Foreign slaves for factory in eastern Japan

slave girl for Japanese

Factory denies Muslim basic human rights
The Yomiuri Shimbun Dec 5, 2006– A sewing factory in eastern Japan required an Indonesian Muslim trainee to sign a note promising to forgo praying five times a day and Ramadan fasting as a condition of her employment…The firm also prohibited her from owning a cell phone … exchanging letters domestically, sending money to her family or traveling in vehicles. In addition, she had a curfew of 9 p.m. at her dormitory and was not allowed to invite friends theremore

These employment terms are on the extreme end of typical Japanese labor contracts. I have been surprised at work with such screwy written oaths (the translation of “note” in the above Yomiuri report is wrong) many times: I have had to sign at various times at work that I would not: drive a car, go skydiving, eat kimchi at work, engage in “severe” political action, and moonlight at another job on the weekends. For younger recruits, there are off-duty dress codes and long lists of “rules.”

However, these employment terms against the practice religion of the “trainee” (slave) is insane. Sadly, I bet the out of court settlement of the this case will amount to a trivial amount such a just one year’s wages –the length of her job contract– and a one-way ticket back to Indonesia, meh.

Link via Debito

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I'm a pale, alien, quadruped who has worked for 25+ years at "Maybe-the-Largest Inc." in Tokyo.

2 thoughts on “Foreign slaves for factory in eastern Japan”


    A great many, if not the majority, of J-salaryman seem to have no more freedom than the average 18th century Russian serf. Two anecdotes from yesterday: I had been unable to get a hold of a friend of mine in for a couple of weeks. Worried, I asked my wife to call him at his company. My wife told me in disbelief that she was told first by a secretary, then by a manager, that personal calls to employees were not allowed. She then said it was an emergency, and after a great deal of grumbling was told to call back at 2:10, when the staff had a “rest time”. Quite the contrast to my old office back in Seattle, where folks spent huge amounts of time making and taking personal calls.

    Second anecdote from yesterday: the landlady tearfully emailed my wife that her husband had been permanently posted in Dubai by his J-employer. She said the transfer was presented to him as a fait accompli, no debate, do it or your career’s finished.

    ‘Tis a fine line indeed which separates the serfdom of the J-salaryman and the slave-like conditions under which a lot of foreigners here work in blue-collar and agricultural jobs.

  2. Stop firms from abusing foreign trainee scheme

    The Yomiuri Shimbun / Editorial, Dec. 6, 2006
    ….80 percent of firms broke law
    According to an on-the-spot investigation conducted by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry last year, 730 corporations sponsoring foreign trainees, or about 80 percent of the total, violated the Labor Standards Law and the Minimum Wages Law. The offenses committed by these companies included falsifying wage slips and sexually harassing trainees, including those who had signed quasi contracts with their sponsors after their initial training programs. …

    Where is the improved treatment of foreign labor?
    NGOs advocate giving workers “free choice of work sector”

    TOKYO SHINBUN, Sunday, December 3, 2006, page 24
    Quickly translated by Arudou Debito
    Japanese original archived

    Foreign workers, which are propping up the Japanese labor force, are gasping under low wages and being roped into doing extra work outside of their contracts. For some time now human rights watchdogs have been getting involved, to the point where finally the government has begun debating how to improve conditions. Both sides show quite a disparity in their views.
    The Government is facing up to the problems for foreign labor.” Such praise can be found in the new book “Basic Ideas for Accepting Non-Japanese” (kongou no gaikokujin no ukeire ni kansuru kihonteki na kangaekata), issued last September by the similarly-titled Ministry of Justice Project Team headed by Kouno Taro, former Vice Minister of Justice.

    It continues, “In order to continue letting them invigorate the economy, the Government should look into expanding the acceptance of foreign labor in specialized and technical fields, and debate more policies.”

    A coalition of NGOs including Solidarity for Migrant Workers Japan (SMJ, or Ijuuren, headed by Watanabe Hidetoshi, URL is praising this effort. In particular, they are happy that somebody is finally paying attention to a serious problem.

    “These people come all the way from developing countries under specialization and trainee programs to learn something to take back home. But all they find when they get here is unskilled labor jobs. This void between true intention and pretenses has created a lot of bitterness and disappointment between non-Japanese labor and the local regions which are hosting them.”

    Dietmember Kouno has written on his blog that the current system as it stands is a “almost all one big swindle” (ikasama).

    A Chinese male worker receiving assistance from Ijuuren tells the following story about the low wages being offered:

    “I come from a farming family, so I came to Japan with the promise of doing agrarian research, but was put to work doing sheet metal. As “Researchers” (kenshuusei) we get 50,000 yen a month, with 300 yen per hour for overtime. “Trainees” (jisshuusei) get 60,000 yen a month and 350 yen per hour for overtime.”

    Another Chinese female workers echoes the same:

    “Our monthly salary is 120,000 yen, but the air conditioning in our dorm alone is on a lease and costs about 90,000 yen.”

    Noting that these cases of abuse of the Trainee and Researcher visa system are too numerous to mention, Ijuuren’s Watanabe angrily points out:

    “This is a slavery system making up for the shortfall in Japan’s labor market. It’s a system which grinds people underfoot.”

    Based on these miserable facts of the case, the above mentioned “Basic Ideas” book has hammered out the following prescriptions:

    – Make it obligatory for companies to pay foreign employees the same wages and enroll them in the same social security programs as Japanese workers.

    – Make Japanese language ability a requirement for even those job fields which are not classified as “specialized” or “technical”.

    – Make getting Permanent Residency (eijuuken) easier for foreigners who are contributing so much to Japan.

    However, experts caution that, “The Government and industrial leaders can’t reconcile how they are going to fill in the void created by the labor shortage. [NB FROM TRANSLATOR: Read: how they’re going to stay domestically competitive in the global market, keeping their industries from relocating overseas, even if they can’t keep importing foreign labor at slave wages.]

    “They should be thinking of this from a new angle: How new Japanese residents from overseas are going to revitalize and reenergize Japan. They should consider how to welcome people from overseas as new members of Japan’s society.”

    Based upon this manner of thinking, Ijuuren released to the relevant ministries a policy proposal entitled “Towards a Society Co-Existing with Non-Japanese Residents” (gaikokuseki juumin to no kyousei ni mukete) on November 19, 2006.

    They proposed the creation of a “Laborer Visa” (roudou biza) as an official condition of residency. As the “freedom of labor movement” guaranteed by the Japanese Constitution also applies to non-Japanese, Ijuuren stressed that, “It is essential that principles of laborer equality regardless of nationality be established.”

    There is one more “Basic Idea” of the MOJ Project Team the human rights groups praise:

    “The Government must also accept non-Japanese workers with the intent of educating their children the same as Japanese.”

    This is because people talk enough about the “duties” (gimu) of foreign laborers, but the book also explicitly states in writing that the foreign children have a “right” (kenri) to compulsory education.

    The copious numbers of Brazilian and Peruvian children of laborers in the northern Kanto and Tokai regions are attending schools in Spanish and Portuguese. However, as these educational institutions are not formally acknowledged as “schools” under the Basic Education Law, thus are not eligible for government subsidies (kokko hojo), they operate in poor facilities. If foreign children were to qualify for compulsory education, there would be positive effects.

    As the NGOs ask, “Are foreign workers to be seen as people? Or merely as units of labor?”


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