Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games - Context

Tokyo will host the 2020 summer Olympic games.  Preparation for the Olympics is proceeding against a backdrop of social change in Japan. Once an equal society, Japan has witnessed a dramatic increase in wealth disparity and skyrocketing poverty.  Over 35% of the workforce is in temporary employment, usually with lower pay and fewer (if any) benefits.  The status of women in the workplace also remains problematic, with an extremely low percentage of women in managerial positions, and widespread sexual harassment.  And while the Olympic bid was successful after the Prime Minister gave personal assurances that the cleanup of the 2011 nuclear disaster was “under control”, subsequent developments put in question those assurances.  Tens of thousands of people are still living in temporary accommodation, and measures to hold TEPCO energy company accountable have not advanced.

The treatment of foreign labourers will be subject to particular scrutiny in the run-up to the Olympics. The Foreign Trainee Programme (now the Technical Intern Training Programme) continues to be a hotbed of abuse, and has been condemned not only by human rights actors but even by the US Department of State. Japan lacks comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation, and instances persist of private establishments refusing foreign customers.  Private companies involved in the 2020 Olympics must be able to demonstrate that they are respecting human rights, not only domestically but also throughout their supply chains abroad.