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Sri Lanka trainee takes maternity leave, gives birth in Japan

  • March 31, 2022
  • , Kyodo News , 10:15 p.m.
  • English Press


A Sri Lankan technical trainee working in Japan obtained maternity leave and gave birth to a child in the country in March, her labor union said Thursday.


Foreign trainees who work under the government-sponsored technical internship program are entitled to take maternity and child care leaves just like Japanese workers, but according to the General Support Union to which the 29-year-old trainee belongs, it is rare for foreign trainees to actually take the leave.


The woman, who works for the Tokyo-based Negishi Food Service, the operator of a restaurant chain, wishes to return to work and take child care leave.


The company plans to grant the woman’s request, but since foreign trainees are usually not allowed to bring their families to Japan, her child could be sent home soon.


The labor union pointed out that it is difficult for foreign trainees to live with their children while working in Japan under the current internship program, even if they can take child care leave.


The woman was working at a factory of the company in Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo since around March last year and became aware of her pregnancy in July, according to the union.


Since she wanted to give birth in Japan, she consulted with lawyers and the labor union.


The party began labor negotiations with the company in October, making it possible for her to take maternity and child care leaves and continue to work. The woman entered her maternity leave in January.


Her husband, also a Sri Lankan, has been staying in Japan.


According to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, in principle, children of foreign trainees are allowed to stay in Japan for only six months. However, the woman will ask the agency to grant an extended stay for her child.


Between November 2017 and December 2020, a total of 637 foreign trainees suspended their internship program due to pregnancy and childbirth, while only 11 of them were able to resume the internship, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.


Japan established the technical internship program in 1993 to transfer knowledge and skills to developing countries, but a lack of support for female trainees has led to tragedy in some cases.


In 2020 in Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, a Vietnamese trainee gave birth to stillborn twins and was charged with abandoning the bodies. According to her lawyers, the woman felt she had nowhere to turn to deal with the matter.


She was given a suspended sentence but is appealing it to the Supreme Court.


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