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Japan’s Defense Ministry plans to offer university tuition support to woo young people to join SDF

  • September 22, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 1:54 p.m.
  • English Press

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo / Self-Defense Forces members search for missing people near the Kuma River in Kumamoto Prefecture on July 20 after it flooded due to torrential rain.

The Defense Ministry has decided on a policy to financially support fixed-term Self-Defense Forces members if they go to university after completing their term, on condition that they register as “reserve” or “ready reserve” members of the SDF, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.


Fixed-term SDF members include high school graduates. They serve for an extendable term of two to three years. The ministry will include the related expenses in its preliminary budgetary request for fiscal 2021.


The policy is aimed at recruiting more young people who can serve on the front lines in times of emergency.


Fixed-term SDF members are recruited from those aged 18 to 32. After serving a certain period of time, many of them find employment at private companies or other organizations, but some of them, about 70 every year, aspire to go to university.


Such fixed-term SDF members will receive full entrance fees and tuition for university if they register as ready reserve SDF members who will be dispatched to the scene in times of large-scale disaster or emergency. Alternatively, they will receive part of their fees and tuition if they register as reserve SDF members who provide logistic support or guard bases in such a times.


The ministry is requesting a budget for the support costs for about 100 reserve members.


Of the 15,548 members who joined the SDF in fiscal 2019, nearly a half of them, or 7,359, are fixed-term members. At the end of the fiscal year, there were 21,364 fixed-term members. Due to a decline in the population of young people, the number of new recruits has been smaller than planned for six consecutive years.


Recent years have seen many large-scale disasters, so the presence of reserve SDF members is growing increasingly important. Yet there is a chronic shortage of them. As of the end of fiscal 2018, the number of ready reserve members reached only 53.4% of the ministry’s target level, while the number of reserve members was 70.9%.

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