Forced labor risk is not usually associated with Japan. With preparations for the 2020 Olympics underway in Tokyo, the spotlight is turning to the so-called ‘internship’ program through which Japan has brought tens of thousands of guest workers annually over the past five years to fill the labor shortage resulting from its aging population. Workers mainly from China, Philippines, and Vietnam are promised the opportunity to learn new skills and earn better wages than in their home counties. However, they too often end up in menial jobs in remote locations without their personal documents, denial of legal benefits and hardly enough to pay down the illegal debt they paid to labor recruiters to place them overseas. Workers further described to Verité harassment and intimidation by employers and widespread corruption among labor brokers.
Verité is hosting a day-long symposium on September 28 in Tokyo to premier a short documentary film on the promises and risks to migrants traveling to work to Japan and to hear from companies, government and civil society actors working on reforming what is increasingly recognized to be a broken system.
The conference, which is free due to the generous support of The Walt Disney Company, is designed for companies sourcing or licensing product in Japan, licensees and suppliers, employers of migrants, CSR practitioners, workers’ rights groups, government agencies and labor brokers both within and sending to Japan.
Watch this space for an update on the list of speakers, who will discuss the causes of trafficking risk, needed reforms, ethical recruitment options and recommended actions.