JT and Nikkei: Japan to offer longer stays for “Trainees”, but with contract lengths that void qualifying for Permanent Residency

JT: Japan is weighing the creation of a new status of residence that would allow technical interns from abroad to stay longer in the country, as part of efforts to tackle severe labor shortages, sources said Wednesday. But interns’ families would not be allowed to enter Japan — a provision meant to prevent the creation of the new status from leading to discussions on the sensitive issue of immigration, the sources said. The status would allow those who have completed a five-year technical intern training program and meet certain requirements to stay and work for up to five additional years, the sources said. […]

But according to a Nikkei business daily report, trainees will still have to return to their home after their programs end, and then apply for the new residence status that would allow them to work again in Japan for a further five years. This is apparently aimed at keeping trainees and interns from gaining eligibility to apply for permanent residency, for which one of the prerequisites is to be living in Japan for 10 years or more.

COMMENT: As is within character since the early 1990s, Japan wants NJ workers to make up for labor shortages in Japan’s workforce, but remains unwilling to allow NJ migrant workers to become immigrants: to access the benefits of their labors and years of investment in Japan’s economy and society by allowing them to live in Japan. No, once again, Japan would rather leach off the best years of NJs’ productive lives and then send them home. Except now GOJ policy explicitly wants them to stick around and be exploited ever longer (without their families, and with a built-in contract cut-off before they can qualify for Permanent Residency), again under the guise of the deadly “Trainee” slave-wage labor program.

Reuters: Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1 million; but fine print overlooked, e.g., conflating “Trainees” with “Workers”

The resurgence of Japan’s import labor regime has resumed in earnest, reaching a record at least in the Postwar Era. (Remember that during WWII, Japan’s internal colonial population, as in workers imported from its colonies, was very high; people from the Korean peninsula alone in 1945 were more than two million.) Now as of 2016, the NJ worker total has hit 1 million, according to Reuters below.

There is some fine print this article should have noted. This “record one million” is of workers, not registered residents alone (which is in fact more than twice the number, at 2.23 million as of 2015), since they have dependents (i.e., spouses with non-work visas and children). But within this one million are people who are not technically “workers” (roudousha), but “Trainees” (kenkyuusei or jisshuusei), who aren’t officially protected by Japan labor laws and are exposed to all manner of abuses, including slavery.

So calling them all “workers” is misleading both in terms of terminology and legal status. Especially since, as the article does rightly note, they are making up 20% of the total, or around 200,000 unprotected NJ laborers. Now that their numbers have shot up by 25% over one year alone, we can expect that 70% of all their employers will likely expose them to labor abuses.

These are not happy statistics, and for the article to lack this degree of nuance (especially since Reuters itself has done marvelous exposes in the past, even calling “Trainee” employers “sweatshops in disguise”) is at this point an institutional memory problem.

Another problem is the article implying that there is any actual attempt to, quote, “open gates to immigrants”. Immigration (imin) has never been part of Japan’s policy calculations (and I challenge the journalists researching this article to find that exact word in any of the cited policy directives; their citing a construction company manager, in the unlikely event that he actually used the word imin, is still indicative of nothing) — only temporary stopgap laborers who will give their best working lives and then be sent home at the first economic downturn. As has happened before, most cruelly.

As much as the article might be trying to attract eyeballs by putting a superlative “record number of” in the headline (and once again sneaking in an angle of hope of actual “immigration” happening), the only change that has happened here is that more NJ are being processed by an exploitative system — one that has by design remained relatively unchanged for nearly three decades, and moreover has been expanded to exploit even more. So many misdirected angles here.

Kyodo: Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign “Trainees”. Unclear how it’ll be enforced.

Here’s a little something that may or may not matter in future. As the Abe Administration seeks to expand the NJ “Trainee” sweatshop and slave-labor program out of the construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and fishery industries and into nursing (not to mention the “special economic zones” so that foreigners with college degrees and Japanese language ability will have the privilege of tilling land and weeding crops on Japanese farms; seriously), we finally have a law to prevent the widespread abuses of NJ not covered by labor laws. Abuses so widespread, as the article says below, that “about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies and organizations that accepted trainees last year were found to have violated laws,” according to the GOJ. That’s quite a stat.

Now will this law be enforced? Remains to be seen. I’m not sure how this governmental “body to carry out on-site inspections at companies and organizations using the program and offer counseling services for participating workers” will work in practice. We’ve already seen how ineffectual other human-rights organs for “counseling” (such as the Ministry of Justice’s Potemkin Bureau of Human Rights) are in Japan. And there are all manner of institutionalized incentives (and decades of established practice) for people to turn blind eyes. After all, the only ones being hurt by this slavery program are foreigners, and they can just go back home if they don’t like it. (Except that they can’t.) Debito.org will keep you posted on developments.

Japan Times: Japan sanctioning mass ‘slave labor’ by duping foreign trainees, observers say

Japan Times: The [Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program], however, has not been without its critics. Japan’s top ally, the U.S., has even singled it out, with the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report for years slamming the program’s “deceptive recruitment practices.” “The (Japanese) government did not prosecute or convict forced labor perpetrators despite allegations of labor trafficking in the TTIP,” it said this year, using the program’s acronym.

Past allegations include unpaid overtime work, karoshi (death from overwork), and all kinds of harassment, including company managers restricting the use of toilets or demanding sexual services. The government rejects claims the program is abusive, yet acknowledges there have been some upstream problems. “It is true that some involved in the system have exploited it, but the government has acted against that,” an immigration official said. “It is not a system of slave labor.” The official insisted it was not in authorities’ power to control the behavior of middlemen but insisted they were not allowed to charge deposit fees. “It is also banned for employers to take away trainees’ passports,” he added.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled a plan to expand the program that would allow foreign trainees to stay in Japan for five years instead of three, and says such labor will increasingly be needed, particularly in the construction boom ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Abe is also aware that the nation’s health care sector must increasingly look abroad to fill the shortage of workers. “It has been said that we will need 1 million caregivers for the elderly by 2025, which would be impossible to handle only with the Japanese population,” said Tatsumi Kenmochi, a manager at a care home near Tokyo that employs Indonesian nurses. For Kenmochi, foreign staff are a precious commodity and the sector must do as much as it can to make them feel welcome. “It must be hard to leave home and work overseas,” he said. “We make sure that they don’t get homesick, listening to them and sometimes going out to have a warm bowl of noodles with them.”

Torii of Solidarity Network With Migrants Japan said this is just the kind of attitude Japan needs to learn: “The issue is not whether we accept immigrants or not. They are already here, playing a vital role in our society.”

Asahi: NJ Nurse trainees leave Japan despite 1-year extension to taking qualifying test

The GOJ is trying to plug the leak of NJ trainee nurses leaving Japan despite their best efforts on the qualifying exam. But after all these years of insufficient institutional support, it’s too little, too late, and disorganized at that; according to the Asahi article below, morale is clearly low for them. Mayhaps the jig is up, and word is getting round at last that the NJ nurse training program was after all just another guise for a revolving-door labor force?

Asahi: Many Indonesian nurse trainees who failed their exams have returned home amid confusion over who would be allowed to stay for another year to retake the test.

The government decided to allow 68 of the 78 Indonesians who failed this year’s nursing exam to stay and take another exam next year. But 25 of the 91 Indonesians who took the exam in March have already left.

“I first heard about an extended stay some time ago, but I was not given any details,” said a woman in her 30s who failed the exam and left in April. “After all, I think we are not needed.”…

[Another] woman, who failed in the exam by a slight margin, knew she could be allowed to stay. But she said she has lost her enthusiasm to work in Japan because of a lack of support from the government.

