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75% of foreign students in east Japan pref. struggling financially due to pandemic: survey

Students are seen taking classes while wearing masks in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on May 28, 2020. (Mainichi/Sachi Fukushima)

YOKOHAMA -- Three out of four foreign students in the east Japan prefecture of Kanagawa, just south of Tokyo, told a recent survey that they were struggling financially due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, according to results released by a local foundation promoting international exchange.

    The survey also revealed that more than 90% of respondents had not received any support from local governments or volunteer groups, highlighting how foreign students are starting to become isolated in Japan due to language or cultural barriers amid the coronavirus crisis.

    To examine the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on foreign students, the Kanagawa International Foundation conducted the survey online between July 1 and July 28. The questionnaire consisted of 13 multiple-choice questions as well as write-in sections which respondents could fill in freely. The group collected answers from 237 students from overseas including China, Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea who attend universities, graduate schools or Japanese language schools in the prefecture.

    When asked about their financial situations, 40% said they "did not have enough money to pay for living expenses," while 22% answered that they neither had funds for "tuition or living expenses." Another 13% said they could not afford their tuition, and overall 75% responded that they were struggling. In the write-in sections, at least one student wrote, "I would like to get support for my tuition and living expenses even for a little bit."

    To questions regarding their part-time jobs, 27% responded that their hours were cut, 20% said they were not getting any work, while 16% said they were on a leave for a long period, with 63% overall claiming that their work had been affected by the coronavirus. Meanwhile, 94% of respondents told the survey that they had not received any livelihood assistance from local governments or volunteer support groups, other than the Japanese government's one-time 100,000-yen (about $954) hand out.

    The foundation's Ryoko Yamauchi, head of its Development of Global Human Resources Section, pointed out that while Japanese students have also faced difficulties amid the pandemic, the issues are amplified for foreign students, many of whom cannot even go back to their home countries. She added, "We want to improve our support by providing information and consultation in multiple languages so that foreign students have access to the information they need."

    (Japanese original by Shotaro Kinoshita, Yokohama Bureau)

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