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5 May 2020


Japan: Foreign workers first to lose jobs amid COVID-19 outbreak

"Foreign workers feel the pain of 'corona job cuts' in Japan", 5 May 2020

...The coronavirus pandemic has hit Japan's economy hard and many factories, including those of carmakers, are scaling back production.

Foreign workers are particularly vulnerable, with a weaker support network and language barriers that prevent them from seeking government help.

Union groups, labour lawyers and nonprofit organisations say foreign workers...are the first to lose jobs in "corona cuts", which they fear may expand to the kind of mass layoffs seen in the 2008 financial crisis...

In March and April, a labour organisation based in Mie, a manufacturing centre about 300km west of Tokyo, received 400 consultations from labourers who were affected by the coronavirus. About 330 were foreign workers.

"Foreign workers on short-term contracts are laid off first," because they're easier to fire, Union Mie organiser Akai Jimbu said...

Still, the government recently allocated 370 million yen (US$3.46 million) to improve multilingual support for foreigners at unemployment offices and online.

But most foreign workers don't turn to the government for help. While Union Mie handled hundreds of consultations this year through mid-April, the local labour ministry office saw only seven...

Last month, union members and [Kaori] Nakao [a Japanese-Brazilian woman who was laid off from a car component factory] protested outside her employer's office and the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Thermal Systems factory where she worked.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Thermal Systems declined to comment because it did not employ Nakao...