Economist London on Japan’s treatment of Chinese: Welcome tourist money, work “Trainees” to death

A couple of days after this issue appeared in Kyodo and on Debito.org, the Economist London had an article in its print and online version. (If Debito.org is an inspiration for your articles, may we say how grateful we are for the extended audience.) With even more research and quotes, and a comparison with another issue also recently discussed on Debito.org (how Chinese money is affecting the tourist economy), here’s the article:

Economist: MANY Japanese strive to keep up egalitarian appearances… But when it comes to the way Japan treats its nouveau riche neighbour, China, different rules apply. Two events this month betray the double standards with which Japanese officialdom treats China’s rich and poor. On July 1st Japan relaxed visa requirements for well-off Chinese tourists. It was not stated how much anyone needed to earn to apply for one. But as long as they had at least a gold credit card and a solid professional or civil-service job to go back to, they were free to come to Japan, to shop until they dropped.

Far from the bright lights of Japan’s shopping districts, however, young Chinese working in small industrial firms get anything but red-carpet treatment. On July 5th Kyodo, a news agency, reported that 21 Chinese were among 27 foreign trainees who died last year on a government-sponsored skills-transfer scheme for developing countries that over the past four years has brought in an average of 94,000 workers a year, mostly from China.

Of the 27, nine died of heart or brain diseases, four died while working and three committed suicide. A few days earlier officials confirmed that a 31-year-old Chinese trainee who died in 2008 after clocking up about 100 hours a month of overtime was the victim not of heart failure, as originally reported, but of “karoshi”, the Japanese affliction of death from overwork…

Japan Times & Kyodo: Foreign “trainees” dying at rate of two to three a month, takes two years for one to be declared “from overwork” (karoushi), more than a quarter from “unknown causes”

Kyodo: Twenty-seven foreign nationals who came to Japan for employment under a government-authorized training program died in fiscal 2009, the second worst figure on record, government officials said Monday. The number was the second largest, following the 35 foreign nationals who died in fiscal 2008. This could trigger moves toward revising the government program, first launched in 1993, as a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages.

Separate Kyodo: A labor office in Ibaraki Prefecture will acknowledge that a Chinese national working as an intern at a local firm under a government-authorized training program died from overwork in 2008, marking the first foreign trainee “karoshi” death from overwork, sources said Friday….

COMMENTS: Taste the ironies in these articles. First, how in 2009, the death of 27 “Trainees” (i.e. people brought over by the GOJ who as people allegedly “in occupational training” don’t qualify as “workers” (roudousha) entitled to labor law protections) is only the SECOND worst figure on record. Second, how we have close to a third (as in eight NJ) of the total dying of “unknown causes” (as if that’s a sufficient explanation; don’t they have autopsies in Japan to fix that? Oh wait, not always.) Third, how about the stunning ignorance of the sentence, “a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages”. If the Kyodo reporter had bothered to do research of his media databases, he’d realize it’s hardly “recent” at all. And it’s not being fixed, despite official condemnation in 2006 of the visa regime as “a swindle” and death after death (at a rate two to three per month) racking up. Karoushi was a big media event way back when when Japanese were dying of it. Less so it seems when NJ are croaking from it. Finally, look how it only took about two years for “a labor office” to admit that a NJ “trainee” had been worked to death, given the hours he worked that were a part of the record? Gee whiz, what Sherlocking! How many more people have to die before this exploitative and even deadly system is done away with?

Debito.org Reader asks for advice regarding Chinese “Trainees” exploitation, stolen wallet, and local police

Here is a post from somebody seeking advice from Debito.org Readers. He’s seen a situation where Chinese “Trainees” are being exploited, where his wallet has been stolen but police allegedly won’t act on it, and just general confusion about what to do and where to go about things that he considers to be just plain off-kilter. Again, advice welcome.

Kyodo: NJ “Trainees” win ¥17 million for trainee abuses by employer and “broker”

Kyodo: The Kumamoto District Court awarded more than ¥17 million in damages Friday to four Chinese interns who were forced to work long hours for low wages in Kumamoto Prefecture.

The court ordered that the union Plaspa Apparel, which arranged the trainee work for the four, to pay ¥4.4 million and that the actual employer, a sewing agency, pay ¥12.8 million in unpaid wages.

It is the first ruling that held a job broker for foreign trainees liable for their hardships, according to lawyers representing the four interns.

Mainichi: Chinese trainees file complaint with labor bureau over 350 yen per hour overtime

Mainichi: According to the complaint and other sources, the [Chinese “Trainee”] women each worked as many as 209 overtime hours per month, and about 2,000 hours per year. The 350-400 yen per hour the women claim they were paid for that overtime falls short of Nagasaki Prefecture’s minimum wage of 629 yen per hour, and well below the standard set by the Labor Standards Act, which requires employers to pay 1.25-1.6 times the regular wage for overtime.

The women claim that during busy periods they each worked from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m., and sometimes did not have a single day off per month. They apparently signed a contract paying them a monthly salary based on the minimum wage, but that excluded provisions for overtime. Working an average of 173 hours per month at the minimum wage would equal a monthly paycheck of about 110,000 yen.

However, the women claim that the company told them their pay was being directly deposited in their bank accounts and did not show them the payment details. Furthermore, the company held both the women’s bankbooks and passports. The company president also apparently checked the clock whenever one of the women went to the washroom and deducted that time from their breaks.

Mainichi: Numerous foreign trainees forced to work under harsh conditions in Japan, even to death

Mainichi: The Justice Ministry has confirmed that a record 452 companies and other organizations that accepted foreign trainees were involved in illegal practices last year. About 60 percent of them involve violations of labor-related laws, including unpaid wages and overtime allowances.

A survey conducted by the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO) has found that a record 34 trainees died in fiscal 2008. Nearly half, or 16 of them, died of brain and heart diseases that are often caused by long working hours. Experts say that there is a high possibility that they died from overwork.

With the amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, labor related laws, which had applied to foreign trainees from their second year, now apply to those in their first year of training. As a result, it is now guaranteed that foreign trainees can sign proper employment contracts with their employers, just like Japanese workers.

The government is poised to revise its regulations to inspect companies that accept foreign trainees at least once a month to see if their working conditions are legal as well as stiffen penalties for businesses involved in illegal labor practices and strictly examine the terms of contracts between foreign trainees and employment agencies in their home countries.

However, support groups question the effectiveness of these measures, pointing out that many of those in their second year of training are subjected to illegal labor practices.

Kyodo: 34 NJ “Trainees” died FY 2008, 16 from suspected overwork, up from 13 FY 2007

Kyodo: Thirty-four foreign trainees died in Japan in fiscal 2008 through March this year, up 13 from the previous year to hit a record high, a survey by a government-linked body promoting a training program showed Monday.

The leading causes of their deaths were brain and heart diseases, which claimed the lives of 16, while five were killed in accidents at work and four in traffic accidents. Supporters of foreign trainees said they suspect those who died from brain and heart disorders actually died from overwork. As of late 2007, about 177,000 foreigners have been staying in Japan under the government’s industrial training and technical internship program.

Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer supporting foreign trainees and interns, pointed out that many trainees have been forced to work long hours for lower wages and said he suspects they had died from overwork…

Ding Jianhui, 35, who came to Japan in September 2006 on the training program, said he had to work overtime for 100 to 130 hours a month at his job selling scrap metal and only received 110,000 yen per month after tax.

Asahi: More NJ “trainees”, “interns” face dismissal

Asahi: During the five months until February, more than 1,500 trainees and interns returned to their countries without spending the full three years here.

