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Moment of truth as Japan eyes review of foreign 'trainee' workers

54 Comments
By Noriyuki Suzuki

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Many of these "trainees" work at my (respectable) company. Their salary is appallingly bad. I feel sorry for them, but there is nothing anyone at my level can do about it. Japan is truly in a race to the bottom.

13 ( +47 / -34 )

"We need a unified system to take in foreign workers and integrate them into society,"

Wise words by a Japanese person, however, it is a pity that society does everything opposite to these words so foreigners can feel excluded and alone.

This slavery trainee system should be abolished a long time ago.

In fact, the appeal of working in Japan has been declining over the years for those from Vietnam, Nepal, Indonesia and China, with the gap between minimum wages in their home country and Japan narrowing, according to data compiled by Takuya Hoshino, a senior economist at the Daiichi-Life Research Institute.

I cant wait for Japanese people to be saying we don't need foreigners we have robots soon. Same phrase since 1970.

6 ( +39 / -33 )

The fact that they need to learn a difficult language such as Japanese and only use that skill for the designated amount of time they are allowed to be here is in itself unappealing. Not to mention the limited amount of jobs they have access to which are usually demeaning and low pay. Their best bet would be to start their own business once they have gained enough ground while staying here, but even then it would cost them even more on top of the debt they already have to get here.

-2 ( +15 / -17 )

In fact, the appeal of working in Japan has been declining over the years for those from Vietnam, Nepal, Indonesia and China

Ohh my goodness Japanese people will have to finally go to work?!!?!?!

Of course, they won't, they will be trying to suck out the rest of the money from foreigners currently living in Japan by extra taxes etc.

"The population in Japan is declining, even more so in rural areas. Those are the places that need long-term non-Japanese residents who would be part of the community," 

Yes, non-Japanese residents who would FORM THE COMMUNITY. I bet all the Japanese would move to the city right away or to some other place.

I bet the future they want to create is foreigners in small villages, and Japanese in big cities. So if foreigners will want to move to a city like Tokyo they will need special permission.

-17 ( +12 / -29 )

In fact, the appeal of working in Japan has been declining over the years for those from Vietnam, Nepal, Indonesia and China, with the gap between minimum wages in their home country and Japan narrowing, 

The after work night in Vietnam is booming with its night markets, kids playing in their beautiful parks, families eating ice cream on the beach, buddies walking arm in arm and having a good time, happy, young people everywhere.. I just try to imagine what kind of life they live in this country.

-3 ( +26 / -29 )

Yes, there are short term benefits, but they’re soon overweighted by the rising problems in the some longer run. You can watch it everywhere else, in the US, in Europe etc. The best solution is, and yes, you won’t like it to hear, is to help and pay the own people more, so that they can well exist and have families with children and then with parts of the surmounting money can help the poorer countries so that they can exist too and educate themselves and develop a bit more. The current solution attempt of inviting and getting the most and the best qualified people from the whole globe, that is misleading and doesn’t help those countries , now missing even their last few experts, and doesn’t help us, the higher industrialized and wealthier countries. It will become in fact averaging, and the average will be much lower and nearer to South Sudan or Bangladesh than to Luxemburg or Brunei, and still not mentioned the many to expect problems with different culture, religion, lifestyle, integration and sometimes more violent mindset.

-6 ( +8 / -14 )

We need a unified system to take in foreign workers and integrate them into society,"

No, you need to prioritise the needs of your own people instead of chasing gross GDP. Even if the population shrinks, so what? What matters is the overall quality of life for the people of a country, and the Nordic countries have shown that it's possible to have a small population that lives well without immigration.

0 ( +15 / -15 )

Just imagine the chance to go to a place where you could earn 20 time the amount you make now?

That is why they are queuing up to come here to be "exploited"...

-4 ( +12 / -16 )

They appeal "Stop slavery".

Japan's ​“foreigner trainee system“ is hotbed of human rights violation.

Infamous LDP government and greedy economy group Keidanren maintain to cling to this modern version of slavery.

-3 ( +19 / -22 )

As Japan is seen as lagging behind the United States and Europe in human rights due diligence

When has Japan ever done "due diligence" in any part of society or with regards to workers?

-3 ( +19 / -22 )

LDP elites like Shinzo Abe really want to incorporate foreign trainees into the full-time workforce as South Korea did for a long time. Since Abe, Japan expanded the import of foreign workers into the country's economy. At the same time, this act continually drives down wages in Japan. However, Japan's LDP can't fully eliminate the lifetime employment systems and "native-only" employment systems. Japan can easily eliminate the slavery systems of foreign trainees but it will anger many Japanese native workers (mostly pensioners) who are the huge voting base of the LDP. If Japan eliminates the trainee systems to incorporate foreign trainees as full-time workers, then Japan's working conditions will be even worse for Japanese natives as they will face intense job competition and decreasing wages.

