Local Japanese governments slow to provide housing assistance: poll

There’s a new visa programme for prospective foreign workers in Japan, but are cities and wards ready for them?

Street life in Tokyo, Japan. Luciano Mortula – LGM

Even with a new visa programme, most major municipalities in Japan are still ill-equipped to help foreign residents adapt to their new environment, according to a survey conducted by Nikkei Asian Review.

Only 26 percent of local Japanese governments offered services that help foreigners find housing and prevent discrimination against home tenants or buyers, the survey of 253 cities and wards revealed.

Japan is anticipating an inflow of 345,000 foreign workers in the next few years under the amended Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.

The measure, signed December, dangles the new Specified Skills visa allowing the entry of foreign talent pool in such sectors as agriculture, nursing care, construction, and food and hospitality services for a five-year period.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has tasked municipalities to create departments or programmes providing administrative services for such foreign workers, from multilingual support to assistance with daily life.

However, only 41 percent of the cities and wards surveyed by Nikkei have created such departments; 57 percent have not.

“We have limited administrative resources in terms of personnel and costs,” an official in Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture, was quoted as saying by Nikkei. “It will take time to tackle every measure.”