Servitude in disguise: Japan uses trainee program to exploit foreign workers

Updated 2017-03-03 11:05:34 Xinhua

Fang, a 36-year old Chinese woman, came to Japan a year ago on the promise of job training, decent pay and a chance to achieve a better life back home.

One year later however, she ended up getting a job that involves little training of any sort, but repetitive, strenuous work, skimpy pay and even humiliating scolding from her boss from time to time.

"I really regret coming to Japan," Fang said at her tiny, makeshift room converted from containers in Hiroshima, western Japan. She prefers her full name not to be made public.

Fang's job is sewing clothes at a home-run factory in a remote farmland area, where she works with 28 other Chinese "trainees" who were brought to Japan under a Japanese government-sponsored Technical Intern Training Program.

"We have to work at a hectic pace here, with almost no time to rest," she said, citing the fact that though the Chinese trainees already work very hard, the boss often scolds them for no reason, and yells at them to make them work even harder.

Despite such a heavy work load, Fang has not been able to earn much money as she had expected, as the wages for foreign trainees are only roughly half the amount Japanese workers are paid for doing similar work.

Meanwhile, the living conditions are poor as she has to share with five other trainees a 10-square-meter makeshift room which has neither kitchen, bathroom, air conditioner, heater nor TV and Wi-Fi. The rent for such a room, however, amounts to 120,000 yen (1,056 U.S. dollars) a month, which is much more expensive even than in Tokyo, the Japan's capital.

Lu, a 35-year-old Chinese trainee working at a construction company in Hiroshima, said that almost all the Chinese trainees working in Japan regret about their decisions as they earn a pittance and learn very little from the excessive labor here.

"I hope my compatriots could know what we've been through here in Japan, so that they won't be fooled and make bad choice like us," Fang said.

INTERNSHIP OR SERVITUDE

Fang and Lu's stories are snapshots of the sad experience of hundreds of thousands of foreign trainees working in Japan, many of whom found themselves only used as cheap labor and trapped in indentured servitude.

According to media reports, as of last June, there are altogether 210,000 foreigners working in firms and farms across Japan as what Tokyo calls trainees, among whom the Japanese Ministry of Justice has recently confirmed that some 85,000 are Chinese.

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