In the end, there have been signs that the Kishida administration is adamant about ending the trainee systems and incorporating foreign workers fully.

-16 ( +6 / -22 )

As Japan is seen as lagging behind the United States and Europe in human rights due diligence,...

Japan is not just " seen to be lagging" ...it's is limping decades behind.

the government has drafted guidelines for companies to respect human rights throughout their supply chains. Though they are not legally binding, they specifically mention the need to protect the rights of technical intern trainees...

So theses " guidelines " are not legally binding? Why bother with such pretend tatemae bs then?

-9 ( +19 / -28 )

Name a developed country who doesn't have similar issues.

Where/When did slavery start anyway?

We've got the best potential leaders commenting on this thread.

-13 ( +4 / -17 )

The Japanese Government should be fair when it comes to immigration policy as Canada did or other developed nations.

Rather than creating technical expressions such Technical Intern Training for Asia and Human Resources Development in Africa, just admit that our population is declining, and we do need foreign workers.

Create an environment where they have equal benefits as Japanese people from voting rights to political engagement etc.

2 ( +11 / -9 )

How is it that people from the world’s second largest economy are working as lowly paid technical trainees in the world’s third largest economy?

0 ( +4 / -4 )

He treated them just like other workers. He invited them to his house for New Year's celebrations, and they went on trips together. But he now believes relying on such trainees, just because labor is in short supply, would not make small and midsize companies stronger because they could only stay a limited number of years.

A heartwarming tale. Did he treat them to sushi platters too?

But did he pay them on time? According to their hours of work?

Did he use a exploitative dispatcher to source these "trainees"?

The article smacks of some desperate whitewashing.

-9 ( +8 / -17 )

modern slavery and fully legalized one.

-7 ( +10 / -17 )

japanese companies even treat their local staff like crap (though not as bad as foreign trainee workers)... the first step is to change the general work culture in this country!

2 ( +13 / -11 )

Refreshing reading about a Japanese that actually understands the problem. There is absolutely no logical reason for that 5 year rule, it's working against Japan in every way. People complain about Vietnamese not fitting in and committing crimes etc, but keeps sending home the people that are starting to adjust in favor of a new untested bunch. As many probably already understands the 5 year rule is there for one reason only, to keep non Japanese Asians from settling down and mix the gene pool.

-7 ( +11 / -18 )

Look at Europe... they are having a lot of problems with 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants coming from poor countries.

Unfortunately these "Oyaji"

never think long.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

Earning 40 or 20 more times than they were in their home countries plus learnings. How come would it be called slavery?

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

As Japan is seen as lagging behind the United States and Europe in human rights due diligence, the government has drafted guidelines for companies to respect human rights throughout their supply chains.

Yeah good luck with that,the government in the end will only favour the big local companies and they won’t do anything concrete to improve the life and dignity of these people coming to work with them.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

My mother's family immigrated to Brazil over 100 years ago. There are over 2 millions of Japanese descendants in Brazil, over 200,000 Brazilians living in Japan. I had the opportunity to work with many good Chinese, Philippines, Nepalese and Vietnamese people here in Japan. Japan is a marvelous country and visionary leaders can make a plan to integrate foreigners in the Japanese society, creating equal opportunities for all. This will ensure long term prosperity of Japan.

4 ( +11 / -7 )

Why are you putting the word "trainees" in quotation marks???

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Wages are laughably low in Japan, even more so with the BOJ deliberately weakening the yen. Why would any migrant want to come here, be treated like a second-class citizen and work a menial job for slave wages? The ones that do have the least to offer society. If you want to see how this pans out, just watch Australia over the near future - the PM is opening the floodgates to low-skilled migration, diluting the quality of life for legacy citizens through increased real estate prices, traffic, hospital waiting times, etc.

-14 ( +7 / -21 )

Workers learn or upgrade skills in order to acquire widely recognized certifications in this day and age. Then they can go back home or somewhere like Singapore or Dubai and perform more demanding jobs that pay more and open the door to further career advancement.

So what is the certification these Japanese “training” programs grant? I’ve read many of these articles in the Japanese media, and none mention this. Without an international certification, any technical training is basically useless in terms of career advancement and the “training” program isn’t a training program. Anyone know?

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Did you miss this part of the article?....

Vietnamese people earned roughly 40 times more working in Japan than in their home country a decade ago, but it was around 20 times last year.

These "slaves" are volunteering to come here for 20 times what they make in Vietnam.

