Page last updated at 07:28 GMT, Thursday, 2 April 2009 08:28 UK

Japan pays jobless incomers to go

Temporary workers in Tokyo protest at high unemployment
Japan's unemployment rate is at a three-year high

Japan is offering 300,000 yen ($3,000;£2,000) for a plane ticket home for some unemployed overseas workers.

In addition, there is 200,000 yen for each family member leaving the country.

The scheme only applies to hundreds of thousands of South Americans of Japanese descent, living in the country on special visas for factory work.

Japan's downturn has particularly hit workers from countries such as Brazil and Peru, often only on temporary work contracts making things like car parts.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that Japan's unemployment rate had risen to a three-year high as companies continued to cut jobs.

The jobless rate rose to 4.4% in February, from 4.1% in the previous month, the government said.

"The [returnee] programme is to respond to a growing social problem," said Hiroshi Yamashita, an official at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, referring to unemployment.

'Not totally welcome'

However those who take up the offer may not find it easy to return to Japan to work, as they would not be eligible for their current type of visa.

"It is not necessarily a totally welcome deal," said Iwao Nishiyama, of the Association of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad, a government-backed organisation that connects people of Japanese ancestry.

In the early 1990s, Tokyo relaxed its stringent immigration laws to allow special entry permits for foreigners of Japanese ancestry in South America to work in its factories.

These foreigners of Japanese descent, most of whose ancestors left the country to seek a better life in South America in the early 20th century, were offered special visa status.

These returnees, called Nikkei in Japanese, are not always fluent in Japanese and may not be totally accepted in the local communities.

To enable them to get a job during the downturn there have also been plans to offer them Japanese lessons.

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