Migrant Chinese workers badly exploited in Japan, report says
Japan and China should improve conditions for migrant Chinese workers whose rights are frequently abused in low-paid factory jobs in Japan, a report said Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of migrant workers from China fled Japan in the aftermath of the March earthquake and many have not returned, the report by a Hong Kong-based labour pressure group found, DPA reported.
The report by the nongovernmental organization China Labour Bulletin warned the exodus might continue unless both countries tackle widespread abuses.
More than 100,000 unskilled Chinese workers have jobs as so-called "trainees" in small factories across Japan, signing up for three-year postings which should pay up to around 10,000 US dollars a year.
The workers are classed as trainees under a system introduced in the 1980s to allow Japan to import low-cost, unskilled workers as long as they were technically classed as trainees not employees.
The 50-page China Labour Bulletin report titled Throwaway Labour: The exploitation of Chinese trainees in Japan claimed that widespread abuse of Chinese workers' rights, particularly in garment and food factories.
Laws to protect workers were "all too frequently ignored" and trainees' rights "routinely violated," it said, saying workers were exploited by both Chinese agencies and employers in Japan.
Workers were charged excessive fees and deductions by placement companies in China then made to live in shoddy conditions, sometimes in store rooms, and fed substandard food by employers in Japan.
Many migrant workers complained their passports were taken from them and their freedom of movement was restricted while employers forced them to do hard labour or excessive unpaid overtime.
Employers are often small family businesses in rural areas, leaving trainees "effectively cut off from society," the report said.
The report cites a 2008 case when Chinese trainee Jiang Xiaodong, 31, died of heart failure at an electroplating factory in Itako.
He worked up to 180 hours overtime a month, his family claimed, and was paid the equivalent of less than 4 US dollars an hour. His workload was not unusual for a trainee, the report said.
The trainee system was "little more than a conveyor belt supplying cheap and temporary Chinese labour to Japan," the report said arguing both countries should do more to protect workers.