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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 November 7 - 13  > Thousands of foreign trainees run away from exploitative working conditions
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2018 November 7 - 13 [LABOR]

Thousands of foreign trainees run away from exploitative working conditions

November 8, 2018

Japanese Communist Party Secretariat Head Koike Akira on November 7 at a Diet meeting criticized the Abe government’s move to expand the use of foreign workers, citing the fact that every year thousands of foreign workers run away from their employers because of exploitative working conditions.

At the House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting, Koike argued against a bill to amend the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, which the Abe government proposed last week. The bill aims to create a new residency status to accept more foreign workers, which the government claims is necessary to mitigate labor shortages. Koike said that the bill will exacerbate existing human rights violations of foreign workers in Japan.

In particular, Koike referred to the Technical Intern Training Program. He said that many foreigners are working in Japan under the program, but labor law violations and human rights abuses are often found among business entities which accept foreign trainees. Under this circumstance, Koike said, a record 7,089 foreign trainees left their workplaces in 2017 and the figure already reached 4,279 this year as of the end of June. A Justice Ministry survey found that 87% of the reasons for leaving the program were wage-related complaints, such as excessively low wages, refusal to pay the previously-agreed wage, and minimum-wage violations.

Koike stressed that under the foreign trainee program, foreign trainees cannot change jobs or accommodations and that if they get caught after fleeing from sweatshop labor practices, they will be detained in immigration control centers. Koike also stated that many host companies do not pay any regard to the Labor Standards Act and minimum wage regulations and that labor authorities cannot force them to abide by labor laws. The government plan to increase the number of foreign workers with no measures to redress the current problems will make the situation even worse, Koike said.

In response to Koike, Prime Minister Abe said that the government will implement necessary measures to prevent the revised law on immigrants from causing hardships.

Noting that the government seeks to have the law revision take effect in April next year, Koike cast doubt on the government’s capability to take preventive measures and criticized the government for its lack of concern for the harsh working conditions imposed on foreign workers.

Citing the bill’s stipulation that the new resident status should be renewed annually, Koike said that this indicates that the government sees foreign workers as a temporary safety valve in employment. Koike said, “According to the bill, if foreign workers with the proposed resident status are thrown out of work, their application for status renewal will not be approved. In other words, when they lose their jobs, they lose their right to residency in Japan. This is clearly a human rights violation.”

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