Japans immigration policy and civil society: – The political process and debate surrounding the Industrial Training Program technology transfer or exploitation?
In 1991 the Japanese government installed the Industrial Training Program (ITP). It allows young foreigners to live and work in Japan for up to three years for means of vocational training and internships. Its declared aim is technology transfer as a form of developmental aid. At the moment there are circa 200,000 foreigners residing in Japan under the visa categories of “trainee” or “specified activity” within this program. To promote and supervise the program the government has initiated a charitable foundation by the name of Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO). Foreign trainees and interns are dispatched to mostly small and medium sized enterprises in Japan. As foreign trainees do not enjoy labour rights they are very vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Japanese labour unions and human rights groups try to raise awareness on the issue, that trainees are used as cheap workforce, do not receive proper training and that their rights are often violated by Japanese employers and foreign sending organisations. In 2007 the US State Department mentioned that foreign trainees had been “subjected to conditions of forced labor” (US State Department, 2007: 124) within its annually Report on Trafficking in Persons.
In my dissertation thesis I am going to document the history of the ITP and the political debate that has evolved around it. Then I am going to analyse the patterns of actions and reactions between government, civil society and business that have appeared within this debate. I hope that this will provide me with sufficient information to conclude if or not the ITP is typical or significant for political democratic processes in Japan in general and Japan’s dealing with migrant workers.