These difficulties highlight the program’s lack of a sufficient safety net. Interns are required to pay for unemployment insurance, but they often find it hard to receive benefits…

According to Zhen Kai, who gives advice to foreign trainees and interns at the Gifu Ippan Rodo Kumiai, a Gifu-based labor union for workers at small businesses, an increasing number of interns are refusing to be let go before the end of their three-year stints.

They remain at corporate dormitories without pay while negotiating with their employers to have their dismissals reversed.

“The situation is grave,” Zhen said.

Canceling a worker’s training or internship in the middle is allowed only when a business goes bankrupt or is in serious trouble. Because of visa restrictions, interns technically work under an arrangement with organizations, such as local chambers of commerce and industry, that accept them for member companies.

This means that if fired at the midpoint in their training, they are not eligible to work for ordinary companies or receive new job information at Hello Work public job placement centers.

While a Justice Ministry guideline urges groups and businesses to find new jobs for their dismissed interns, in practice help is rare.

Asahi: Foreign nursing trainees face unfair hurdles

Asahi: At hospitals and nursing homes for the elderly across the nation, 208 Indonesians have commenced work. They are trainees who came to Japan hoping to become nurses and certified care workers under the economic partnership agreement (EPA) signed between Japan and Indonesia. Having finished a six-month Japanese-language study program, they started working in January and February. All of them are qualified to work as nurses in their home country and many of them have a lot of nursing experience. But most of those I met expressed anxiety and frustration.

This is because of the system that requires them to pass Japanese state exams within specified periods. If they fail, they must return to their home country. Would-be nurses have three chances to sit for the exams in three years of their stay. Conditions are tougher for aspiring care workers. Since foreign trainees are required to have actual working experience in Japan for at least three years before they can take the exam, they only have a single chance to pass in four years…

COMMENT: What does the GOJ want? Easy. Revolving-door cheap foreign labor, which won’t stay and get expensive or start demanding its own rights. Unfortunately, that’s not how immigration works, even though with its aging society, immigration is what Japan needs. We’ve said this umpteen times before, but lemme just repeat it for the noobs, sorry. What the GOJ wants and what it needs are working against each other. Its unforgiving and inflexible policies such as these that are hurting Japan’s future.

Mainichi: Kofu Laundry taken to cleaners over abuses of Chinese “trainees”

Mainichi: The Kofu Labor Standards Inspection Office has sent documents to public prosecutors accusing a dry-cleaning company president of violating labor and wage laws by making Chinese trainees work for pay below the minimum wage…

Uchida was reported to prosecutors over the alleged failure to pay about 11.15 million yen to six female trainees from China aged in their 20s and 30s, during the period between February 2007 and July 2008.

The office also reported a 37-year-old certified social insurance labor consultant from Chuo, Yamanashi Prefecture, to public prosecutors accusing him of assisting in the violation of both laws by providing assistance to Uchida and other related parties.

Yomiuri: The Justice Ministry says it has found irregularities at a 452 companies and organizations that hosted foreign trainees last year.

Officials of the ministry said it had confirmed that the companies and organizations violated labor laws, such as by paying lower-than-minimum wages to foreign trainees. Of the total, 169 cases of entities making trainees work unpaid overtime were found and 155 cases concerned other labor law violations such as payment of illegally low wages.

See I told you so #2: Oct-Jan 1000 “Trainees” repatriated, returning to debts.

Mainichi: More than 1,000 foreign trainees involved in government programs were forced to return home as sponsor companies have been suffering from the deteriorating economy, a government survey has revealed… “Most of the trainees took out a loan of about 700,000 yen to 1 million yen to come to Japan,” said a representative of Advocacy Network for Foreign Trainees in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. “If they return home before their contract period ends, they will be left in debt.

COMMENT: Here come the stats. The “Trainees” (mostly Chinese workers in Japanese farms and factories), which I discussed in part in my most recent Japan Times article, are being sent home in large numbers, to face debts. Oh well, they’re not Nikkei. They don’t get any assistance. Just the promise of a “review” by May 2009, something people have been clamoring for since at least November 2006! Yet it only took a month or so for the GOJ to come up with and inaugurate something to help the Nikkei, after all (see above JT article). But again, wrong blood.

I think we’ll see a drop in the number of registered NJ for the first time in more than four decades this year. Maybe that’ll be See I told you so #3. I hope I’m wrong this time, however.

Japan Times/Kyodo: Decrease in NJ “Trainees”

Excerpt: The economic crisis is taking a toll on foreign trainees in Japan.

Preliminary data compiled by the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization show that the number of companies’ applications for permitting foreigners into Japan as trainees or technical interns last October fell 18.8 percent from a year earlier to 4,753.

The figure for November stood at 4,692, down 25.5 percent from a year before. The organization, jointly founded by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and four other ministries, said Japanese firms are becoming reluctant to accept new foreign trainees in the face of the deteriorating economy.

Mainichi: Chinese Trainees awarded big after taking exploitative strawberry farm to court

Mainichi: “A group of strawberry farmers will have to pay a combined 30 million yen in unpaid and overtime wages, and reinstate five Chinese trainees who were unfairly dismissed after losing a class action suit brought against them by their employees.” Great precedent set against exploitation of NJ “guest labor”.

朝日:外国人研修生、ブローカー介在禁止に 法務省 MOJ: Brokers to be banned for NJ Trainees

朝日:外国人に日本の企業で知識や技術を身につけてもらう外国人研修・技能実習制度について、法務省は、受け入れ機関などに対して示している運用の指針を初めて改定する。制度は、安上がりな労働力の確保に利用されるなど、本来の狙いからかけ離れた運用が横行しているのが実情。このため、ブローカーを介在した受け入れを明確に禁止するなど改善を図る。

Mainichi: Wage dispute between Chinese Trainees and Tochigi strawberry farm

Mainichi: “A dispute has erupted between a group of Chinese apprentices and strawberry farms in Japan after one farm sacked a group of students and tried to force them to leave the country… The strawberry farms, located in the Tochigi Prefecture towns of Tsuga, Haga and Ninomiya, paid the apprentices only 500 yen an hour, which was below the prefecture’s minimum hourly wage of about 670 yen. The workers union is demanding that the unpaid wages be given to the students and that the five who were sacked be reinstated.”

JTs on rackets for immigrant workers, runaway Trainees

“A total of 9,607 foreigners, mostly Asians, ran away from job training sites in Japan between 2002 and 2006 in an apparent attempt to look for better working conditions elsewhere, according to the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau… The tatemae (given reason) of the Trainee Worker program run by JITCO is to bring workers from developing countries to Japan to learn Japanese techniques that they can later put to use back home. The honne (real reason) of the program is to legally let small and medium Japanese companies import cheap labor. According to a recent series of articles in the Asahi Shimbun, the Japanese public for the most part still buys the tatemae explanation, even though the media has been reporting for years that many foreign trainees come to Japan for the express purpose of making money.” More horror stories to add to the stew…

Asahi: Skimming off NJ trainees results in murder

Yet another tale about Japan’s hastily-instituted and poorly-regulated NJ guest-worker program. Procuring cheap foreign labor to keep J industry from relocating overseas or going backrupt, the Trainee and Researcher Visa program scams have resulted in various human and labor rights abuses, child labor, and now according to the article below even murder. Quick comment from me after the article:

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

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… 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.

Tokyo Shinbun Dec 3 06, article on abuses of foreign Trainees and GOJ’s Kouno Taro policy prescription proposals

From the Tokyo Shinbun Dec 3, 2006. Excellent article rounding up the problems and the possible policy prescriptions regarding abusive treatment of foreign labor in Japan. NGO’s are even using the word “slave labor” (appropriately) to describe the situation.

JT: GOJ Cabinet approves new NJ worker visa categories. Small print: Don’t bring your families. Or try to escape.

