National

Recruiter criticized over list ranking foreign trainees by nationality

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

A recruiter of foreign trainees was widely criticized this week for publishing a list on its website that evaluated the “potential” of interns in the nursing care industry based on nationality.

The Kagawa Prefecture-based Kokusai Jigyo Kenkyu Kyodo Kumiai, roughly translated as “Cooperative Association for International Operation Research,” has since removed the list from its site.

The list named six different East Asian countries — Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines — and scored them based on eight categories such as religion, fondness for Japan, Japanese language capability and level of morality.

It gave 18 out of 20 points to trainees from Myanmar in the “caregiver qualification” category, while giving the lowest 10 points to trainees from Cambodia.

The organization says the score was based on whether the trainees have the mindset to offer sincere care or respect elders.

It also gave 20 points to Myanmar in the “gap in wages” category, while giving four points to Thailand.

The category identified differing economic gaps between trainees’ homes and Japan, suggesting that those with larger income gaps would be “less likely to give up their work even in hard conditions,” the guide explained.

Ippei Torii, head of Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, a support group for foreign workers, said the list represents the real intention of Japanese companies in general, which see the foreign trainee program as a source of cheap labor.

“This is clearly discrimination … It is absurd to determine the ‘potential’ of foreign trainees based on their nationalities,” he said.

Japan’s foreign trainee program, which started in 1993 as a form of international contribution to transform skills and know-how to developing countries, is often criticized by domestic and international human rights advocates as akin to slavery.

Many foreign trainees are known to work long hours with miserably low wages.

The private organization had deleted the list from its website as of Thursday, explaining that it will “revise the parts that could be misleading.”

Representative Director Tomoyuki Shirai admitted that the list could have given the “wrong impression” that the group sees foreign trainees as merely labor filling a need.

“We will overhaul the whole expression” to make it “less misleading,” he told The Japan Times on Thursday.

He did not explain why and how the company determined the scores given to each nationality, claiming he was not the one who determined them.

A Justice Ministry official declined comment on the specific firm, but said Thursday that the ministry can issue warnings to recruiters of foreign trainees if they present messages that give “a false impression” of the program, such as suggesting trainees as a way to fill a labor shortage.

Shirai said the group posted the list on its website sometime around the end of October, after a Lower House committee passed a bill allowing foreign caregivers to work in Japan.

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