Two Filipina trainees work at a car parts factory in Akitakata, Hiroshima Prefecture. Photo: REUTERS file
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The Japanese government has warned companies against dismissing or targeting foreign trainees who get pregnant while working in the country, officials said Thursday, with some women having been compelled to consider an abortion or to return home.

With many interns expressing concern about the impact a pregnancy may have on their employment status, the government on Monday told organizations that accept and supervise foreign trainees that it would violate the Japanese gender equality law if the women are unfairly treated due to marriage, pregnancy or childbirth.

The government-sponsored technical internship, introduced in 1993 to transfer skills to developing countries, has faced criticism at home and abroad over perceptions it is used as a cover for companies to import cheap labor.

Government bodies including the justice and labor ministries also said in a note sent to the organizations that they should not unjustly curtail trainees' private lives as it would be in breach of the internship program law.

The document also urged the supervising organizations that connect trainees with host institutions to inform interns about the laws.

The warning came ahead of the launch of a new visa program in Japan next month, which will allow the entry of more workers from abroad to address the country's serious labor shortage.

Those who have taken part in the existing technical intern program in Japan for more than three years will be able to obtain the new visa status to be created from April, and the government expects many interns to apply.

The Justice Ministry said it has received reports from supporters of technical interns which highlight cases in which pregnant trainees were threatened with dismissal.

Similarly, the Zentouitsu Workers Union, a Tokyo-based labor organization that assists foreign workers, said it has received numerous requests for consultations from female trainees.

Last November, a Vietnamese woman in her 20s who arrived to train at a paper factory in western Japan, told the union that an official of a training center, a subcontractor of her supervisory organization, told her "either choose to abort or return to your home country."

The woman had also signed a contract with a recruiting company in Vietnam that required her to return home in the event of a pregnancy, a stipulation that would be illegal in Japan.

In January, a Chinese trainee in her 20s was arrested on suspicion of abandoning her newborn baby in a residential area near Tokyo, fearing that her employers at a food processing plant would force her to return home.

"Since the scheme for foreign technical interns itself does not allow for cases of pregnancy or childbirth, trainees believe that they cannot become pregnant," said Shiro Sasaki, the labor union's secretary general.

"The lack of preparation in creating the system is the reason for forced abortions and returns. The cases that have come to light are only the tip of the iceberg," he said.

Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer knowledgeable about problems faced by foreign trainees, said the fact the government needs to remind and inform those involved that it is illegal to disadvantage and coerce pregnant interns "shows the seriousness of the issue."

"Those who dismiss or force trainees to return home because of pregnancy must merely think that trainees are cheap labor or useful slaves," he said. "If they cannot treat them as humans, they have no business accepting them."

? KYODO

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

28 Comments
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Wow, Japanese companies will do anything to foreigners. Now, I know , why the world do not want to help Japan except if it is for money. This kind of actions says all ,there is to be said, very bad example indeed.

13 ( +17 / -4 )

"Last November, a Vietnamese woman in her 20s who arrived to train at a paper factory in western Japan, told the union that an official of a training center, a subcontractor of her supervisory organization, told her "either choose to abort or return to your home country.""

But hey, despite it being illegal we dare not mention the company responsible! And we DEFINITELY can't punish them. We can only suggest they follow the law and ask for their cooperation... then leave it up to them. And if there are many complaints, allow them to carry out an internal investigation and ask them again to follow the law. I mean, forgetting about the life of mother and child, they most certainly don't want to embarrass Japan's reputation abroad, do they?

15 ( +19 / -4 )

I wasn't aware this sort of stuff happens in this day and age, but I guess nothing surprises me about Japan, a country of intense juxtaposition of extremes.

11 ( +15 / -4 )

If they do it to their own, why would anyone expect conditions would be any better for temporary, disposable foreigners:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/18/japanese-women-suffer-widespread-maternity-harassment-at-work

16 ( +18 / -2 )

My wife works for an international company with a branch in Japan. She was treated very fairly when it came to maternity leave. And my previous company was also very fair considering how "black" it was.