JT: The Cabinet approved a bill Friday that would overhaul the nation’s immigration control law by introducing new visa categories for foreign workers, in an attempt to address the graying population and shrinking workforce. “Creating a new residence status to accept foreign workers is of utmost importance as the nation’s population declines and businesses suffer from lack of personnel,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference on the day.

Although details remain hazy, the new bill marks a departure from previous policy in allowing foreign individuals to work in blue-collar industries for a potentially indefinite amount of time if certain conditions, such as holding a valid employment contract, are met. Yet amid concerns over whether the nation has the infrastructure and environment to accommodate an inflow of foreign workers, the government has categorically denied that the overhaul will open the doors to immigrants. “We are not adopting a policy on people who will settle permanently in the country, or so-called immigrants,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Lower House Budget Committee on Thursday. “The new system we are creating is based on the premise that the workers will work in sectors suffering labor shortages, for a limited time, in certain cases without bringing their families.”…

COMMENT: As the JT notes, the next wave of NJ temp labor has been officially approved by the Abe Cabinet. The new statuses mostly still have the caveat of being temp, unrooted labor (bringing over families is expressly verboten).  And you can qualify for something better if you manage to last, oh, ten years — around one-fifth of a person’s total productive working life.  Because, as the JT reported in a follow-up article days later, time spent working under these visa statuses in particular does NOT count towards their required “working period” when applying for Permanent Residency.

Another interesting part of this article is the bit about how many Indentured “Trainee” NJ workers had “gone missing” from their generally harsh modern-slavery working conditions (4,279) so far this year, and how it might even exceed last year’s record total of 7,089.  Anyway, with the news above, the GOJ looks set to invite in even more people, in even more work sectors, and with the regular “revolving-door” work status (i.e., not make immigrants out of them).  Some people have gotten wise to this practice and are staying away from Japan, but I bet many won’t.  Unless we let them know in venues like Debito.org.

Japan Times: Preferential visa system extended to foreign 4th-generation Japanese [sic]: Allowing even NJ minors to build Olympic facilities!

JT: Foreign fourth-generation descendants of Japanese will be able to work in Japan for up to five years under a preferential visa program to be introduced this summer, the Justice Ministry said Friday. The new program applies to ethnic Japanese between 18 and 30 who have basic Japanese skills equivalent to the N4 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Applicants will also be required to have support from residents they know in Japan, such as family members or employers, who can get in touch with them at least once a month.

Among those planning to apply are people who spent their childhoods in Japan with their parents before losing their jobs during the 2008 global financial crisis. Some of their parents later returned to Japan, but their grown-up fourth-generation offspring could not because the visa system only grants preferential full-time working rights and semi-permanent status to second- and third-generation descendants. Under the new system, minors will be able to work. The new program begins on July 1, and the Justice Ministry expects around 4,000 descendants of Japanese emigrants from such places as Brazil and Peru to enter Japan each year. […]

Critics are skeptical. They say the new immigrants could be used as cheap labor at factories or construction sites in dire need of labor, especially ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “I believe one of the reasons behind the change has to do with the Olympics,” said Kiyoto Tanno, a professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University who is an expert on foreign labor issues. “But such demand could disappear. That’s why, I guess, the ministry placed a cap on the number of years.”

COMMENTS: As noted in the article, those getting this special visa are the children of the Nikkei South Americans who got sweetheart “Returnee Visas” due to racialized blood conceits (being Wajin, i.e., with Japanese roots) back in the day.  However, Wajin status only counted as long as the economy was good. As soon as it wasn’t, they were bribed to return “home” no matter how many years or decades they’d contributed, and forfeit their pension contributions. While this is nice on the surface for reuniting Nikkei families (now that Japan has been courting the Nikkei to come back for renewed exploitation and disrespect), now they want these children, many of whom grew up as an illiterate underclass in Japan with no right (as foreigners) to compulsory education in Japan, to come back and work again starting July 1. Even work as minors!

The big picture is this:   The GOJ will simply never learn that having a racialized labor policy (where Japanese bloodlines were theoretically a way to bring in low-impact “foreigners”, while Non-Wajin were expendable no matter what — in theory; turns out all foreigners are expendable) simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t keep a labor market young and vibrant, and in fact winds up exacerbating ethnic tensions because migrants who assimilate are not rewarded with immigrant status, with equal residency or civil/human rights. If there’s no incentive to learn about Japan well enough to “become Japanese”, then Japan demographically will simply continue to age. And as my book “Embedded Racism” concludes, that means, quite simply, Japan’s ultimate downfall as a society as we know it.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 10, 2018

Table of Contents:
POLICY PAROXYSMS THAT HURT PEOPLE
1) JT and Nikkei: Japan to offer longer stays for “Trainees”, but with contract lengths that void qualifying for Permanent Residency
2) Kyoto City Govt. subway advert has Visible Minority as poster girl for free AIDS/STDs testing. Wrong on many levels, especially statistically.

GOOD NEWS, SOMETIMES TAMPED DOWN
3) Mainichi: Zainichi Korean’s hate speech lawsuit ends in her favor. Bravo. But Mainichi plays word games, mistranslates “racial discrimination” (jinshu sabetsu) into “ethnic discrimination” in English!
4) Japan Supreme Court enforces Hague Convention on Int’l Child Abductions (for Japanese claimants). Yet Sakura TV claims Hague is for “selfish White men” trying to entrap women from “uncivilized countries” as “babysitters”
5) Asahi: Setagaya Ward plans to battle inter alia racial, ethnic discrimination (in specific) in a local ordinance. Progressive steps!

MORE EXCLUSIONISM
6) Sapporo Consadole soccer player and former England Team striker Jay Bothroyd refused entry to Hokkaido Classic golf course for being “not Japanese”
7) “Japanese Only” sign on Izakaya Bar “100” (Momosaku 百作) in Asakusa, Tokyo
8 ) “Japanese Only” diving and hiking tour company in Tokashikimura, Okinawa: “Begin Diving Buddies”
9) “Japanese Only” tourist information booth in JR Beppu Station

… and finally…
10) My Japan Times column JBC 111: “White Supremacists and Japan: A Love Story” (March 8, 2018)

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 7, 2018

Table of Contents:
OLYMPICS ISSUES
1) Wash Post: South Korea’s naturalized athletes in the PyeongChang Olympics; beyond treated as mercenaries?
2) Wash Post: “NBC apologizes to Koreans for Olympics coverage praising Japan’s brutal occupation”, rightly so
GOOD STATS AT LAST
3) Kyodo: Official stats on NJ “Trainee” work deaths & accidents; 2x higher than J worker deaths, and likely understated
4) JT: “Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1.28 million with labor crunch”; more grist for the grinder
BAD STATS AS USUAL
5) JT: “Coming of age: 1 in 8 new adults in Tokyo are not Japanese”; underanalyzed stats posing as media peg
6) Hawaii’s false alarm missile attack of Jan 13, 2018. JT reports: “Hawaii residents spooked but Japanese sanguine”. Poor reporting and social science.
FIGHTING BACK
7) Asahi: Japanese living abroad plan unprecedented lawsuit demanding dual citizenship. Bravo!
8 ) New Years Eve 2017 TV Blackface Debate in Japan (again): Referential Links
… and finally…
9) A Top Ten for 2017: Debito’s Japan Times JBC 110: “In 2017, Japan woke up to the issue of discrimination”

Kyodo: Official stats on NJ “Trainee” work deaths & accidents; 2x higher than J worker deaths, and likely understated

Finally, a quarter-century into the horrible government-sponsored NJ “Trainee” program, the GOJ is now releasing actual hard statistics about the people it is killing.  And you can see why it took so long–the numbers are shameful enough to warrant a cover-up:  Between 2014 and 2017, 22 NJ died (almost all due to workplace accidents, but at least one was probably being worked to death).  This is more than twice the on-job fatality rate for J workers.  There were also 475 cases of serious accidents to NJ “Trainees”, and, as activists point out below, this figure is probably understated.  