None are forced. The applicants exceed the vacancies by a huge margin.

TWENTY TIMES THE SALARY! two zero!

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Let me just say this, if Japan does not open up and allow people and cultures of others to integrate and become part of it's society it will only be heading towards a very Steep Cliff, in other wards it is doomed.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

20x the pay?

So if the average salary is 148 USD a month in Vietnam (many get way more than this) so even at 1:1 it there is no way they are getting 20x more in Japan. Try 10x max, (and that's a big IF) they are lucky. Did anybody fact check this drivel???

1 ( +6 / -5 )

I've made it known that I firmly position myself against the "Ganbare Nippon" crowd, particularly on things like Covid border controls; but some of the comments I am reading here are just silly.

The fact that they need to learn a difficult language such as Japanese and only use that skill for the designated amount of time they are allowed to be here is in itself unappealing.

I'm not really sure what the alternative is, though. No one should be surprised at the revelation of having to learn a foreign language to live in said foreign country. That doesn't mean you need to be a JLPT N2 certified wiz.

I bet the future they want to create is foreigners in small villages, and Japanese in big cities. So if foreigners will want to move to a city like Tokyo they will need special permission.

This is among the craziest things I have ever read. Japan is NOT like the People's Republic of China.

The after work night in Vietnam is booming with its night markets, kids playing in their beautiful parks, families eating ice cream on the beach, buddies walking arm in arm and having a good time, happy, young people everywhere.. I just try to imagine what kind of life they live in this country.

That's just viewing another country through rose colored lenses, and doesn't serve as a real indicator for the degree of happiness/prosperity in that place. You can find people eating ice cream on the beach or kids playing in parks in any country. Japan included.

While many have benefited from economic growth in Vietnam and can enjoy relative luxuries, not everyone can, which is more often than not the reason people seek new lives in foreign countries to begin with. And on the topic of civil liberties, while Vietnam certainly looks pretty good compared to a few of its neighbors, there's still no internet freedom and you can't criticize the state.

-1 ( +10 / -11 )

Let me just say this, if Japan does not open up and allow people and cultures of others to integrate and become part of it's society it will only be heading towards a very Steep Cliff, in other wards it is doomed.

Strike that. Reverse it.

Let me just say this, if Japan allows a large number of people of other “cultures” into Japan (look at Sweden) thinking they will integrate and become part of it's society it will only be heading towards a very Steep Cliff, in other wards it is doomed.

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

Sorry to say this, but the "solution" they are eyeing is permanent position but same salary as trainee.

Basically, you will be a "cheap laborer" forever.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@Larr Flint, they are NOT SLAVES!! Don't misuse the word SLAVES. They are under paid foreign laborers. SLAVES worked, and didn't get paid a wage of any kind. These foreign workers get paid for their labor, what they get paid for may not be a fair wage, but they get paid something. SLAVES got NOTHING!!

This slavery trainee system should be abolished a long time ago.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

It will be interesting to see if they copy Brexit and simply end the programme. If you don't pay locals enough, they won't work for you. If you can't find staff locally, you can't do stuff. That will increase wages. The tourists have gone, will the migrant labourers follow them?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Tora ...

So if the average salary is 148 USD a month in Vietnam (many get way more than this)

Many get more than average?

Correct! And also many get less... That's how averages work.

And they are not paid less than any Japanese doing the same job.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Tora ...

So if the average salary is 148 USD a month in Vietnam (many get way more than this)

Many get more than average?

Correct! And also many get less... That's how averages work.

And they are not paid less than any Japanese doing the same job.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

The smaller companies need to copy the larger companies and have the foreign workers build products in their own country, then ship to Japan. Labor rates drop to zilch, Japanese company makes more money.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

"Let me just say this, if Japan does not open up and allow people and cultures of others to integrate and become part of it's society it will only be heading towards a very Steep Cliff, in other wards it is doomed."

"Let me just say this, if Japan allows a large number of people of other “cultures” into Japan (look at Sweden) thinking they will integrate and become part of it's society it will only be heading towards a very Steep Cliff, in other wards it is doomed."

There is a midpoint here between these two radically polarized and rather unproductive arguments being made.

Regarding the pro-foreigner quote, I feel that the supposed risk of Japan not allowing unfettered amounts of people to live in the country indefinitely is overstated. Japan (at least prior to the Covid border controls) has allowed people from around the world to come for work. The thing is, most foreigners enter Japan with the mindset that it is not a long-term arrangement. This is due to the difficulty of the language and rigidness of the culture, which many likely cite as an undesirable compromise for living here permanently. For the people that think Japan is not diverse enough... should they be forced to become fluent in English and adjust their culture so that Japan is a more comfortable fit for immigrants? That doesn't really make much sense.

