Hi Blog. Supplementing yesterday’s report from Terrie Lloyd, concerning the aberrations from Japan’s addiction to underpaid NJ labor, Adidas (yes, the sports goods maker) suggests, as submitter Crustpunker says, “It is more or less common knowledge what goes on here regarding migrant workers — I mean, ‘trainees’.”
Talk about an open secret. It only took about two decades for the GOJ to amend the laws, of course, so Japan’s industry (not to mention overseas sourcers) got away with plenty while the going was good. Nevertheless, no doubt we’ll soon have laments in the Japanese media about how our industry must now suffer since either a) Japanese are underemployed, or b) Japanese industry is being hurt by NJ labor refusing to be exploited anymore. Sob away.
Anyway, here’s what Adidas has to say about Japan’s employment practices, and what measures, in conjunction with other major overseas outsourcers, they say they will be taking. Arudou Debito
Case Study 2010: The challenges of migrant workers in Japan
At the end of 2009 the decision was taken to change Japan’s status to a ‘Low Risk Location’ along with other developed countries in northern Europe, New Zealand, USA and Canada. This decision was taken because of Japan’s strong legislation and comparatively robust implementation of the law. It meant that from January 2010 there would be no more regular auditing of suppliers in Japan.
Migrant worker issues
However SEA continued to monitor the specific issue of foreign or migrant workers in Japan because we know that there is a significant risk of non-compliance in this area.
A series of random audits and interviews conducted during 2010 confirmed a range of non-compliances with respect to migrant workers. These include forced labour, withholding passports, not paying the legal minimum wage and lack of access to grievance channels.
The adidas Group Sourcing team in Japan acted on the audit information and sent a letter to all their suppliers calling for immediate improvements or enforcement action would follow. All 23 suppliers for the adidas Group that have technical interns from China and Vietnam will continue to be monitored by the SEA team in 2011.
One of the underlying causes of the critical migrant worker situation in Japan is that officially the Japanese government does not accept foreign workers in their domestic market. Instead a Technical Intern Training Programme is used to bring foreign workers to Japan. This programme, led by the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO), has been widely criticised for discriminating against foreign workers. First-year trainees were not protected under Japanese labour law and it was unclear where recruitment fees and contracts were decided – the worker’s home country or Japan – and this lack of clarity meant workers were being exploited.
The Japanese government belatedly addressed the issue in 2010 when, after several delays, the new Immigration Control and Refugee Act came into force on 1 July. It promised greater protection to foreign and migrant workers in the Intern Training Programme. The new law addressed some major issues:
Going beyond legislation
There is, regrettably, a history of poor treatment of migrant workers in Japan and it is not a situation which will change overnight, even with this new legislation. So we recognise that we have a role to play in improving the system for migrant workers. In collaboration with several other brands including Nike, Gap and Disney, the adidas Group has set up quarterly meetings with Japanese vendors, suppliers, government representatives and JITCO. Working together the brands are helping to bring more transparency to the Intern Training Programme and establish a standard for acceptable recruitment fees as well as offer capacity building and training on applying the immigration and labour laws.