaders of right wings, use people’s desire of being recognized to do some bad things. Then, in these case, do they really take back their respect of human being?

In conclusion, I think that government should mainly take the responsibility to make sure the security of them, and take their respect back. What it means is that to join some groups is not enough and easy to be paranoid, the best way is to make them get back to the society.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

 

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The struggle of living in Japan if you are earning minimum wage

by Kota Yanagidani

Wherever the society is, there is work by which people earn money to live; however, there is a wide range of income. In Japan, the system of the minimum wage is there, but there would not be the exact limit line. In continuing paragraphs, the situation of living with the minimum wage in contemporary Japan is discussed.

First of all, the simple calculation of living for a month with minimum wage is argued. Thinking about Osaka prefecture, minimum wage is 819 yen. The average house fee is 50,000 yen per a month. The Costs for electricity and gas could be approximately 5,000 yen. The food cost is about 10,000 yen per a week. In Japan, there is the insurance cost, which is around 5,000 yen per a month. Calculating all cost or fee, the sum is roughly 100,000 yen. Since the minimum wage is 819 yen per an hour, at least one has to work for about 130 hours. If one can work for 8 hours per a day, 17 days are needed to earn enough money to live.

Next, how could this life be possible? This means it looks very difficult for all citizen to get a job in which one can work for over 17 days in a month. As an average, normal salary man usually works for 20 days in a month. These jobs are at least full time job, but most people today work as a part-time worker, and for them, it is rare to work for 5 days every week like usual company man. Even more, that job is part-time job. People do often not work for whole day as a part-time job. That’s why one might have to work more than 17 days to earn money for life. However, under such situation, one cannot enjoy doing a hobby usually because hobbies cost us extra money, and also sometimes we have to buy something necessary to live. We need knife, cutting board, and a frying pan to cook. These kinds of things sometimes cost us a lot.

In conclusion, it is really difficult to live a life with the minimum wage. Thinking about my situation, in addition to above costs, the tuition and the transportation cost have to be considered. However, then the time cost emerge. We have to concern with time for work, because we have to do homework, study for test, and read books for getting knowledge. These things make us realize the difficulty of earning enough money to live with the minimum wage. In this situation, what could be sacrificed? Do you give up sleeping?

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Struggles of living in Japan

Anonymous student post

The minimum wage in Kyoto is 773 yen. It may be the limit to earn 6,000 to 8,000 yen in a day with minimum wage. The problem will be not serious when people can get only minimum wage if they have a family who supports them (such as university students doing a part time job). However there are many serious cases in Japan. Net café refugees can be taken as an example. Net café refugees can earn money for today, however they can’t earn money for saving even though they work as hard as they can do. They “usually rely on temporary work (haken) or day labor (hiyatoi)” (Allison 2013:44) and can get almost minimum wage in Japan.

Relying on unstable jobs and getting a low salary, people continually feel anxiety and they can’t maintain themselves both mentally and physically. A net café is like home, however “‘Home,’ when they find it in a net café, is decidedly unhomey” (Allison 2013:45). Furthermore many people have to worry about the job for tomorrow every night. They spend a day with the wage they get on that day, hence there are no foods and no place where they spend a night if they can’t find a job. Sometimes they are introduced too dangerous job from the temporary staff agency. Some employers might think poor people would do the hazardous job with bad condition because they couldn’t manage a day without the job.

There are not only net café refugees but also other people who are hired as irregular workers and live on the edge. It is difficult to get stable job without graduating high school or even university in Japanese modern society. People almost can’t get out the bad cycle of poverty if people leave the way of getting the life of stability once (giving up high school and so on). Some people are deprived of “a safety net, social support system, or reserves of almost any kind” (Allison 2013:45) and even hopes for the future. They lose most things that would support them and feel “devoid of hope or dreams for tomorrow” (Allison 2013:46). Their lost thing is not only them, but also ibasho.

