TOKYO -- Japan wants to help more foreign students who attend universities in the country stick around after graduating.
In its Japan Revitalization Strategy, formulated in June, the government set a goal of raising the employment rate of foreign students in Japan from around 30% at present to 50% by 2020.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is set to come up with frameworks in 30 regions that will help retain "excellent" foreign students.
Under the program, universities will set up support offices with the help of local companies and municipalities.
Also, universities will provide Japanese lessons from the first year of college so that students will have a good command of business-level Japanese once they graduate.
The program will offer lectures by company representatives on Japan's unique corporate culture, recruiting activities and at least month-long internships.
The ministry will subsidize payroll costs for Japanese language classes and internships depending on the content and each program's track record.
In addition, the ministry will simplify the unwieldy procedure foreigners have to go through to switch their student visas to work visas. In this regard, it will work with the Ministry of Justice.
Despite wishing to get jobs in Japan, many international students end up going back home, unable to get a handle on Japan's draining job-hunting process, or if successful, to make themselves comfortable in the country's unique corporate culture.
Meanwhile, small businesses outside Japan's main metropolises are unaccustomed to hiring foreign graduates, even though many hope to expand overseas. As foreign students also tend to prefer large companies, the ministry is hoping that the programs will serve as an intermediary between foreign students and small businesses.
According to the Japan Student Services Organization, or Jasso, only 34.5% of the 11,556 foreign students graduating from Japanese universities in fiscal 2014 got jobs in the country.
In a Jasso survey of foreign students enrolled at Japanese universities conducted in January, 69.9% of respondents said they want to seek employment in Japan after graduation.
An official from the education ministry said the gap can be explained by two factors -- Japanese companies' tendency to only periodically recruit new graduates and the country's lifetime employment system.
More than 40 foreign students last month attended a career guidance seminar at Rikkyo University, in Tokyo. A 25-year-old South Korean business student said he has noted a difference between companies in his home country and those in Japan. In South Korea, he said, employers want new hires to be ready to hit the ground running. In Japan, he said, companies look more for potential.