The dreams of young workers

The headline “Unpaid overtime excesses hit young” for the June 25 article by Ayako Mie is misleading. The problem is not just the unpaid overtime; companies are ruining young recruits’ lives by abusing them as a matter of routine — within the regular workday and after 5. And the problem isn’t limited to these companies.

About two decades ago, I was shocked to learn about young foreign workers being abused by small Japanese companies. They were forced to work long hours for incredibly low wages. In some cases, the employer took away the employee’s visa so that she or he couldn’t escape at will from the hellish work. The labor ministry identified these workers under near-slave conditions as “trainees.” Ministry bureaucrats were the culprit. They broke the dreams of many young foreign workers by passing off hard labor as “training.”

Now the irresponsible and the greedy, who often style themselves as “patriots,” have found other victims — our own offspring. It’s as if these patriots are saying: When neighboring countries are poor and weak, exploit their young. If those countries have grown strong, exploit our own.

The greedy could not do as they please if the public were more concerned and vigilant. Much of our society is indifferent to the woes of the young and the exercise of such ugly power.

At the very least, we should have done a better job of educating our young on their constitutional rights and about the evil they would encounter in society.

keisuke akita
kakamigahara, gifu

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • Spudator

    Japan actually has labour laws—in particular, the Labour Standards Law—to prevent the abuses described in this letter. To enforce these laws there are, throughout Japan, labour standards inspection offices whose job it is to monitor firms’ employment practices. And let’s not forget the workers’ rights expounded in Articles 23 and 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose principles Japan, as a member of the United Nations and in being bound by the United Nations Charter, is supposed to adhere to.

    Unfortunately, the labour laws might as well not exist because, like many laws in Japan, they’re not enforced. In this respect, the labour standards inspection offices are a complete waste of space, being little more than window dressing to allow the Japanese government to kid itself and the rest of the world that it cares about the human rights of Japanese citizens and residents. And I think we all know how Japan will always try to wriggle out of its obligations under any kind of international treaty like the United Nations Charter.

    In his letter, Keisuke Akita writes—

    At the very least, we should have done a better job of educating our young on their constitutional rights and about the evil they would encounter in society.

    No. It’s not for young people to know their rights so they can protect themselves against the crooks and cheats that run corporate Japan. Protecting the rights of people is what the law is supposed to do, such protection being one of the benefits of living in a civilised country. At the very least, the Japanese government should be doing a better job—a much better job—of enforcing the law.

    Japanese labour laws are strong and are perfectly capable of protecting workers from abusive employers. The laws simply need to be enforced. That’s all.