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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 May 28 - June 3  > Abe’s attempt to increase use of foreign trainees will lead to further deterioration of their human rights
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2014 May 28 - June 3 TOP3 [LABOR]

Abe’s attempt to increase use of foreign trainees will lead to further deterioration of their human rights

May 25, 2014
In order to satisfy the ballooning demand for labor in the construction industry, the Abe government intends to expand the use of the existing international technical intern training program. Lawyers and trade unions are expressing their concerns about the possibility of an increase in violation of foreign trainees’ human rights.

In the name of making international contributions, such as vocational training and human resource development, the program is designated to accept trainees from other countries and give them on-the-job training for up to three years. About 150,000 foreign trainees, including Chinese and Vietnamese, are now staying in Japan under this scheme.

However, it is commonly believed that companies receiving trainees are exploiting them in violation of labor laws. The labor standard inspection authorities conducted on-site inspections at 2,776 recipient companies in 2012 and found violations in about 80% or 2,196 firms.

Nevertheless, the government plans to allow foreign interns in the construction industry to work for an additional two years after finishing the three-year training period.

Lawyer Ibusuki Shoichi, who has long worked to protect foreign trainees from illegal labor practices, pointed out that the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) have been calling for the abolishment of the system as it is a hotbed of human rights violations. The expansion of the system will inevitably lead to further infringement of the foreign trainees’ labor and human rights.

The lawyer cited a case of Chinese trainees who were forced to work under harsh working conditions in a sewing factory in Gifu Prefecture in central Japan between September 2011 and April 2012. They were assigned to work from 8 am to midnight every day and pushed to work overtime up to 270 hours a month. Their boss gave them only five days off in six months. Their basic pay was only 50,000 yen and overtime pay was 250 to 500 yen per hour, while the minimum hourly wage in Gifu is 724 yen as of October 2013.

Ibusuki said this case of slave-like working conditions is just the tip of the iceberg as many receiving companies are putting pressure on their trainees to not go to lawyers or labor unions for help.

“Even if construction companies need to secure workers, it is totally wrong for them to use foreign workers as cheap labor in order to increase profits by ignoring those workers’ fundermental rights and human dignity,” Ibusuki stressed.
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