The Japanese government is conducting a survey to determine whether foreign technical trainees have been forced by employers or intermediary groups to leave the country because they fell pregnant or gave birth.
Trainees subject to the survey would be from seven countries — Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
The Immigration Services Agency of Japan and the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare are working together on what appears to be the first survey of its kind, amid increased attention over a growing number of cases of harassment and abuse of trainees.
The survey aims to obtain responses from around 490 people on the government-sponsored technical internship program, asking respondents if they know of cases where women have been sent to their home country after becoming pregnant or having a child.
There have been cases of people being forced to sign documents agreeing to leave if they become pregnant, and of individuals abandoning newborn children for fear of dismissal and loss of working rights in Japan.
Japan introduced the program in 1993, with trainees allowed to work for up to five years at companies with the view of using skills learned in Japan to contribute to their home countries’ economies. The scheme has been criticized as providing cover for companies to import cheap labor from across Asia.
At the end of 2021, some 276,000 people were engaged in the program, with the highest proportions from Vietnam, China, and Indonesia.
Japan’s law on equal opportunity employment for men and women, which also applies to the trainees, prohibits disadvantageous treatment on the basis of an individual giving birth or becoming pregnant.