A contrarian might argue that NJ are just accident-prone.  But as the article describes below, working conditions are simply awful, not to mention generally illegal.  And as as Debito.org has pointed out repeatedly over the decades, “the program is rife with abuse: exploitation under sweatshop conditions, restrictions on movement, unsafe workplaces, uncompensated work and work-site injuries, bullying and violence, physical and mental abuse, sexual harassment, death from overwork and suicide — even slavery and murder. Things have not improved in recent years. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced that about 70 percent of some 5,200 companies that accepted trainees in 2015 violated laws, and in 2016 a record 4,004 employers engaged in illegal activities. The program is so rotten that even the United Nations demanded Japan scrap it.” (From Japan Times, Jan. 3, 2018, Item 4)

Anyway, let’s celebrate that we have some official statistics at last, for without them, it’s easy to see why this program can keep going for a quarter-century with little political traction to improve it.

JT: “Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1.28 million with labor crunch”; more grist for the grinder

Kyodo reports that there are more NJ laborers in Japan than ever (1.28 million, of the 2.3 million total NJ registered), and this is largely due to the temporary NJ “Trainees” being brought in under Japan’s “no unskilled labor” unskilled-labor visa policy.  

The big news is that Chinese and now Vietnamese are the two biggest foreign worker nationalities in Japan (I assume the 338,950 Zainichi Korean Special Permanent Residents were not counted as “foreign workers” here), followed by Filipinos and Brazilians (yes, they’re coming again) and Nepalese.  

So all the official transgressions against NJ laborers a decade ago are forgotten, and ever more victims of Japan’s revolving-door visa market are arriving to be exploited and sent home.  Seems NJ never learn, but this new crop will find out soon enough.

A Top Ten for 2017: Debito’s Japan Times JBC 110: “In 2017, Japan woke up to the issue of discrimination”

As is tradition, here is JBC’s annual countdown of the top 10 human rights events as they affected non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan over the past year. In ascending order:

10) As Japan’s population falls, NJ residents hit record
Figures released in 2017 indicated that Japan’s society is not just continuing to age and depopulate, but that the trends are accelerating. Annual births fell under 1 million — a record low — while deaths reached a record high. The segment of the population aged 65 or older also accounted for a record 27 percent of the total. In contrast, after four years (2010-2013) of net outflow, the NJ resident influx set new records. A registered 2.38 million now make up 1.86 percent of Japan’s total population, somewhat offsetting the overall decline. Alas, that didn’t matter. Japanese media as usual tended to report “Japan’s population” not in terms of people living in Japan, but rather Nihonjin (Japanese citizens), indicating once again that NJ residents simply don’t count.

9) ‘Hair police’ issue attracts attention with lawsuit…
Entire article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/01/03/issues/2017-japan-woke-issue-discrimination/
Version with links to sources now on Debito.org.

Nikkei: Japan’s “Japanese Only” apartment rental market may adversely affect NJ worker retention during labor shortage

Nikkei: This year, the country released a first of its kind national survey that highlighted the extent of housing discrimination foreigners face. According to the study, released by the Ministry of Justice in March, out of 2,044 foreign residents who had sought housing within the past five years, 39.3% reported being turned down because they were not Japanese.

The impact is now being felt by employers. In recent years, numerous Japanese manufacturers and services have been trying to make up for the country’s shrinking labor force by looking elsewhere for workers. They want to create an inflow of talent, but housing discrimination could become a dam. As of last October, Japan had 1.08 million foreign workers, up 58% from five years earlier, accounting for around 2% of the total workforce, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. […]

The IT industry is suffering from a significant labor shortage, and the consultancy was acutely aware of the discrimination problem last year when it welcomed a systems engineer from the Philippines. To dodge any hassles, the company consulted a property agent that caters to foreigners, whom industry players describe as an “underwhelming minority” in Tokyo. Even real estate agencies with experience helping foreigners run into the same problem: “Almost nine of 10 private housing units in Tokyo do not allow foreign tenants,” according to Masao Ogino, CEO of the Ichii Group. “It is still an extremely exclusive market.”

Tsuyoshi Yamada, a human resources manager at Total OA Systems, said a lack of sufficient support for non-Japanese employees, including in regard to housing, could throw a hurdle up in front of the company’s plan to bring in overseas talent. This concern is particularly strong for smaller IT companies like Yamada’s. “Even if we finally find a promising engineer,” he said, “retention could become a problem.”

Asahi: Japan treats 1 million foreign workers as ‘non-existent’, and shouldn’t. Another recycled hopeful article.

In the wake of my previous blog entry about a new exploitative visa system for the next generation of Nikkei workers, here’s a hand-wringing article from the Asahi about how people don’t (but really should) accept NJ as part of Japanese society.  It seems like these articles are cyclical — I remember them from a good ten years ago (for example here and here and here and here).  Fortunately, the Asahi draws the same conclusions I would. Alas, next serious economic downturn, all this will be out of the window and foreigners will be unaccepted again.  

Asahi: Foreign workers in Japan are increasingly being seen as a valuable resource amid Japan’s declining birthrate and growing elderly population. However, recent headlines in the media express concern about the influx of immigrants. “Should we accept immigrants?” one publication asked. Another worried that, “What will happen if foreigners become our bosses?” The reality is that the number of foreign workers now totals more than 1 million. Japanese are increasingly coming in contact with foreigners in their daily lives, so they are no longer an “invisible presence.” Acceptance is unavoidable

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEB 19, 2017

Table of Contents:
MEDIA NORMALIZING DISCRIMINATION
1) JT: “Japan’s shared dwellings are evolving to meet diverse needs of tenants”: Basically NJ tenants on same level as pets
2) Reuters: Japan’s NJ workers reach record 1 million; but fine print overlooked, e.g., conflating “Trainees” with “Workers”
3) Kyodo: Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers. More data, same misleading gloss.
4) Wash Post & BBC: “Japan gets first sumo champion in 19 years”. Really? What oddly racist triumphalism from foreign press!
5) Ueno Chizuko, fabled feminist Sociology Prof. Emeritus at Tokyo U, argues in newspaper column that Japan will never accept foreigners, and Japanese should just decline into poverty together. Geriatrically rigid rigor.
MISC
6) Japan Times: Group drawing on long-term NJ residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan
7) Problematic Fukuoka Pref. Police sign warning against “Foreign Travelers in Rental Cars”
8 ) Pacific Affairs journal book review of “Embedded Racism”: “a timely and important contribution to social and scholarly debates about racial discrimination in Japan”
… and finally…
9) Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016

Kyodo: Trainee program, small firms drive rise in Japan’s foreign worker numbers. More data, same misleading gloss.

Kyodo: Juroku Bank, Ltd., based in Gifu Prefecture, last April hired two Chinese who had been studying at a university in Nagoya. It was the first time for the company to hire foreign bank clerks, and came as part of a new personnel strategy to deal with the growing number of visitors to Japan.

Zhang Yijun, 26, has been assigned to handling remittances and other duties related to foreign exchange matters at one of the regional bank’s Nagoya branches. Zhang can get by in everyday Japanese-language conversations but is still learning from co-workers about banking and handling customers. Zhong Shouzhen, 29, meanwhile handles foreign exchange matters at the bank’s head office in the city of Gifu. She struggles with polite Japanese expressions but hopes to get involved in business mergers and acquisitions in the future. “I want to be an intermediary for Chinese and Japanese companies,” Zhong said. […]

Tran Hong Kien, 28, from Vietnam, has been working for Yoshimoto Factory, a metal-processing firm in Ome, western Tokyo, since last March. He studied mechanical engineering at a top university in Vietnam. “I was impressed by the high technical competence in Japan,” said Kien, who is tasked with running a lathe under instructions from senior workers at the company, which employs 25. “If possible, I would like to remain living in Japan.”

