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Foreign interns pay the price for Japan's labor shortage

44 Comments
By Alexandra Harney and Antoni Slodkowski

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Really great article. We have all heard the allegations of this type of thing happening to Chinese 'interns' but we rarely get such specific details. This is simply slavery.

19 ( +19 / -0 )

In the end Kameda seems to comprehend that something was wrong. It never ceases to amaze me the extent to which so many managers or owners do not notice that paying people 50% less than other (local) people to do over 50% more in a given period is just not right. Of course it is not right, but it is economic. ... It is that bloody mindset, isn't it!!!

And Burberry (eventually) deciding to do an audit of ethical work practices at its outsource companies ... Iol

However, thank the gods of something for people like Ichiro Takahara, people on the ground.

The article refers to Shinzo Abe's interest in expanding the training-intern policy. I do not think it necessary to blame him, though I would like to, and he makes himself an easy target.

Rather it is a prevailing mindset affecting producers, sellers, and consumers as well, here and elsewhere, that it is economic, even convenient before it is ever thought of in terms of right or wrong.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Flame on.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Actually some credit to JT for picking up this story.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

This kind of thing has been going on for a long time. This despicable practice needs to stop, and I hope articles like this will lead to the situation being addressed in a meaningful way. Ditto for the "entertainment" industry.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

And yet we also read that these conditions are better than the conditions in China. According to NHK last week, few Chinese are coming to Japan because China's economy is booming and they can do better there. So the people traffikers will have to go elsewhere. Welcome to capitalism.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Most large cities in the USA have TV News channels that do some extremely good Investigative Reporting where they constantly uncover Scams and Unfair Work Conditions. Quite often they get the local Police involved in fixing things due to their reporting. Japan needs better Investigative Reporters or at least more of them.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It was a good thing that this got caught buy the unions but the unions here are pretty weak and credit goes to those who work to stop the unscrupulous preying on the weak vulnerable. Its pretty unethical that the luxury brands who charge the most do all they can to wipe their hands of this and make the high price garments using such practices, and I am sure they really know whats going on but money makes it right for them.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Still waiting for their court-ordered liquidation

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Way beyond disgusting, this company & jitco should be racked over the coals HEAVY fines.

Instead tiny "settlements" & the abuse set to continue, shame on Japan!

And of course no Japanese are even charged with any crime............WTF!

To those who in another article talk about heading to Japan after university you had better think MORE than twice about it!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

They were completely happy until they left and sued us,

This quote from Kameda personifies the Japan I am beginning to know.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Labor conditions for foreign workers in Japan are atrocious in some cases. I think as more foreign workers come to Japan, this will improve. Part of the problem is the media complicity and conformity uber alles culture that exists in Japan. I've never turned on NHK and heard anything even remotely critical of the government.

I can safely say that Japan is one of the safest and cleanest nations on Earth, but out of the large liberal democracies it is definitely the least free. It is a far cry from the ultra-modern image it projects to the West. Social egalitarianism in Japan is a solid 50 years behind even America or most of Europe.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

He intends to counsel partner factories that employ interns "so what Kameda is experiencing won't happen again."

I can't force myself to think his intention is of a good nature...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Don't kid yourself that this treatment of employees is only limited to foreigners to is it only limited to the apparel industry.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Burberry’s code of conduct, which covers licensees such as Sanyo Shokai, prohibits homework and bans the use of bonded labor and the payment of “deposits” to employers. It requires factories to pay at least the national legal minimum wage and provide safe, clean accommodation for workers. Workers should not be required to work more than 48 hours a week or 11 hours a day, the code says. Overtime should be both voluntary and no more than 12 hours a week; it should not be demanded on a regular basis. Burberry also requires all factories to make sure workers keep their “passports, ID cards, bank cards and similar documents to facilitate their unhindered freedom of movement”.

Elsewhere in the forum, Japanese historical revisionists speak of the importance of forming treaties. And so here is a code of conduct, governed by a license agreement, that has been blatantly ignored by some Japanese companies. I read through the article and can't overlook the parallels to a history of exploitation of those in rather desperate conditions.

The rules of the program specified that Lu, Qian and Jiang’s first year in Japan was to be devoted to training. Japanese law bars employing foreigners as unskilled laborers. But quietly, the country has been bringing in foreigners since at least the 1980s,

They received 18 days of training before being put to long hours of work. This deception and exploitation has been going on for over three decades.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Frauds and Hoax. If they lose their customers and go banjrupted, I am not sorry..

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Abe is expanding this slave labour program to benefit LDP-donating factory owners.

For factory work internships should be limited to 6 months, or less. For longer internships certified training programs must be included as part of the training. That would stop most of the abuse, but of course the LDP will never impose any regulations that limit the ability of factory owners to squeeze every last drop of labour out of their slaves.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Shame Japan shame.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I am waiting the Japanese English for slavery, maybe these poor people will be called

comfort workers

enablers

Bottom line enhancers

Come on Japan get your $%# together, surely you are better than this, I mean really, man up & stop treating foreigners & even Japanese who do the 3K stuff, for crying out loud!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

gokai: "And yet we also read that these conditions are better than the conditions in China."

