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SOCIETY > Human Rights

Most of missing foreign technical workers paid some 500 yen per hour

  • November 22, 2018
  • , Tokyo Shimbun , Lead
  • JMH Translation

At a Lower House Committee on Judicial Affairs meeting held on Nov. 21, the Ministry of Justice apologized for errors in survey results on missing foreign technical interns, but maintained the conventional stance that the main cause of their disappearance is for “higher pay.” The opposition parties criticized the government for using the expression that sounds like blaming foreign trainees for fleeing their workplaces. They compiled data based on the survey results that they partially examined and found that about 80% of foreign technical workers who disappeared were paid below the minimum wage.

 

The survey that is being questioned was conducted in 2017 by interviewing 2,870 foreign technical interns who were seized after their disappearance. The MOJ initially stated that about 87% disappeared “for higher pay,” but later it corrected the figure to about 67%. Minister of Justice Takashi Yamashita apologized for this, but did not agree to modify his answers to Diet questions.

 

The MOJ also presented a new view on the cause of foreign trainees’ disappearance. The view saying “perceiving the technical intern program as an opportunity to work as migrant workers” was removed, but the wording “grow discontent” was added to “under contracted wage” and “under minimum wage.” The expression “for higher pay,” which was not included in the interview questions to the foreign trainees as options, stayed intact, and the MOJ argued that pay is the motivation for disappearance quoted by the largest number of the foreign technical interns surveyed.

 

Shiori Yamao, a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), criticized the government: “[Those people] are “claiming their due rights (to the guarantee of minimum wage). Nonetheless the government uses the expression ‘discontent.’ I feel the government is not fully aware of this issue.” She demanded the government change the wording that blames foreign trainees for disappearance.  

 

In addition, the opposition camp briefed about the results of a survey on 184 technical interns that it randomly picked from individual “question sheets” answered by the missing foreign trainees. It calculated the hourly wage of 176 trainees based on monthly wages and the number of weekly work hours they submitted in the question sheets and found that only 33 were paid more than 761 yen, which is the lowest minimum wage in Japan and paid in Kagoshima Prefecture.

 

The Tokyo Shimbun categorized those 176 people by the hourly wage and found that 52 were paid under some 500 yen, which accounted for the most. Those who were paid some 600 yen came to 34. Those paid some 500 yen and 600 yen account for nearly half of the total if combined.

 

The directors of the Lower House Committee on Judicial Affairs were granted access to the question sheets, but they were not allowed to copy them. The directors from the opposition parties partially copied them by hand. At the committee meeting, Yamao estimated that “(if the hourly wage of all of 2,870 foreign trainees is calculated), those who were paid under the minimum wage could account for about 70 to 80%.” The MOJ’s survey says that 22 out of the 2,870, or 0.8%, gave pay “under the minimum wage” as the reason for fleeing their workplaces. (Abridged)

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