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Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009

Brazilians in need of vocational training, language courses

Staff writer

The government should provide vocational training and language support to Brazilian workers who have lost their jobs as manufacturers streamline operations, Brazilian Ambassador Luiz Augusto De Castro Neves said.

News photo
Pushing for change: Brazilian Ambassador Luiz Augusto De Castro Neves speaks at the Brazilian Embassy in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Tuesday. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

In a recent interview, Castro Neves expressed hope that Japan will bolster training to enable workers to transfer smoothly from ailing industries to other sectors. He also noted that public schools need to step up Japanese language education for foreign students.

Many out-of-work Brazilians who can no longer afford to send their children to private Brazilian schools are opting to return home rather than transfer their kids to public schools, partly due to the lack of language support.

"Japan has a compulsory education system for Japanese, but (it is as if education was) not compulsory for foreigners," Castro Neves said. The government should make "Brazilians who cannot afford private schools (feel comfortable) sending their children to public schools."

The government has already started working to explore some of the measures Castro Neves proposed.

The Cabinet Office on Jan. 9 established a team to compile measures to help out-of-work foreigners with permanent settler status — mainly Brazilians — find jobs and provide Japanese language education to them and their children. Yuko Obuchi, state minister for population and gender quality, is heading the team.

"This is an extremely positive move. It means Japan acknowledges the importance of foreign communities," said Castro Neves, who took up his position last October.

Rising unemployment became a social problem late last year as manufacturers, which hired many Brazilians and other South Americans as temporary workers at their factories, began cutting jobs amid the recession. Many dismissed foreign workers were also kicked out of their company dormitories, leaving them to search for new homes.

While the Brazilian embassy does not have the exact figure, "many Brazilians have returned home" since last fall, Castro Neves said. According to the embassy, about 317,000 Brazilians live in Japan, making them the third-largest ethnic community after Koreans and Chinese.

Their numbers continued to rise over the past decade, mainly because Japanese manufacturers hired them as a cheap source of labor. However, companies started firing them when business slowed and conditions deteriorated late last year amid the economic slowdown.

The ambassador also stressed Brazil's strong partnership with Japan. The two countries last year marked the 100th anniversary since Japanese began emigrating to Brazil to farm.

"Brazil and Japan are the best example (for international friendship). About 1.5 million Brazilians of Japanese descent living in Brazil fit in comfortably with local communities," he said.

Besides vocational training and children's education, he is also working on a social welfare agreement with Japan to avoid the duplicate payment of pension in the two countries. This would enable the transfer of pensions so that those who have paid into Japan's pension system will be able to receive them in Brazil, and vice versa.

Despite the strong bilateral ties, he said he is not sure if the number of Brazilians in Japan will rise further, given the recent economic plunge.

"It will depend on the Japanese economy and support for Brazilian communities," he said.

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