So that makes it better and right? These are sweat shops, bottom line. Shame on Japan. It seems they haven't learned very much after the current leaders' grandfathers profited from doing it.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

A very good article which provides a pretty good picture of what is wrong with that program. It is shocking that a program in which a whopping 79% of companies using it are found to be violating worker`s rights can be allowed to continue to exist. Just outrageous.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I have never read any of this in the Japanese media, only from the foreign media.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

For those who 'declined to comment', let them damned well answer to a court of law. Well done the investigative reporters, the union organozer and the workers themselves. I feel the labour standards offices could be more proactive. After all, who's going to make a fuss if your boss is holding your passport or you'll lose your job for spilling the beans.

And the only way these brand names will take their responsibilities seriously is if they are named and shamed. It's no good saying certain conditions are written in contracts issued to suppliers and sub-contractors if they don't enforce them effectively.

If the price of cutting out exploitation is that consumers have to pay a little more for their 'desirous' brands, then so be it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

great article, i have to say though that this does not affect foreign workers only but also japanese themselves,,those who are not fortunate enough to have the kind of life that few elites can afford...although the effects must be more cruel to those foreign workers as in this article, considering the difficulties with the language, and having no other families with you to depend on...the increase in consumption tax also have a blow to those workers on that front...quite shameful to see a developed country being mostly quiet on these issues...exploitation is not an option but a choice that won't do good for japan in the long run.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Good article, well done JT

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This is biz as usual for gaijin labor in Japan. I have faced similar situations. It seems anytime a gaijin is to be employed, there is a catch. Youll usually find lots of old people or P/T women working there as well. I have found this to be the norm, rather than the exception. Whats really amazing is how you see where Japan ranks as one of the safest places to live on the touchy feely rankings. I guess so, if you dont work here. Japan has a long way to go before it catches up to other countries.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

i absolutely disagree with the title "Foreign interns pay the price for Japan's labor shortage". i have friends who lived this life and it was distressing to see. there are tons of unemployed japanese but they won't work in these conditions that the inane Japanese system has allowed. the title should read "Foreign Interns Pay the Price for Japanese and Global Corporate Greed Assisted by Governments". the bottom line.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Thanks for the good article, JT..

I want to commend the Japanese man who stuck out his neck for these three people who had a rough time and did his utmost to help them out of their bind.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Excellent article. Kukos to JT. Not buying anything Burberry.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

M3M3M3, you call it slavery, but now the Japanese Government wants to build the Olympic avenue through these kind of workers and then they will celebrate the Olympic Games, the Game of the humanity. I do not know weather the Olympic committee knows about this fact or not.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Exploitation by any definition. Imagine being a 'trainee' for five years! That must be mighty comprehensive training, maybe there is a doctorate at the end of it?

Is it any wonder that foreigners DO not want to come here.....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Also, note that these conditions are not unique to foreign workers. Japanese workers have the same experiences. Especially young ones. Why is the birth rate down? Young people of child bearing age work all day with no vacations for little money. This is one of the legacies of Koizumi. Abe wants to make it worse. Well, in 100 years, Japanese will be gone.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

this is the same formula, exploit and then send them back home. what happened to the nikaijin, the workers from Brazil, first the Government called them and when the economy went down they send them home even bribed them. the same thing about the undocumented, the Government turned a blind eye because they were needed and easy to exploit and the crackdown started only when the economy went down or they were not needed.

The same story will revise here, they will use these trainees and then will send them back, the old trainees will be the burden of their home countries.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have come across and heard of Asians who often describe their mistreatment whilst working in Japan. Whilst i have only had good experiences myself I have though never heard or come across such negative cases from Westerners. I must say that i notice a lot of Chinese bashing where there is an opportunity and i guess they are easy targets. I can only imagine the bashing the Chinese would have received had it been the other way around, but this will probably only receive low coverage if any at all on local papers/tv. I take my hat off to Takahara who stood up for these women.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Kameda told the interns the plant was going to be inspected by JITCO"

And why are the inspectors' visits revealed in advance?

"Takahara drove them to a convenience store and then to the local labor standards office".

Why does the labor standards office do nothing until the union organizer steps in?

With JITCO and the labor office completely spineless in their oversight roles, it sounds like these women would still be there were it not for Takahara's courage.

And the LDP wants to expand this sorry mess.

I would also be interested if any JT readers have ever had any of there local friends ever raise this issue, even once.

If the voters don't know, how can it affect their vote?

See no evil, hear no evil.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

this is just the tip of the iceburg, i know of three chinese interns who work at a wrecking yard, all they do all day is strip down engine blocks, not really a skilled position. they also worked long hrs for around 70,000yen a month. although they seemed nervous telling me this. there needs to be a lot more companies sued for the j gov to clamp down on this BS

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Comfort slaves, the newest "engrish" word for the dictionary!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I used to be an international student intern in America. These whole comments here just make me laugh. You don't know the real world out there.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

People like Kameda should be jailed after being forced to pay what they owe to the workers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

YES!! JT.. YES!! This is a great article! Please more of this... We, as gaijin living and working in Japan, need this kind of reporting and support... Become our voice JT

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Please continue to show articles like this!!!

Got an American lawyer who has talked about these kinds of stories and more. It's happening more than anyone knows. It's time to end slavery. Not just slavery itself but it's various forms.

I'd love to hear more about Louis Vuitton and other companies.

Then we could identify the type of women who would continue to support companies that abuse labor laws.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@jj1067 just because America is flooded with cheap mexican labor doesnt make it right. now much of American products are made in Mexico where the labour cost are 1/4 of that in the US. all that does is drag down the minimum wage making the poor poorer and the rich richer.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think working conditions like this show that Japan needs labor reform. These conditions are a step above slavery, and Japan should be ashamed of itself.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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