J Times Jan 3 07 on foreign “trainees” facing chronic abuses

mytest

Hi Blog. Yet another article substantiating Japanese abuses of foreign labor… No wonder–even the article admits that foreign “trainees” and “researchers” are not protected by Japanese Labor Law, so what do you expect?

(Previous blogged articles of similar substantiation at
http://www.debito.org/?p=105
http://www.debito.org/?p=99
http://www.debito.org/?p=107)
Debito

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Foreign trainees facing chronic abuses
Firms refuse to stop exploiting interns as cheap labor, leading many to quit

Kyodo News/Japan Times Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2007
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/nn20070103f4.html

Japan’s industrial training and technical internship programs, mainly
for young people from China and Southeast Asia, have been shaken by
revelations that some firms are exploiting the programs to save costs.

Some foreign interns have been underpaid or forced to take
unproductive jobs unconnected to training. A considerable number
refused to tolerate such treatment and have disappeared from workplaces.

The labor and trade ministries are trying to improve the programs,
but companies that accept foreign interns remain largely resistant to
change because many of them depend on the programs for cheap labor.

“I came to Japan to learn about farming but have been sent to a
construction site,” said a Chinese woman in her 30s at a meeting
sponsored by the Advocacy Network for Foreign Trainees.

“I have been forced to overwork with little time left for learning.”

Launched by the government in 1993, the training and internship
programs allow young foreigners to undergo language and other
training for one year and to serve as interns at companies in Japan
for up to two years.

Company associations in 62 industrial categories usually arrange the
internship programs at specific firms.

The programs have expanded year by year.

In 2005 alone, as many as 80,000 young people came to Japan on the
programs.

However, those in the programs are left unprotected by labor law.

During the first year of training, monthly pay is limited to 60,000
yen — below the legally set minimum wage.

Although monthly pay rises to around 120,000 yen over the internship
period, employers often deduct management and other fees to cut net
pay by tens of thousands of yen.

Some employers reportedly direct foreign interns to work late at
night at an hourly rate of only 300 yen.

In such circumstances, more than 1,000 interns disappear from
workplaces each year, apparently to find better paying — but
unauthorized — employment.

In the face of such serious problems, the Health, Labor and Welfare
Ministry has been reviewing the programs along with the Ministry of
Economy, Trade and Industry.

A labor ministry panel plans to correct wage levels and toughen
penalties for illegal practices while at the same time rewarding
companies that treat foreign interns well, ministry officials said.

Some companies for their part have requested longer internship
periods because of labor shortages, the officials said.

A METI study group is also calling for extended internship periods
and an expansion in the range of industries eligible to accept
foreign interns, they said.

Many of the companies that accept foreign interns are engaged in
sewing, metal-processing and other industries that depend on the
cheap labor of foreign interns to maintain international
competitiveness.

“The interns presumably understand their treatment,” said an official
at a sewing company in Gifu Prefecture, implying that foreign
trainees have given their consent before taking jobs under the programs.

An official at a metal-processing company said that while foreigners
are prohibited by law from entering Japan for menial jobs — to
protect employment opportunities for domestic workers — the
internship programs have allowed companies to employ foreign interns
for such jobs.

An expert on foreign labor in Japan characterized the programs as
“fraudulent.”

“It is unjustifiable to expand a fraudulent system that preys on
young foreigners,” said Hiroshi Komai, a professor at Chukyo Women’s
University in Aichi Prefecture.

The Japan Times
ENDS

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