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Japan commits to stop exploitation of foreign workers

/ 07:22 PM February 10, 2019

TOKYO — As part of preparations ahead of accepting more foreign workers in Japan, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will introduce measures for revoking the licenses of job placement agencies if they are found to have connections with fraudulent overseas brokers, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. 

The move is aimed at preventing such brokers, which often act as intermediaries, from unlawfully collecting money from foreigners who come to Japan to work, according to sources.  

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The ministry will revise licensing criteria for relevant agencies under the Employment Security Law and make it effective in April, the sources said.

Under the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, which will take effect in April, a maximum of about 340,000 foreigners over a five-year period are expected to be accepted as laborers with specific skills — a new residence status created under the revised law.   

The government estimates that half of them will be covered by those who are already living and working here under the current technical intern training program, while the remaining half will likely arrive from overseas. It is assumed that many of these workers will make contact with job placement agencies in Japan mainly via overseas brokers before being hired.

However, there have been many cases in which brokers unlawfully collected a large amount of money under the guise of “guaranteed deposits” among other schemes from foreigners who came to Japan under the current technical intern training program. In order to pay the demanded fees, a spate of trainees have gone missing to seek out higher wages. A survey conducted by the Justice Ministry in 2017 revealed that about half of 2,870 trainees who went missing had paid overseas brokers ¥1 million or more.

Taking this into consideration, the government introduced a licensing system regarding the operation of supervising organizations under the new law on technical intern trainees that came into force in November 2017. Under the system, the government revokes the license of supervising organizations that serve as job replacement agencies for foreign trainees, if they are connected to exploitative overseas brokers.

It is feared that similar problems may occur under the envisaged program. For this reason, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has decided to revise the permission criteria for the operation of domestic job replacement agencies, according to the sources.

The ministry will revoke the licenses of agencies found to have a connection with an exploitative overseas broker. Included among the practices considered fraudulent by the ministry are collecting money in the guise of guaranteed deposits and the repayment of overseas travel expenses, the sources said. 

With the move, the ministry aims to indirectly eliminate exploitative brokers based abroad by regulating domestic agencies. The government also plans to conclude agreements with nine countries expected to supply the most laborers and provide them information about fraudulent brokers in order to curtail their shady activities, according to the sources.  

However, there are some issues to be tackled before making the new system effective. The ministry plans to identify domestic job placement agencies connected to unscrupulous overseas brokers by consulting with foreign workers and regularly conducting inspections on domestic agencies. But this may prove difficult because invoices and other documents that can prove fraudulent practices are usually kept by brokers. 

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Yusuke Nakamura, a lawyer specializing in labour issues for foreigners, said, “It is necessary to tighten the checking function through such measures as setting up consultation services for the new system and having an official in charge of inspecting these agencies at labour bureaus across the nation.”

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TAGS: Asia, Employment, Foreign Workers, Global Nation, Japan, Labor
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