Zenroren’s opinion on the government plan to accept more foreign workers
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
April 25, 2014
The Japanese government is moving more rapidly toward accepting more foreign workers allegedly to make up for shortfalls of workforce amid falling birthrates and ageing population and to meet the needs arising from the 2020 summer Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo.
At the second joint meeting of the Council on Fiscal and Economic Policy and the Industrial Competitiveness Council on April 4, participating ministers spoke about how discussion is underway in their ministries.
However, in these moves there are no signs of soul searching on the part of the government to admit that the successive government is responsible for the falling birthrate and the declining labor force.
We must point out that the government is taking opportunistic response to these problems by seeking to use cheap labor force made up of foreign workers.
We therefore present the following opinion urging the government to comprehensively review its policy for securing the future of Japan’s economy and society.
PDWe oppose the expansion of the foreign trainees program
The government is considering expanding the foreign trainees program to include agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, and even nursing care and home support services, in addition to construction. They say such expansion is needed because of a shortage of labor force caused by the falling birthrate and because of temporarily growing demand linked to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. We categorically reject such an easygoing attempt to secure cheap labor.
These areas that would accept foreign trainees are sectors which face a shortage of hands and in which workers are forced to endure low wages and inadequate working conditions and.
The need is to substantially improve wages and other elements of the work environment in order to attract young workers willing to work permanently. Accepting more foreign workers without improving the domestic labor market does not help solve the fundamental problems.
There are concerns being expressed that the safety might be imperiled by barriers of language. What is more, acceptance of more foreign trainees will only help perpetuate low-paying jobs with bad working conditions. It would become a factor for even lower wages, raising concerns about further worsening of the working people’s conditions.
The foreign trainees program is supposed to be a system devoted to making international contributions that would help transfer to developing countries skills, technology and knowledge developed in Japan.
But the actual fact is that it is used more with the aim of securing cheap labor force. The government admits that there are many labor disputes over excessively heavy workloads, unpaid wages, and human rights violations.
Despite all these problems, the latest government policy is one of securing cheap labor, which is a complete deviation from the aim it is supposed to pursue. It will have to face international criticism. This is why we argue that the foreign trainees program should be abolished instead of being expanded.
QDImprove the employment conditions for foreign workers to secure their human rights
Although Zenroren is critical of the way Japan currently accepts foreign workers, we are not opposing it from a chauvinistic position.
We believe that the need now is to improve the employment conditions for foreign workers, guaranteeing their human rights fully.
Cross border movements and immigration of people will rapidly increase in an era of internationalization and the globalization of the economy.
An increasing number of foreigners will immigrate to Japan in many ways, and more and more Japanese people will have opportunities to work outside of Japan or immigrate to foreign countries.
The point is that Japan should ratify ILO conventions concerning immigrants, namely Convention No. 97 (On migration for employment convention) and 143 (Migrant workers <supplementary provisions>) and drastically improve its minimum wage system in order to prevent dumping of wages. These are essential to form without delay a national consensus on developing a structure that does not allow employers to use workers as cheap labor force at wages lower than the country’s wage rates.
RDThe government must devote its resources to establish environment in which workers can bring up children without anxieties
The government appears to talk about such issues as the falling birth rate, ageing society, and a decline in population as if they were natural phenomena. Such a stance is the fundamental problem. Because the birth rate has fallen thus far and is exacerbating labor shortage due to a series of adverse labor law reforms, which has encouraged employers to use more contingent workers, making the employment situation more precarious and further holding down already low wages coupled with long working hours and heavy workloads. What’s more the government has adversely revised the social services and measures for education. All this are factors that are making it difficult for people to have children and bring them up in Japan.
Government data show that 30 percent of local governments may have been gone by 2040. There is also a prediction that the Japanese population will decrease to 4.3 million in 100 years. Not only economic growth but also the future of Japanese society is in peril. The government Industrial Competitiveness Council on and other panels are talking a lot about the need to speed up the structural reform. But such a direction will only exacerbate the situation and must be corrected.
What we need at present is to make a 180 degree change so that the government will do all it can to create the environment that will help people in child birth and child care and to take measures necessary to drastically raise the birth rate.
The need now is for the government to move away from the “deregulation” policy in order to create more stable and quality jobs, raise the level of wages, shorten the work day so that women and men can equally fulfill their responsibility for family affairs, help improve working people’s environment to raise children by promoting free childcare and education, and drastically improve social services.