Japan Times Community Page on NJ “Trainee Visa” slavery program and how crooked it still is, according to NGOs
Posted by debito on December 7th, 2010
Hi Blog. Here is more information and woe about something we’ve talked about on Debito.org umpteen times before: Japan’s “Trainee Visa” program — the GOJ’s way to get cheap NJ workers into Japan’s labor-deficient factories under slave-wages and conditions. Article from the Japan Times excerpted below. Arudou Debito
THE ZEIT GIST
Abuse rife within trainee system, say NGOs
Foreigners report harsh job conditions, poverty-line pay, mistreatment under notorious program
The Japan Times, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010 (excerpt)
By JODY GODOY
In October 1999, 19 Chinese trainees came to the Takefu city office pleading for help. In their first year in Japan as interns, the women had been promised ¥50,000 a month, but scraped by on ¥10,000. The next year, as technical trainees, they should have received ¥115,000 a month. After health insurance, pension, rent, forced “savings” and administrative fees for the staffing agency in China were deducted, what they got was ¥15,000. The women walked for five hours from their workshop in the mountains of Fukui Prefecture to talk with the director of their placement organization at his home. Instead of receiving answers, they were turned away with harsh words — and even blows.
The incident was discussed in the Diet and became a symbol of the profound problems with the trainee system. Shortly afterwards, citizens’ groups formed to protect the rights of trainees and organizations already working to protect foreigners’ rights found a new focus. More than 10 years later, leaders of these groups say they have seen some positive changes, but abuses of the system are still endemic.
Started in 1993, the aim of the Technical Intern Training Program is to “provide training in technical skills, technology (and) knowledge” to workers from developing countries, according to the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO), which oversees the program. But in practice, say advocacy groups, the majority of both trainees and the companies who accept them think of the relationship primarily as regular employment. A convoluted placement system complicates the situation: Between the trainees — the majority of whom come from China — and the workplace where they end up, there are usually at least three intermediary organizations involved, in Japan and the participants’ native country.
Until 2009, the number of trainees in Japan had been rising steadily, with more than 100,000 participating in the program in 2008. The majority of trainees are brought in under the auspices of JITCO. After the global economic crisis, the number of JITCO-authorized trainees fell in 2009 to 50,064 (down from 68,150). According to the latest figures, the total for 2010 was 39,151 as of October.
The Tokyo-based Advocacy Network for Foreign Trainees has served as the national umbrella organization for trainee advocacy groups since 1999. The network’s members are 90 researchers, lawyers, journalists and other individuals, and 10 groups including labor unions and local trainee advocacy groups.
The network provides legal counsel to trainees in their own language, calls on unions to negotiate with companies and contracting organizations, finds lawyers to represent trainees in court, and provides shelter for trainees who stand up to their employers.
Yang Zhen (whose name has been changed to protect his identity) is one of five former trainees and interns living in the network’s shelter in Tokyo. He came to Japan from Dalian, China, in January 2007. Working as a plasterer, he was responsible for mixing large amounts of mortar for four other workers. As a result he developed an uncommon and painful collapse of the wrist bone called Kienbock’s disease. When he sought treatment, his employers pressured him not to reveal his working conditions. Yang is now applying for workers’ compensation with the help of the Zentoitsu Workers Union and the Tokyo Occupational Safety and Health Center, and is claiming ¥3 million in unpaid wages.
To support Yang and others like him, the advocacy network relies entirely on grass-roots support in the form of volunteers and donations. Like most of its member organizations, the network receives no funding from the government, and trainees usually hear of the groups via word of mouth. The network’s members exchange and compile information from cases they have dealt with locally every month, and meet once a year to draft recommendations to the government.
But information-sharing is often a one-way street, says Hiroshi Nakajima, one of the network’s organizers…
Rest of the article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20101207zg.html