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


Hi Blog. From the Tokyo Shinbun Dec 3, 2006. Excellent article rounding up the problems and the possible policy prescriptions regarding treatment of foreign labor in Japan.

We’ve been talking about these things for a long time now, especially on (see one Japan Times article of note at, and another from the Yomiuri (Dec 5) forbidding Indonesian women workers basic rights, such as wiring money home or using cellphones:

Glad to see we have a Dietmember (Kouno Taro) still speaking out about them. Translating the article for your reference. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Where is the improved treatment of foreign labor?
NGOs advocate giving workers “free choice of work sector”

TOKYO SHINBUN, Sunday, December 3, 2006, page 24
Article Courtesy of Dave Spector (thanks, as always)
Quickly translated by Arudou Debito
Japanese original archived at

Foreign workers, which are propping up the Japanese labor force, are gasping under low wages and being roped into doing extra work outside of their contracts. For some time now human rights watchdogs have been getting involved, to the point where finally the government has begun debating how to improve conditions. Both sides show quite a disparity in their views.


“The Government is facing up to the problems for foreign labor.” Such praise can be found in the new book “Basic Ideas for Accepting Non-Japanese” (kongou no gaikokujin no ukeire ni kansuru kihonteki na kangaekata), issued last September by the similarly-titled Ministry of Justice Project Team headed by Kouno Taro, former Vice Minister of Justice.

It continues, “In order to continue letting them invigorate the economy, the Government should look into expanding the acceptance of foreign labor in specialized and technical fields, and debate more policies.”

A coalition of NGOs including Solidarity for Migrant Workers Japan (SMJ, or Ijuuren, headed by Watanabe Hidetoshi, URL is praising this effort. In particular, they are happy that somebody is finally paying attention to a serious problem.

“These people come all the way from developing countries under specialization and trainee programs to learn something to take back home. But all they find when they get here is unskilled labor jobs. This void between true intention and pretenses has created a lot of bitterness and disappointment between non-Japanese labor and the local regions which are hosting them.”

Dietmember Kouno has written on his blog that the current system as it stands is a “almost all one big swindle” (ikasama).

A Chinese male worker receiving assistance from Ijuuren tells the following story about the low wages being offered:

“I come from a farming family, so I came to Japan with the promise of doing agrarian research, but was put to work doing sheet metal. As “Researchers” (kenshuusei) we get 50,000 yen a month, with 300 yen per hour for overtime. “Trainees” (jisshuusei) get 60,000 yen a month and 350 yen per hour for overtime.”

Another Chinese female workers echoes the same:

“Our monthly salary is 120,000 yen, but the air conditioning in our dorm alone is on a lease and costs about 90,000 yen.”

Noting that these cases of abuse of the Trainee and Researcher visa system are too numerous to mention, Ijuuren’s Watanabe angrily points out:

“This is a slavery system making up for the shortfall in Japan’s labor market. It’s a system which grinds people underfoot.”

Based on these miserable facts of the case, the above mentioned “Basic Ideas” book has hammered out the following prescriptions:

— Make it obligatory for companies to pay foreign employees the same wages and enroll them in the same social security programs as Japanese workers.

— Make Japanese language ability a requirement for even those job fields which are not classified as “specialized” or “technical”.

— Make getting Permanent Residency (eijuuken) easier for foreigners who are contributing so much to Japan.

However, experts caution that, “The Government and industrial leaders can’t reconcile how they are going to fill in the void created by the labor shortage. [NB FROM TRANSLATOR: Read: how they’re going to stay domestically competitive in the global market, keeping their industries from relocating overseas, even if they can’t keep importing foreign labor at slave wages.]

“They should be thinking of this from a new angle: How new Japanese residents from overseas are going to revitalize and reenergize Japan. They should consider how to welcome people from overseas as new members of Japan’s society.”

Based upon this manner of thinking, Ijuuren released to the relevant ministries a policy proposal entitled “Towards a Society Co-Existing with Non-Japanese Residents” (gaikokuseki juumin to no kyousei ni mukete) on November 19, 2006.

They proposed the creation of a “Laborer Visa” (roudou biza) as an official condition of residency. As the “freedom of labor movement” guaranteed by the Japanese Constitution also applies to non-Japanese, Ijuuren stressed that, “It is essential that principles of laborer equality regardless of nationality be established.”

There is one more “Basic Idea” of the MOJ Project Team the human rights groups praise:

“The Government must also accept non-Japanese workers with the intent of educating their children the same as Japanese.”

This is because people talk enough about the “duties” (gimu) of foreign laborers, but the book also explicitly states in writing that the foreign children have a “right” (kenri) to compulsory education.

The copious numbers of Brazilian and Peruvian children of laborers in the northern Kanto and Tokai regions are attending schools in Spanish and Portuguese. However, as these educational institutions are not formally acknowledged as “schools” under the Basic Education Law, thus are not eligible for government subsidies (kokko hojo), they operate in poor facilities. If foreign children were to qualify for compulsory education, there would be positive effects.

As the NGOs ask, “Are foreign workers to be seen as people? Or merely as units of labor?”


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