There are many people who work with minimum wage or close to the minimum in Japan. If they live alone, it would be hard to live mentally, physically and financially. With minimum wage, people can’t use their time to enjoy much even are filled with anxiety and hopeless. Japan hold many people who have no ibasho and no hope. The bad cycle of hopeless should be solved as soon as possible and Japan should become the society filled with hope for tomorrow.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Minimum wage as a student

Anonymous student post

In my hometown, Hyogo, the minimum wage is 800 yen, but it is surprisingly 660 yen in Japan. It is very low. Furthermore, I live in Hyogo with my family, so I have no difficulty, although my wage is 770 yen. But, I would like to imagine when I have a part-time job at the minimum wage and live along in the city where the wage is lowest.

I have played basketball since I was eleven years old. I have practices about twice or three times a week, so I cannot work those days. I work for four hours a day and about three or four days a week. Calculating my monthly salary, the salary is about 39,600 yen. It might look not so low, but this is not true. This is because I must pay some expenses: gas, water, and electricity. In Japan, these expenses is totally 5,000 yen on the average, and the average food one is 25000 yen. Subtracting these expenditures from the salary, I have only 9,600 yen at hand. I cannot play with my friend and cannot even save money. I use it up at once.

It might be important for me to save money for my future. I cannot live at this rate. Therefore, I add to working day. If I worked about five or six days a week, I would earn about 80,000 yen. It is very higher wage than former one. However, there are some problems. First problem is that I cannot allot much time to study or do my assignments. This is because I think that students’ main occupation is learning. Second problem is that I cannot have a sufficient rest. If the working day increase, it is natural that working day falls on the day when I play basketball. Working too much makes me exhausted mentally and physically. This might lead mistakes on working and a falling of my concentration on studying. This is a vicious circle.

In order not to fall into the circle, I have to do something. For example, I ask my parents to provide a monthly allowance, economize on gas, water, and electricity fees, save board, and so on. There are many ways to get through the problems even though my wage is minimum.

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The Face of Japan’s Working Poor

by Yusuke Sugiyama

First, I researched the minimum wage in Japan and it is 764 yen, and surprisingly the minimum wage in Kyoto is actually 759 yen. When I find out the number, I was really surprised because I worked for 760 yen one hour when I was first year student. When I used to work for 760 yen one hour, I had been leading a little brutal life. I worked just once or twice a week and worked for three to four hours in a day because I had to do a lot of homework, so my income was about 10,000 to 25,000 yen one month. Fortunately since I rent an apartment from my uncle by free of rent money, I have my room and bed. Also my parent gives me 30,000 yen for cost of food every month, so I can use about 40.000 yen to 55,000 yen.

Compared with the people who live in net café, I had been leading a happy daily life, but I struggled against some pain. I used to eat instant ramen and fast food, and sometimes I suffered from hunger. Naturally, I cannot afford to go shopping and to make an excursion. However, I can maintain a decent standard of living because I have my house. If I had not had my house and friends, I would not have lived alone in Kyoto.

I think it is naturally for the people with temporary, part-time and short-time, which are called hiseiki, to stay such a place as net café and manga kissa. As Anne Allison said in Precarious Japan, those places are very convenient, and I thought that those places are ones where people enjoy reading a book and feel relaxed before I read the book; however, those places have serious problems.

One problem is that ordinary people have difficulty seeing net café nanmin in net café, so it is difficult to realize the problem. There are only the rooms which are individually divided by the wall, so they have few opportunities to interact with others. If I do not have much money, my house, my friends and my ibasho, I am sure not to live a life. However, there are a lot of people who are in similar situation in Japan.

I think that I can understand the danger of this style of working poor because I have experience to work for low wage. According to Allison, this is Japan’s new face of working poor. I also think we have to pay attention to this problem.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press

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Refugeeism and Denizenship

by Asuko Sugino

First of all, I’ll talk about the definitions of “refugeeism” and ”denizenship”, secondly I’ll refer to where refugees or denizens might belong to instead, and then finally I’d like to mention an example of one refugee in the Philippines who made the organization working for equality and social justice.

The word “refugee” in Precarious Japan by Anne Allison is used in a broad sense. That is to say, it indicates everyone who doesn’t have the place where they can feel comfortable or a sense of home, rather than the people who live in a tent in a refugee camp. She declares to us that this refugeeism has become “ordinary” in Japan which can’t provide “ibasho” for the citizen, citing many examples of “net café refugees” or “temps”. These refugees cannot be equal to non-refugees in various ways (shelter, stable salary, guarantee for future).