Regarding the anti-foreigner quote, I feel it is necessary to remind the fervent nationalists: Japan always stagnates or makes terrible decisions when it tries to live inside a bubble, closed off from the rest of the world. Japan's greatest periods of economic achievement (the Meiji Restoration and post-WW2 boom) all came at the cost of having to swallow their pride and work with people from foreign countries with different cultural values. If it weren't for "people of other cultures", Japan literally wouldn't even have had electricity. Occasionally, the Japanese will need to abandon old traditions, not for the sake of benefitting immigrants, but for their own good. The Covid-19 era is proving this to be the case, and while other countries like the UK are advancing on issues like efficient border entry policies and remote work, Japan is failing in these areas.

Inevitably, Japan will probably have to make the immigration process more streamlined to bring in young people and maintain its pension systems, as well as further technology progress and make the economy more dynamic. I'm still not convinced declining birthrates are the end of the world, though, unless you worship consumerism as the end-all-be-all.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Mr Kipling

And they are not paid less than any Japanese doing the same job.

Are you sure about that? A common compliant is that of being paid illegally low wages, among other things.

https://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/21/business/global/21apprentice.html

On paper it might be 20x the "average" wage. But I reality not so. As I say, there is no way they would be averaging 300,000 a month man for working in a small town on a chicken farm or fish cannery, etc

Even English "teachers" are barely on 200,000 these days. And an OL? Look it up man, it ain't pretty.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

I do understand the concern and reasons of many employers to widen the gate for foreign workers as these comanies lack quantity and skilled employees.

I am french in my 80', and I remember the same needs and requests of the french companies back to the '70's. The french governments, as well as many governments in Europe did the same, hiring skilled and unskilled people from many countries outside Europe. The immediate sodisfaction of companies and governements masked progressive and unsovable problems. Depending of the languages, origin and culture, it was difficult for the people to adapt, then, impossible for them to come back to their home countries. The companies also did not try to cope with the lack of workers, reasulting in a progressive lack of competitivity. For the populations in touch with very different cultures, it resulted also in a clear confrontation of cultures and way of life. The worst result is the feeling of being invated by foreigners, particularly when religion of immigrated workers turns to be against the roots of the countries, as some religions wants to eliminate the other religions, the roots, the culture and impose their law as the percentage of foreigners increased widely. This is the photography of the the consequences of short sighted policies. My wife is japanese. I wish that Japan looks at the european situation, thinks twice about opening the borders and considers the approach of careful countries like Australia.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Stop importing modern day slaves and pay decent salaries to local people!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

How can Japanese in Tokyo,live on minimum wage,it cost about an hour wage to just show up by train,lots of these salaries jobs are a watse of time,going to meeting, about problem you cannot solve,lots of American ,are kicking and screaming,being force back in the office

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Makes sense why the Chinese have more knowlege and power than the Japanese. Don't train your enemies.....

2 ( +5 / -3 )

nosuke......

Don't train your enemies.....

Don't worry, there is very little training. They just put "training" in the program title because "cheap, low skill temporary, foreign worker program" sounds too much like a program to bring in foreign workers to do the low skill jobs that Japanese won't do for the salary offered.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

How does it feel to be exploited?

It feels very very bad….

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

99% of bureaucratic decision-makers in Japan are old Japanese males. They carry forth the misconceived political will that led Japan into his barbaric and disastrous journey described as the second world war. Japan has had the greatest opportunity to enhance its employment base and make a dent into it’s population decline but these old men fumbled the ball. Young men and women must step up to the plate and change this feudalistic hierarchy

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Now in big cities like Tokyo it's almost impossible Japanese workers at McDonald's now I see mostly work from Nepal or Vietnam or the Philippines, etc

But almost no young Japanese workers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

A couple of years ago trying to catch on international flight at Narita my kids and I wanted to buy some cheeseburgers at McDonald's languages and also very good English and some broken Japanese could not communicate with the McDonald's employees that ended up only understanding Vietnamese and this is here in the Tokyo International Airport

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Let me just say this, if Japan does not open up and allow people and cultures of others to integrate and become part of it's society it will only be heading towards a very Steep Cliff, in other wards it is doomed.

I totally agree.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Let me just say this, if Japan does not open up and allow people and cultures of others to integrate and become part of it's society it will only be heading towards a very Steep Cliff, in other wards it is doomed.

We get people telling us how doomed Japan is for one reason or another, a good 10-20 times a week on this site. Have been for years.

You're just another in a long, long line. Soon to be forgotten, along with your doom and gloom prediction.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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