COMMENT: I’ve said plenty about this issue in my previous post. Here’s more information and gloss from Kyodo, which once again erroneously conflates “Trainees” with “workers”. Perhaps a new word is necessary to distinguish them. Oh, how about “foreign trainees and workers”? Because they are simply not the same. And what woe looms for these bright-eyed young workers who “want to stay on in Japan”. Not likely, at this writing. Especially since even the labor unions (as noted in the article) aren’t going to defend them. And I saw essentially the same bent to articles on foreign workers (for real, before the grey zone of “Trainees”) during Japan’s “kokusaika” period in the late 1980s (when I first arrived). Look how that turned out.

Japan Times JBC Column 104: The Top Ten Human Rights Events of 2016

Japan’s human rights issues fared better in 2016
BY DEBITO ARUDOU
The Japan Times, Jan 8, 2017, Column 104 for the Community Page

Welcome back to JBC’s annual countdown of the top issues as they affected Non-Japanese (NJ) residents of Japan. We had some brighter spots this year than in previous years, because Japan’s government has been so embarrassed by hate speech toward Japan’s minorities that they did something about it. Read on:

No. 10) Government “snitch sites” close down after nearly 12 years…

Rest of the article at
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/08/issues/japans-human-rights-issues-fared-better-2016/
Version with links to sources now up on Debito.org

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 8, 2017

Table of Contents:
GOOD NEWS
1) Other progress in 2016: Actions against wasabi bombs in sushi for NJ customers, conductor officially chided for apologizing re “many foreign passengers” crowding trains
2) MOJ Bureau of Human Rights Survey of NJ Residents and discrimination (J&E full text)
3) Kyodo: Japan enacts law to prevent abuse of foreign “Trainees”. But unclear how it’ll be enforced.
4) BLOG BIZ: Debito.org’s facelift; outstanding issues with Index Page and appearance on mobile devices

NOT SO GOOD
5) Onur on Fukuoka hotel check-ins in: Police creating unlawful “foreign passport check” signs in the name of (and without the knowledge of) local govt. authorities!
6) JT: The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights, by being excepted from labor laws
7) Japan Times: “Five-year rule” triggers “Tohoku college massacre” of jobs; harbinger of a larger looming purge, sez Debito.org
8 ) CR on how Japan’s blue-chip companies (Canon) get around new Labor Contract Law: Special temp job statuses and capped contracts for NJ
9) Japan Times: “Riding while foreign on JR Kyushu can be a costly business” (re train ticket discounts in Japanese only)

… and finally…
10) Japan Times JBC column 103: “Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top”, Nov. 16, 2016
11) Tangent: James Michener’s “Presidential Lottery” (1969) on dangerous US Electoral College

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE 98, “Ibaraki Police still unfettered by the law, or the truth”, June 6, 2016 (UPDATED with links to sources)

Japan’s police are at it again: Lying about the law. A reader with the pseudonym Onur recently wrote to me about his experience in the city of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, when he checked into a hotel. Even though Onur clearly indicated he was a legal resident of Japan with a domestic address, clerks demanded he present his passport for photocopying. They pointed to a sign issued by the Ibaraki Prefectural Police.

But that poster has three great big stripy lies: 1) “Every foreign guest must present their passport” 2) “which must be photocopied” 3) “under the Hotel Business Law” — which states none of these things. Not to mention that Japan’s registered foreign residents are not required to carry around passports anyway.

What’s particularly egregious about this sign is that the Japanese police know better — because we told them so a decade ago. The Japan Times first exposed how police were stretching their mandate in “Creating laws out of thin air,” Zeit Gist, March 8, 2005, and, later, two updates: “Ministry missive wrecks reception,” ZG, Oct. 18, 2005, and “Japan’s hostile hosteling industry,” Just Be Cause, July 6,2010.

It made an impact. Even the usually noncommittal U.S. Embassy took action, posting in their American Community Update of May 2005: “After we sought clarification, according to the Environmental Health Division, Health Service Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the new registration procedure at lodging facilities does not apply to foreigners who are residents of Japan but only to tourists and temporary visitors. If you write a Japanese address on the check-in sheet, hotels are not supposed to ask for your passport.”

Right. So why do the Ibaraki police still feel they can lie about the laws they are entrusted to uphold? Because … Ibaraki. I’ll get to that shortly…

MOJ: Japan sees record registered foreign residents, 2.23 million in 2015; but watch J media once again underscore their criminality

Japan Times: The number of foreign residents in Japan reached an all-time high last year, the Justice Ministry reported Friday. There were 2.23 million long-term and permanent foreign residents in Japan as of the end of last year, up 5.2 percent from 2.12 million people at the end of 2014, according to the ministry. It was the highest number since the ministry began keeping data in 1959. […]

Meanwhile, the number of residents who had overstayed their visas has also increased. The ministry reported that there were 62,818 foreign nationals overstaying their visas as of Jan. 1, up 4.7 percent from the same date last year. This marks the second year the figure has risen. Last year’s increase was the first in more than two decades, and the trend comes despite recent efforts by the ministry to crack down on overstayers.

COMMENT: Typically, Debito.org sees a rise in the NJ resident population as good news, and it is: Japan needs them or, as I argue in Chapter 10 of “Embedded Racism”, it won’t survive. But it’s never portrayed as good news in the media, where it counts. Even when it’s put through the lenses of the foreigner-friendly Japan Times, the bias of the Justice Ministry still seeps through: After giving the numbers and some speculation about what is bringing more NJ to Japan again, we get into what NJ are doing here. As “Embedded Racism” Chapters 5 and 7 describe, it’s never a matter of what good NJ residents are doing: It’s always what sort of mischief they’re up to. Because when you have a government with no Immigration Policy Bureau to institute a viable immigration and assimilation policy, and instead have a policing agency solely entrusted with “administrating” foreigners in Japan, naturally you’ll get an embedded mindset that treats everyone as a potential criminal. Read the entire article and see for yourself. Feel the criminality steadily creep in and have the last word.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 2, 2015

Table of Contents:
1) Japan Times JBC 93 Nov 2, 2015: “Tackle embedded racism before it chokes Japan”, summarizing my new book out this week
2) Asahi TV: Police training drill in Tokyo on how to deal with jewelry thieves brandishing knives. Oh, and they’re “foreign” thieves.
3) “Foreign Driver” stickers appearing on Okinawan rental cars
4) Japan Times: Japan sanctioning mass ‘slave labor’ by duping foreign trainees, observers say
5) Japan moving on to the next sucker societies for cheap or slave labor: Cambodia and Vietnam
6) Paul Toland Case Update: Japan as a “black hole” for parental child abductions — Family Court lawsuit & press conference to raise awareness of issue
7) “Onsen-Ken Shinfuro Video”: Japan Synchro Swim Team promotes Oita Pref. Onsens — and breaks most bathhouse rules doing so. Historically insensitive.
8 ) My Japan Times JBC 92 Oct. 5, 2015: “Conveyor belt of death shudders back to live”, on how Abe’s new security policy will revive Prewar martial Japan
… and in case you thought I was being alarmist with JBC 92…
9) CSM: Reviving Shinto: Prime Minister Abe tends special place in Japan’s soul for mythology