TBH, I think Japan tends to be fair and maybe as the article that jcapan posted states, 21% being treated unfairly, is actually a pretty low number considering not many people are populating the country. The problem could also be in part, the fault of women not standing up for themselves in the office. I'm not sure, but I think legally companies must offer maternity leave to full time employees. Anyone denied maternity leave or asked to abort or leave their positions should be immediately taking legal actions against their company.

-12 ( +4 / -16 )

Japan, a country of intense juxtaposition of extremes.

Definitely one of the main reasons for this never ending love & hate relationship with the country.

Beautiful modern safe Japan, blackmailing female workers to discard their own unborn children for the sake of ¥¥s.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

The government issues a warning? What does that actually do to protect or help those individuals? The government issues many warnings, companies never listen. They barely respect current Labour laws.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Oh my gods? Procreation don't they realise that Japan inc supersedes normal lusts. Unbelievable selfness. Thankfully these are people are easily sent home, last thing Japan needs are children. ;-)

6 ( +8 / -2 )

pregnant while working in the country, officials said Thursday, with some women having been compelled to consider an abortion or to return home

Abortion by your employer, yes it’s Japan. Seeing what happened to Japanese employee, don’t be surprised that will happened to foreign trainee.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

So if a trainee gets pregnant and can't work, what is supposed to happen? She stays hone and...? How does she make a living? Is the company expected to pay her a salary anyway? Or perhaps the government will?

If an employee isn't producing good results, they need to go. In case of pregnancy, there is maternity leave, and I am for that, but are trainees able to receive the same benefits as full time employees, and if so, should they?

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

Beautiful modern safe Japan, blackmailing female workers to discard their own unborn children for the sake of ¥¥s

Blackmailing FOREIGN female workers! Unless you are a Japanese female working in childcare, where they have to take turns getting pregnant or face losing their jobs, Japanese companies are pretty good when it comes to maternity leave for Japanese workers.

The companies that are blackmailing these foreign women dont want to pay them while they are not working on maternity leave as they will eventually have to leave the country and the business will have to find someone to screw with!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Good for you!

keep the pressure...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Don't be mistaken, becoming pregnant is part of the plan of many foreign women in Japan. First comes the pregnancy, then a sham marriage, then residency status, then the divorce, then support by city hall paid by my taxes

Any evidence/links/citations to back up your opinion?

3 ( +9 / -6 )

Any company that treats women like that should be named and shamed.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Any evidence/links/citations to back up your opinion?

All those single foreign mothers on the Dole.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

sensei258Today 06:46 pm JST

Sounds like you've been looking for love in all the wrong places...

2 ( +5 / -3 )

All those single foreign mothers on the Dole.

Any evidence/links/citations to back up your opinion?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

@AlexBecu ... is this sarcasm?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

If Japan’s own aren’t protected against harassment, who the heck thinks they will protect others?

Next!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

So, the govt warns companies not to fire pregnant employees, and it also urges companies to raise wages. However, we forces its citizens to enter into a contract with its public broadcasting network...

Shows you exactly where the priorities lie within this corrupt govt.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

*it forces

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Warnings are lame, name and shame the companies!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The stupid govt never is smart. Instead of enforcing, the govt just warned, small but not firm, typical Japanese thing.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Kinda confused. They came here to work, right?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Any evidence/links/citations to back up your opinion?

Yes.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

This things also happen in Japanese company oversea.they make the worker to sign certain agreement especially female employee.so they can terminate them .If their private not in line with company such as pregnancy and age .Instead they terminate their employment based on the contract .Circumvent those country legal protection for female employee.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Are any of the women pre-screened for pregnancy before being granted permission to come over? It would be a no brainer to have health care access in Japan vs Philippines, Vietnam, etc.

If they become pregnant while here, you think they will be capable of sustaining the exact same working hours/days for the entire duration of their visa? Seems impossible.

So I say again, they are here to work or for other benefits? Why should the companies have to shoulder the burden of bringing them here and can't fire them for not keeping their part of the bargain?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes.

So, once again - it's a case of just projecting bias with no stats/evidence to back it up.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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