Business | FOCUS

Insiders warn of continued exploitation by technical-trainee brokers as Japan launches new visa system

JIJI

A whistleblower working for a technical trainee broker in Vietnam has brought to light a series of problematic, exploitation issues at such firms, including illegal spending on extravagant events and fake claims for entertaining expenses that were passed on in fees charged to the trainees.

The claims were sent in an email by a Japanese woman who works at a Hanoi-based technical trainee brokerage.

“While working here, I sense arrogance toward trainees,” she claimed in the message sent in January to a Kanto-based intermediary group that screens and dispatches technical trainees around Japan. Officials at the brokerage are “oblivious to the circumstances of trainees, including their determination to go to Japan even by borrowing money while leaving their families behind,” the woman wrote.

The news comes after Japan introduced new work visas earlier this month in a bid to accept more foreign workers to compensate for labor shortages. The email mirrors warnings by experts that exploitation by unscrupulous labor brokers is likely to remain a serious problem.

The unnamed Kanto-based dispatch group also received an email from a Japanese man who works at a different trainee brokerage in Hanoi. The second email mentioned the existence of a group that charges prospective trainees a fee for helping them pass interviews with Japanese companies.

“Young people (in Vietnam) usually earn around ¥20,000 to ¥30,000 (per month). We send them to Japan with debt of ¥1 million,” the man wrote in the email. It’s “unacceptable” to force trainees to bear these extra financial burdens, the man stressed.

Brokers are banned from demanding over $3,600 (about ¥400,000) in commission fees from trainees, rules that often appear to be ignored.

While the existing Technical Intern Training Program has a different purpose from the new visa system, which is to help foreign trainees acquire professional skills that will be useful in their home countries, technical trainee brokers are expected to provide services to those seeking entry to Japan under the new system as well.

According to an official with the Kanto group, there are also problems on the Japanese side. Many officials of recipient organizations demand that brokers pay them kickbacks or wine and dine them at expensive restaurants, he said. Such kickbacks are prohibited by law.

Under the new system, organizations that accept foreign workers are allowed to conduct recruitment on their own in foreign countries. But those with no offices in target countries have no choice but to rely on local brokers and others.

People hoping to work in Japan are “placed in the weakest position,” the official with the Kanto-based firm stressed. “The problem is that they may be forced to cover extra costs with additional loans.”

The Japanese government is working to sign memorandums of understanding with nine Asian countries to exclude unethical labor brokers.

Under the MOUs, however, the Japanese government will not be able to directly regulate brokers in the partner countries.