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Article

Lawyer groups develop guidelines for improving labour conditions among foreign workers in Japanese companies' supply chains

“技能実習生の労働環境「大企業にも責任とリスク」 弁護士グループがガイドライン作成”, 21 Aug 2020

[Excerpt translation from Japanese to English provided by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.]

On August 21…[the Business and Human Rights Lawyers Network Japan, the Lawyers Network for Foreign Workers, and the Liaison Committee of Lawyers on the Issue of Foreign Technical Interns] announced that they had created guidelines to improve working conditions for foreign workers in Japanese companies’ supply chains. The guidelines come at a time when Japan is facing heightened international scrutiny over labour conditions among foreign workers, including technical interns.

According to the Business and Human Rights Lawyers Network, the US Department of State downgraded Japan's ranking in its Trafficking in Persons Report (published June 2020) due to inadequate implementation of the Act on Proper Technical Intern Training and Protection of Technical Intern Trainees. The technical internship program has also drawn steady international criticism, with the UN Human Rights Council conducting an investigation into the program and issuing recommendations for improvements. Furthermore, in recent years, Europe and the US have taken steps to hold companies responsible for monitoring their supply chains.

…To come to Japan, many Vietnamese trainees pay a brokerage fee of 1 million yen (approximately three to four times the average annual salary of a Vietnamese person). In Japan these interns have to pay back their debt while experiencing barriers to switching jobs, power harassment, sexual harassment, and unpaid wages. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that these factors amount to modern slavery,” [ says lawyer Shouichi Shihara.]

Small and medium enterprises that host the trainees have long been held responsible for these labour issues. However, large enterprises, which purchase products from these businesses, are also beginning to face questions about their social responsibility with regards to addressing labour conditions in their supply chains…