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 5, 2015

Table of Contents:
DEFENDING THE NEW STATUS QUO
2) Another Gaijin Handler speaks at East-West Center: Dr. Nakayama Toshihiro, ahistorically snake-charming inter alia about how Japan’s warlike past led to Japan’s stability today (Sept. 15, 2015)
3) Tangent: Economist on “Japan’s Citizen Kane”: Shouriki Matsutaro; explains a lot about J-media’s interlocking relationship with J-politics
4) JK on emerging GOJ policies towards refugees & immigration, still not allowing them to stay in Japan: “tourists yes, refugees & immigrants no”

SHINING A LIGHT ON AREAS NEEDING CHANGE
5) Nikkei interview with Japan’s most famous naturalized former Zainichi Korean: SoftBank’s Son Masayoshi
6) Honolulu Civil Beat: Cultural Exchange Program or a Ticket to Sweatshop Labor? Contrast US with J example of exploitative visa conditions
7) Yomiuri: More Japanese public baths OK tattooed visitors (particularly NJ) for 2020 Olympics: suddenly it’s all about showing “understanding of foreign cultures”

… and finally…
8 ) Japan Times JBC 91 Sept 7, 2015: Why Japan’s Right keeps leaving the Left in the dust

JK on emerging GOJ policies towards refugees & immigration, still not allowing them to stay in Japan: “tourists yes, refugees & immigrants no”

Debito.org hasn’t talked as much as other topics about the Government of Japan (GOJ)’s attitude towards refugees (in that, the acceptance of refugees is one measure of international contributions by the club of rich, developed countries and UN treaty signatories). But it is safe to say that the GOJ has not been cooperative, accepting fewer people in total over the past sixty years than some countries do in a single year — as the United Nations is aware. So now the Abe Administration is trying a different tack: Accepting refugees as temporary students, and then sending them “home” someday. Debito.org Reader JK parses that to bits by citing articles below.

Mainichi: “The idea is that by accepting refugees as students, Japan could aid in training personnel for the later reconstruction of Syria.” …and… “The plan represents the government’s efforts to think of a way to contribute to solving the Syria issue, without influencing the current refugee authorization system.”

JK: Translation: GOJ doesn’t want to look bad at the UN in front of the other nations who are actually doing something to help refugees, so what to do?…Ah! Accept refugees as students to make it look like Japan is making a difference — Japan trains the Syrians so that one day they can go ‘home’ and fix everything up, and as students, they’re not in a position to stay for good as would be the case if they were accepted as refugees. It’s a win-win!

Mainichi: “As an issue of demography, I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees we need to have more activities by women, by elderly people and we must raise (the) birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants,” Abe told a news conference, according to the official translation of his comments.

JK: Translation: Accepting immigrants is the last thing we should do.

Honolulu Civil Beat: Cultural Exchange Program or a Ticket to Sweatshop Labor? Contrast US with J example of exploitative visa conditions

Contrast this situation with the situation of “Trainees” and other visa statuses in Japan:

HCB: It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old Japanese pastry chef to realize that she was getting the raw end of the deal. She had arrived in Hawaii only days before, lured by a promise of pastry training as part of a cultural exchange program run by the U.S. State Department. The terms of her stay, under a visa known as J-1, were to spend the next 18 months working in the kitchen of a Waikiki restaurant — six days a week on 8-hour shifts beginning at 6:30 a.m. But she found herself toiling inside the kitchen in a shift that began at 5:30 a.m. and stretched to 12 hours — without any breaks or overtime pay.

In 2012, a Japanese pastry chef arrived in Hawaii on a J-1 visa, only to find herself working at a Waikiki restaurant in sweatshop conditions. She requested her name and the name of the restaurant not be used. When she complained, she said no one lent a sympathetic ear. Initially, she said she was told that none of the restaurants in Hawaii offered any breaks. And, if she were to work on a shorter shift, her salary would have to be reduced accordingly. Unsatisfied, she went to her American sponsor organization and its Japanese contractors that had matched her up with the restaurant, but she said her pleas for their intervention were met with threats that her visa could be taken away. Soon, it dawned on her that she faced a Faustian choice: endure the grueling conditions at the restaurant or risk being deported for not showing up to work…

More public-policy bullying of NJ: LDP Bill to fine, imprison, and deport NJ for “fraud visas” (gizou taizai), e.g., visa “irregularities” from job changes or divorces

According the Japan Times re a new Bill submitted by the LDP to penalize “fraud visa holders”, Immigration and the NPA go beyond merely “resetting your visa clock” and making your visa more temporary due to bureaucratic technicalities. This time they’re going to criminalize your mistakes, and even your lifestyle choices:

Consider how you could lose your current visa because you changed jobs from one arbitrary work classification to another? (Or worse yet, because your new employer messes up your paperwork?)

Consider how you could lose your Spouse Visa because, oh, you get a divorce or your spouse DIES! (Yes, people have lost their Spouse Visas because of that; however, until now, you had a grace period, meaning the remaining validity of the visa period to make life adjustments. Not any more, under this new system.)

Consider how vulnerable NJ become to any Japanese employer (or neighbor, ex-lover, or jilted person in a love triangle, for that matter), who can easily report you as a criminal (or at least put you through the horrible experience of criminal investigation in Japan) via anonymous Government “Snitch Sites” empowering the general public to bully NJ residents?

Which means you’re likely stuck in whatever dead-end profession or relationship (and at their whim and mercy). For if you dare change something, under this new Bill you might wind up arrested, interrogated in a police cell for weeks, convicted, fined, thrown in jail, and then deported in the end (because you can’t renew your visa while in jail). Overnight, your life can change and all your investments lost in Japan — simply because of an oversight or subterfuge. Yet more human rights being taken away from NJ residents.

United Nations demands Tokyo introduce anti-discrimination law to counter hate speech (HRC report CCPR/C/JPN/CO/6 text included in full, citing “Japanese Only” signs, thanks)

Good news. The United Nations has once again reviewed Japan’s human rights record (preliminary report below), and found it wanting. Here’s the bit that has been cited in Japan’s news media (also below):
=======================
Human Rights Committee
Concluding observations (2014) CCPR/C/JPN/CO/6
ADVANCE UNEDITED VERSION
Human Rights Committee
Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Japan (excerpt)

Hate speech and racial discrimination
12. The Committee expresses concern at the widespread racist discourse against members of minority groups, such as Koreans, Chinese or Burakumin, inciting hatred and discrimination against them, and the insufficient protection granted against these acts in the criminal and civil code. The Committee also expresses concern at the high number of extremist demonstrations authorised, the harassment and violence perpetrated against minorities, including against foreign students, as well the open display in private establishments of signs such as “Japanese only” (arts. 2, 19, 20 and 27).

The State should prohibit all propaganda advocating racial superiority or hatred that incites to discrimination, hostility or violence, and should prohibit demonstrations that intended to disseminate such propaganda. The State party should also allocate sufficient resources for awareness-raising campaigns against racism and increase its efforts to ensure that judges, prosecutors and police officials are trained to be able to detect hate and racially motivated crimes. The State party should also take all necessary steps to prevent racist attacks and to ensure that the alleged perpetrators are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions.
=======================

COMMENT: Happy to see the generally-overlooked aftermath of the Otaru Onsens Case and the information on Debito.org’s Rogues’ Gallery of Exclusionary Establishments is still being cited. Keep the pressure on, UN. The media reaction and the UN report in full follows, and there’s lots more important stuff (including issues of “Trainee” NJ slave-wage work, Japan’s historical wartime sexual slavery, abuses of police power, and even Fukushima irradiation!)

