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HOME  > Past issues  > 2022 August 31 - September 6  > Will gov’t move to revise foreign trainee system lead to end of existing human rights violations?
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2022 August 31 - September 6 [LABOR]

Will gov’t move to revise foreign trainee system lead to end of existing human rights violations?

September 4, 2022
The Justice Ministry recently began discussions regarding a revision of the controversial Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship program (the foreign trainee program). It is reported that the revision will focus on decreasing the huge gap between the actual operation of the program and the program’s principles and aims as well as on turning the program into one respecting foreign trainees’ human rights.

As a structural contradiction in the foreign trainee program exists, it is pointed out that the program plays a role in supplying cheap, low-skilled labor under the name of promoting international contribution through the transfer of Japan’s advanced technologies and skills. Furthermore, the program is criticized as being ridden with various illegal labor practices and human rights abuses, such as unpaid overtime, the siphoning off of wages, passport seizures, exploitation by malicious brokers in trainees’ home countries, and sexual violence. This degree of exploitation and oppression became a major social issue in Japan.

The labor standard inspection authorities in 2021 conducted on-site inspections at 9,036 companies accepting foreign trainees and found violations of relevant laws in 70% of the firms inspected (6,556 firms). Of the 6,556 employers, 2,204 broke occupational safety regulations, 1,443 violated workhour rules, and 1,345 were involved in non-payment or insufficient payment for overtime work.

The number of foreign trainees who restored to escaping from their employers stood at 5,803 in 2015 and 9,052 in 2018. In 2021, the number decreased to 7,167 but still remains at a high level.

The Labor Ministry’s recent data shows that between 2017 and 2020, the number of female foreign trainees who left their workplace on the grounds of pregnancy or childbirth reached 637 and that only 11 of the 637 were reinstated. The Immigration Services Agency and the Labor Ministry have decided to conduct a fact-finding survey on this matter.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations calls for a swift termination of the foreign trainee program. On top of this, the UN Human Rights Committee has condemned the program for sexual abuses, work-related deaths, and forced labor, and the U.S. Department of State has expressed its concern over the possible exploitation and human trafficking of foreign workers under the program.

The Japanese Communist Party is demanding that the foreign trainee system, which is a hotbed for human rights violations, be abolished and not just to be reviewed.

Past related articles:
> 20 foreign trainees crammed into a room, forced to pay 30K yen/mth rent each [December 1, 2021]
> 174 foreign trainees died in eight years [December 8, 2018]
> Thousands of foreign trainees run away from exploitative working conditions [November 8, 2018]
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