Iju-Sha is the term for Filipinos in Japan, most having come for work. Like the tens of millions of people around the world who migrate for a job, they arrive in pursuit of the promise of better wages, skills training and career opportunities. As Verité shows in our new documentary, Iju-Sha: Reportage on Migrant Workers in Japan, this may not be what they find.
While Japan remains a highly desirable country to work in, weaknesses in failures of the Japanese guest worker system, called a training or internship program, combined with unethical recruitment practices of some placement agencies in the Philippines, China and other sending countries, has left some overseas job seekers resulted in situations of indebtedness, isolation, surrender of personal documents, job substitution, denial of legal wages and benefits, excessive hours, and abusive employers. The typical absence of grievance mechanisms exacerbates the vulnerability of these workers.
Verité presented the full-length version of the Iju-Sha documentary at a symposium in Japan marking the close of a two-year project to shine a light on hidden trafficking risks in both the Philippines-to-Japan and China-to-Japan migration corridors and to develop tools and training to reduce the vulnerability of these job-seekers. Over the two years, Verité and our local NGO partners delivered ten in-person awareness and system-building workshops in the Philippines and Japan to government officials, brands, employers, recruitment agencies, and both migrants and those bound for overseas work.
At the start of this year we launched the web-based MyLaborMatters (MLM) grievance and learning platform and social media page, from which we derived over 1,000 narratives and received almost 1,000 grievances that have been responded to directly or referred to local NGOs partners or legal and government resources. MLM, which is on-going, leverages workers’ wide use of Facebook as a medium for sharing questions, information and advice about their recruitment, placement through the intern/training program in Japan and employment situations. MLM is expected to engage 15,000 users by the end of this year.
An increasing number of workers using MLM are employed locally in the Philippines or in countries other than Japan. Through the support of partner NGOs, the MLM project team has engaged the overseas labor offices in the Gulf States, Papua New Guinea and Australia, to address specific cases, as well as to address broader issues we have gleaned from interaction with workers online.
The Iju-Sha documentary will also be available in an edited form on the MLM site early next year, along with free training and other resources developed under the grant.
The Japan symposium, one of two presented this fall (the other in Manila), gathered government, business, academic, and NGO stakeholders share effective practices and to formulate recommendations for next steps toward reforming the systems that have allowed for cases of unethical recruitment and employment practices. Worker testimony gathered from MLM as well as field research was presented, along with perspectives of NGO partners in Japan and the Philippines, labor agencies, and officials.
Some highlights of the call to action include recommendations that business/employers adopt international standards on ethical recruitment; strengthen their monitoring of the recruitment process, including through third-party grievance mechanisms; and increase their direct engagement of workers. The Japanese government was urged to continue to pursue various reforms of Japan’s Technical Intern Training Program (TITP), including robust monitoring for abuses. It was widely noted that Civil Society actors are an un-tapped resource not only for supporting migrants but also for engaging with employers and the government to help shape remedies to chronic issues.
This project was made possible through the generous support of The Walt Disney Company.