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JULY 3, 2014

Table of Contents:

FOREVER UNDER THE RADAR:
1) Japan’s population tally in media still excludes NJ residents; plus J political misogyny and appeals to gaiatsu
2) Reuters Special Report on Japan’s “Trainee System” as “Sweatshops in Disguise”: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage

ON THE RADAR AND INFLUENCING PUBLIC OPINION:
3) World Cup 2014: Held in Brazil, but causes tightened police security in Tokyo due to alleged possibility of “vandalism”
4) J-Govt. “We are Tomodachi” Newsletter Vol. 4 , June 2014 offers fascinating insights into PM Abe Admin mindsets
5) MLB J-baseball player Kawasaki Munenori doing his best to speak English to North American media. Debito.org approves.
6) Fodor’s Travel Guide on Japan 2014 features two chapters on Hokkaido and Tohoku written by Debito

… and finally…
7) My Japan Times JBC column 76: “Humanize the dry debate about immigration”, June 5, 2014

Reuters Special Report on Japan’s “Trainee System” as “Sweatshops in Disguise”: Foreign interns pay the price for Japan’s labor shortage

REUTERS: The most recent government data show there are about 155,000 technical interns in Japan. Nearly 70 percent are from China, where some labor recruiters require payment of bonds worth thousands of dollars to work in Japan. Interns toil in apparel and food factories, on farms and in metal-working shops. In these workplaces, labor abuse is endemic: A 2012 investigation by Japanese labor inspectors found 79 percent of companies that employed interns were violating labor laws. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said it would use strict measures, including prosecution, toward groups that repeatedly violated the laws or failed to follow its guidance in their treatment of technical interns.

Critics say foreign interns have become an exploited source of cheap labor in a country where, despite having the world’s most rapidly ageing population, discussion of increased immigration is taboo. The U.S. State Department, in its 2013 Trafficking in Persons report, criticized the program’s use of “extortionate contracts”, restrictions on interns’ movements, and the imposition of heavy fees if workers leave. […]

Not long after [Trainees Lu, Qian and Jiang’s] arrival, the [Burberry outsourcing] apparel association took the women’s passports and passed them to Kameda in violation of Japanese law protecting interns’ freedom of movement, according to the lawsuit. An Ishikawa Apparel Association spokeswoman, who declined to give her name, said the group does not conduct inappropriate supervision and training, but declined further comment citing the lawsuit.

At the factory, Lu, Qian and Jiang’s overtime stretched to more than 100 hours a month, the lawsuit says. A timesheet prepared with data supplied by Kameda to the Japanese labor standards bureau shows Lu logged an average of 208 hours a month doing overtime and “homework” during her second year in Japan. That is equivalent to almost 16 hours a day, six days a week. Japanese labor policy considers 80 hours of overtime a month the “death by overwork” threshold.

For this, Lu earned about 400 yen, about $4, an hour at Kameda, the timesheet shows. The local minimum wage at the time was 691 yen an hour, and Japanese law requires a premium of as much as 50 percent of the base wage for overtime. […]

Japan faces a worsening labor shortage, not only in family-run farms and factories such as Kameda but in construction and service industries. It is a major reason that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is planning a further expansion of the trainee program.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JUNE 3, 2014

Table of Contents:
POSITIVE STEPS
1) Asahi: ‘Japanese Only’ banner at soccer stadium a microcosm of discrimination in Japan (E&J)
2) Asahi & Kyodo: Japan’s soccer leagues taking anti-discrimination courses, meting out punishments for racism
3) Saitama’s Konsho Gakuen school, “Japanese Only” since 1976, repeals rule only after media pressure, despite prefecture knowing about it since 2012
4) Counterdemos against racist rally by Zaitokukai in Osaka Nanba May 11, 2014: Brief on emerging narratives fighting fire with fire

NEGATIVE STEPS
5) Reuters: Abe Admin seeks to expand, not contract, the deadly exploitative NJ “Trainee” program
6) SAPIO Mag features special on Immigration to Japan: Note odd media narratives microaggressing NJ (particularly the Visible Minorities) into voiceless role

STEPS OF UNKNOWN VALUE
7) Scholar Majima Ayu on how the racial discrimination inherent in America’s Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924 caused all manner of Japanese craziness
8 ) Economist: China to become world’s largest economy by end-2014. Will USA react to being overtaken similar to Japan?

… and finally…
9) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 75, May 1, 2014: “Tackling Japan’s ‘Empathy Deficit’ Towards Outsiders”

Reuters: Abe Admin seeks to expand, not contract, the deadly exploitative NJ “Trainee” program

When Debito.org last seriously talked about the issue of Japan’s foreign “Trainees” (i.e. NJ brought over by the GOJ who are allegedly “in occupational training”, therefore not qualifying as “workers” entitled to labor law protections), it was back in July 2010, when news broke about the death of 27 of them in 2009. The news to me was that it was only the SECOND worst casualty rate on record. Even more scandalous was that about a third of the total dead NJ (as in eight) had died of, quote, “unknown causes” (as if that’s a sufficient explanation). Kyodo News back then rather ignorantly observed how problematic the “Trainee” system has been, stating that “a number of irregular practices have recently been observed, such as having foreign trainees work for long hours with below-minimum wages”. Hardly “recent” even back then: Despite years of calls to fix or abolish the program entirely, with official condemnations in 2006 of it as “a swindle”, and the UN in 2010 essentially calling it slavery (see article below), it was still causing deaths at the rate of two or three NJ a month. (The irony was that karoushi (death from overwork) was a big media event when Japanese were dying of it. Clearly less so when NJ die.)

Now sit down for this news: The GOJ is seeking not to reform the “Trainee” system, but rather to EXPAND it. As the article indicates below, we’ve gotta get more cheap, disposable, and ultimately expendable foreigners to build our Tokyo Olympics in time for 2020. And then we can round them up once their visas expire and deport them (that is, if they’re still alive), like we did back in Nagano for the 1998 Olympics.

This is precisely the type of exploitative capitalism that creates Marxists. But again, who in Japan empathizes with NJ workers? They’re only here to earn money and then go home, right? So they deserve to be exploited, runs the common national narrative. And under that discourse, no matter how bad it gets for them (and so far it really, really has), no amount of domestic or international condemnation will stop it.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 31, 2013

Table of Contents:
THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (1): BIGOTRY AND HATRED

1) Feb 9 2013 Tokyo Shin-Ohkubo Anti-Korean demonstrator slogans: “Good or Bad, Kill All Koreans” etc.
2) Letters from J human rights groups to the visiting Olympic Committee re Tokyo 2020: Discrimination in Japan violates IOC Charter
3) My latest academic paper on Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus: “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance”

4) Interesting cases: naturalized Japanese sues city councilor fiance who jilted her for Korean ethnicity, Pakistani parents file criminal complaint for injurious school bullying, Hatoyama Yukio officially called “traitor” for not toeing official party line on Senkaku/Nanjing issues

THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (2): ELITE DOMINANCE AND INSULARITY

5) Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako: Japan’s Nationality Law and immigration policy deviates from current international legal norm
6) SITYS: GOJ’s new “Points System” to attract “higher-skilled” NJ being reviewed due to dearth of applications, impossibly high hurdles
7) JT/Kyodo: Record high applicants for J refugee status. Why media fixation on refugees? Because they are a bellwether of Japan’s “legitimacy as a competent, advanced, Western democracy”
8 ) Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces
9) JT on “Kyakkan Setsu vs. Nibun Setsu”: Grey zones in compensation for “work hours” in Japan

… and finally…
10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 61 March 5, 2013: “Child’s quibble with U.S. ‘poverty superpower’ propaganda unravels a sobering story about insular Japan”

PLUS bonus follow-up:
11) Tangent: Tsutsumi Mika’s crooked Jewish character “Goldberg” in her “USA Poverty Superpower” manga.