Japan: US govt. downgrades Japan on Trafficking in Persons Report, highlighting issues with foreign trainee program
The United States State Department downgraded Japan to Tier 2 in its 2020 Trafficking Persons Report, which assesses countries' on their efforts to combat human trafficking. The report states that Japan "does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. " As part of its assessment, the State Department drew particular attention to forced labour allegations in the Technical Intern Training Program, highlighting the Japanese government's lack of response to excessive recruitment fees.
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Author: Kyodo News
"U.S. downgrades rating of Japan's efforts against human trafficking", 26 June 2020
The United States...downgraded its assessment of Japan's efforts to meet minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, citing concerns over the abuse of labor migrants working in the country.
In its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department placed Japan in Tier 2, after the country earned the highest classification for two consecutive years through 2019 in the four-tier list...
On Japan, the report said the government is making "significant efforts" to meet the minimum standards to tackle trafficking, such as by identifying more victims than the previous year and increasing on-site inspections of businesses employing migrant workers.
"However, these efforts were not serious and sustained compared to those during the previous reporting period," the report said, citing that authorities failed to identify "a single trafficking case" in connection with foreigners working under the country's technical intern program "despite persistent reports of forced labor."
...But critics say there are suspected abuses of such workers, including unpaid wages and illegal overwork.
Despite the "prevalence of forced labor indicators" identified through inspections by an oversight mechanism, the Japanese government "did not report prosecuting or convicting any individuals for involvement in the forced labor" of technical interns, the report said.
It also pointed to lingering concerns over Japan's new visa system introduced in 2018. Under the system, technical interns have been allowed to switch their visas to the newly created ones, enabling them to extend their stays.
"Although there were no reported cases of forced labor within this system in 2019, observers continued to express concern that it would engender the same vulnerabilities to labor abuses, including forced labor," as those inherent to the technical intern program, the report said.
Author: US State Department
"Trafficking in Persons Report 20th Edition", June 2020
...The government maintained insufficient efforts to prevent trafficking, including by continuing to demonstrate a lack of political will to adequately do so among highly vulnerable migrant worker populations...Cases of forced labor occur within the TITP [Technical Training Program], a government-run program originally designed to foster basic technical skills among foreign workers that has effectively become a guest-worker program. TITP participants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, the Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam pay sending organizations in their home countries thousands of dollars in excessive worker-paid fees, deposits, or vague “commissions”— despite bilateral agreements between sending countries and Japan aimed at curbing the practice—to secure jobs in fishing, food processing, shellfish cultivation, ship building, construction, textile production, and manufacturing of electronic components, automobiles, and other large machinery. TITP employers place many participants in jobs that do not teach or develop technical skills, contrary to the program’s stated intent; others place participants in jobs that do not match the duties they agreed upon beforehand. Some of these workers experience restricted freedom of movement and communication, confiscation of passports and other personal and legal documentation, threats of deportation, physical violence, poor living conditions, wage garnishing, and other conditions indicative of forced labor. Some sending organizations require participants to sign “punishment agreements” charging thousands of dollars in penalties if they fail to comply with their labor contracts. Participants who abscond from their contracted TITP jobs fall out of immigration status, after which some are reportedly subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor...