Adidas assesses the “history of poor treatment of migrant workers in Japan”, now monitoring JITCO in conjunction with other major overseas outsourcers


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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.

Root causes
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:

bullet The residence status of trainees was changed so they are now covered by labour law
bullet Contracts containing clauses with deposits and fines are prohibited
bullet Organisations effectively working as employment placement agencies have to register and are obliged to visit their trainees in the workplace and monitor working conditions.

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.


4 comments on “Adidas assesses the “history of poor treatment of migrant workers in Japan”, now monitoring JITCO in conjunction with other major overseas outsourcers

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Good for Adidas, GAP, Disney, and Nike! They are waking up to the fact that ‘made in Japan’ has potential to mean ‘made in a third world sweat shop with exploited labour’, and all the associated stigma that would mark the brand with in the real world.

  • Once again great stuff, I dont know how Debito finds all this, but I sure I enjoy reading it. Fakesta Ken and gang should spend less time being a Debito watchdog/hate group and do more investigative reporting like this; its what the NJ community really needs!

    — Lots of this stuff is found for me by Readers too, and I’m very grateful. Thanks for helping keep informative, everyone.

  • Good to see that Adidas and their compatriots are finally realizing that it simply isn’t profitable to use – exploit, rather – such labor in despicable conditions. I applaud those who made them realize that, not only was the bottom line hurt by their actions, but human lives too. Though God knows they only do it for the former. *rolls eyes*

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    “U.S. State Department blasts Japan in human trafficking report

    WASHINGTON–The U.S. State Department sharply criticized Japan’s industrial training and technical internship program in its annual report on human trafficking, citing various abuses against foreign trainees by their employers.

    The Trafficking in Persons Report, released June 27, urged the Japanese government to dedicate “more government resources to anti-trafficking efforts.”

    Referring to the “foreign trainees program,” the report noted “the media and NGOs continued to report abuses including debt bondage, restrictions on movement, unpaid wages … elements which contribute to … trafficking.”

    The State Department recommended the Japanese government strengthen efforts to investigate, prosecute and punish acts of forced labor, including those that fall within the foreign trainee program.

    The latest report covered 184 countries and regions, the largest number ever. They were classified into four categories–Tier 3, the worst rating, Tier 2 Watch List, Tier 2, and Tier 1, countries whose governments fully comply with standards set under the U.S. trafficking victims protection act.

    Japan was ranked Tier 2, second from the top category, for the seventh consecutive year. Tier 2 indicates countries and regions whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards in protecting victims of human trafficking, but are making efforts to comply with the standards.

    The report said, “Japan is a destination, source, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.””


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