TOKYO – A Japanese organization that offers scholarships to students interrupted a questionnaire asking recipients about their future marriage plans and the number of children they wish to have after some students expressed fears that the survey could be considered like harassment.
The questionnaire was conducted in such a way that respondents could be identified. The Japanese Student Services Organization (JASSO) explained that the purpose of the survey was to “confirm the effectiveness of the scholarship program as a countermeasure against the declining birth rate.” It is not mandatory “. However, after being interviewed by the Mainichi Shimbun on October 6, the questionnaire was canceled.
The target of the survey was senior academics, vocational school students and others who will graduate this academic year after receiving the benefit scholarships, which do not have to be repaid. They were partially launched in academic 2017 as part of the free higher education program, and fully launched in 2020.
The free higher education program is designed to ‘combat the declining birth rate by reducing the economic burden so that people from low-income households can study at universities that train human resources who will play an active role in the society “. It is positioned as a “countermeasure against the fall in the birth rate” with the consumption tax serving as a source of funds.
The survey includes ten questions on two main themes: job search and marriage. Before the question about marriage, there is an explanation that “Since the benefit-type scholarship is implemented as a countermeasure against the falling birth rate, we would like to ask for your cooperation in the following questionnaire regarding your awareness of marriage and childbirth. ”
He then asks questions such as: “Do you plan to get married someday?” (choose yes, no or already married) ”; “At what age do you want to get married? (enter a number) ”; and “How many children do you want to have? (choose from zero to five or more). ”
According to JASSO, the answers are voluntary, but the organization will be able to confirm who gave which answers. An official told the Mainichi Shimbun that the purpose of the questionnaire was “to measure the effect of scholarships on the future prospects of students and to use this information to review the system in four years.”
In response, some students expressed confusion, with one student, who describes himself as gay, tweeted the following comment on October 4.
“If they are offering scholarships to counter the falling birth rate, does that mean they want people to marry and have children for the good of the country … does that mean those who are not ready to marry, LGBTQ or infertile are not suitable for scholarships? ”
The student told the Mainichi Shimbun, “I feel uncomfortable because it seems to put pressure on us to help fight the falling birth rate.
“There are people who don’t get married, people who can’t get married under the current legal system, people who don’t have children and people who can’t have children, but the issues place too little importance on these people, ”he added.
Hirokazu Ouchi, professor of sociology of education at Chukyo University and co-chair of the national conference on scholarship issues, which called for the introduction and expansion of benefit scholarships, said: “This is a discriminatory issue that lacks consideration. for LGBT people, other sexual minorities and infertile people. ”
“From a privacy perspective, it is inappropriate to ask the questions in such a way that the respondent can be identified, and the intent of the questions is unclear. According to the responses, the benefit program may even be considered unnecessary, on the grounds that it will not increase the desire to marry among the students who benefit from it, ”Ouchi stressed.
He added: “The scholarships are essentially a guarantee of learning, not a measure for the government. As a result, they can help to counter the declining birth rate, but that is not the original purpose of benefit grants.
After the interview with Mainichi Shimbun, a representative from JASSO revealed that they were canceling the questionnaire because they had received inquiries about it from several schools, such as “Should we answer them without exception?” And “Doesn’t that constitute harassment?” ”
The organization then commented: “We judged that there were people who were mentally uncomfortable or shocked due to the lack of consideration, and deleted (the questionnaire). In the future, we will take such things into consideration and pay attention to the content of the questionnaire. ”
(Japanese original by Chie Yamashita, Digital News Center)