On the other hand, “denizen” in this article doesn’t include the above-mentioned examples such as Japanese net café refugees or temp workers. Refugees don’t have “ibasho” but “citizenship” at least. “Denizen” lacks not only secure job, where to return but also their own citizenship, therefore they are not regarded as citizen but resident alien. I think that “denizens” lacks both of equal status and rights, while “refugees” lacks just equal status. To make the worse, according to Anne Allison, denizenship is made use of and exploited by global capitalism because denizens have no choice but to stand working at low wage, with short-term contract and few benefits. Additionally, this system using denizen labors is plotted on purpose and the number of them will increase.

Now, where do they find alternative “ibasho”? In my opinion, both of refugees and denizens tend to seek it at anti-social organizations such as gangster organizations or crime syndicates, because society robbed them of essential status and rights. Some decide to soak themselves into drugs or alcohol without seeking alternative “ibasho”. However, some people try to alter by themselves the wrong social system, facing the reason why the society failed to give them the benefits to be granted. The following is one example.

In the Philippines, 10 years ago, one 16-year boy named Eflen Penyaflorida living in a slum in Manila was worried about the future of his hometown. The children surrounding him supported their families’ living by gathering garbage, so most of them don’t receive an education and become gang members as they grew up. He hoped the gangs in Manila would disappear by receiving enough education to gain ordinary jobs. He established “DTC (Dynamic Teen Company)” and started teaching the children by himself breaking down their parents’ opposition. Now, the scale of the organization is as large as the school and it was awarded a prize by CNN. Eflen didn’t look for his new “ibasho”, but create it by himself.

Everyone cannot make their own “ibasho” by their hands, still we have the responsibility for trying to make the proper place for “refugees” or “denizens” instead of anti-social places, as a member of the society.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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I have worked on and on, yet my life does not get easier

Anonymous student post

“Hatarakedo hatarakedo nao waga kurashi raku ni narazari jitto tewo miru”

This is the poem written by Takuboku Ishikawa. The rough translation of this is “I have worked on and on, yet my life does not get easier, and I stare at my hands.” Though the time this poem was made is different from current situation, I think what he felt toward poor workers could apply to the present world. As he expresses, current poor workers cannot get out of the negative spiral. In this paper, I would like to analyze the minimum wage and the struggles of the people earning minimum wage.

Firstly, I want to compare the minimum wage in some areas. My hometown is Kochi, which is pretty rural, and now I live in Kyoto, which is relatively urban, so I would like to compare the minimum wage of the two regions. According to the data of Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in 2012, the minimum wage in Kochi is 652 yen per hour, which is one of the lowest wages in Japan, and that in Kyoto is 759 yen per hour, which is the fifth in Japan. Supposed you are working eight hours a day and five days a week, you would earn 104,320 yen per month and 1,251,840 per year in Kochi. On the other hand, your income would be 121,440 per month and 1,457,280 yen per year in Kyoto. This calculation is quite rough, but you can imagine how much there are differences depending on the region. In addition, it seems too hard to maintain your life on the minimum wage, therefore, you have to work longer hours in order to live your humane life.

Secondly, if you were working for minimum wage, one of the struggles you would face is that you have fewer opportunities to enhance your skills or to build relationships with other people. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, minimum wage workers must work for a longer time. However, they would less money than usual company workers. Put simply, minimum wage workers have less free time and less money. From these factors, they have less opportunity to improve their skills to get higher jobs. They have less time and money to gain the license or competence to promote their job or to get regular job.

In the end, their type of employment and wage does not change much. In addition, because of the lack of time and money, they also have less opportunity to make relationship with others, who share something such as hobbies, goals or skills. The connection with other people would bring you some ibasho to enrich your life and also useful information for your job carrier. It can be said that the less relationship you have with others, the less opportunity you have to get things which would be benefit for you.

In conclusion, minimum wage workers are in a kind of ant lion. It seems to be difficult to deal with their situation without any support. When they try to get off there, someone’s help is necessary.

References

Chiikibetsu saiteichingin ranking [the ranking of regional minimum wage in Japan] (n.d.) MEMORVA. Retrieved form http://memorva.jp/ranking/japan/mhlw_saiteichingin_2012.php

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