Ministry plans electronic maps to track down suspicious foreigners

In another controversial plan, the Justice Ministry will use electronic maps to locate foreigners believed to be staying here illegally, as well as businesses that have hired illegal workers, sources said.

Criticism had already been lodged against the plan, much like the Justice Ministry’s system set up in 2004 of having the public send e-mail information about foreigners who seem to be living in the country illegally. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has criticized the e-mail tip-off system for encouraging citizens to betray their neighbors. The federation said the system should end.

Fingerprint bill unfair, activists say

A bill under deliberation in the Upper House to fingerprint foreigners entering Japan, which backers say is a necessary counterterrorism measure, must be defeated at all costs because it is discriminatory and vague, human rights groups said Wednesday.

Amnesty International Japan Secretary General Makoto Teranaka slammed the bill, saying it encourages discrimination against foreigners and violates individuals’ right to privacy. He claimed that if the bill is passed, Japan will become a “surveillance society.”

Times get tough for teachers

English teaching in Japan is not what it used to be. Conditions are changing; the work is harder to come by, wages are falling, and staff are increasingly taking their employers to court.

“It’s (the ALT industry) getting bigger and bigger, but as it gets bigger there is a race to the bottom in wages,” says [NUGW Tokyo Nambu deputy general secretary Louis] Carlet.

“In the bidding process the schools are desperate to decrease their bid and so of course they squeeze wages and take away all benefits and increase work hours.”

So the teachers, and eventually the students, are the ones that suffer. “More teachers take it because there is nothing else available. The reality is they are terrible jobs, with no job security.”

Foreign Worker Solidarity Day

Yesterday, March 22nd, three unions: NUGW Tokyo Nambu, Kanagawa City Union, and Zentoitsu Workers Union joined forces in an action-packed day of five demonstrations. The day’s actions were in response to unresolved disputes ranging from dismissals, including two dismissals for pregnancy, to union busting and threats of dismissal, to unpaid wages and passport confiscation.

The day finished up with two heated collective bargaining sessions, one in the afternoon with XXX, and another later that evening with the vehemently anti-union XXX, apparently still reeling from the combined might of three unions and a sound truck earlier in the day.

Japan’s Worsening Population Crisis

“It’s almost taboo to raise the issue of mass immigration here,” [Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau] says.

“Japan has no experience of this, only of sending people abroad. Modern Japan almost totally shuts out foreigners and the only people who debate the issue are specialists. Nobody is even researching it.”

Hard lessons in broken English

“A lot of people see the advertisements ? and think it will be like schoolroom teaching and lots of fun, but when you get here it is more like doing factory line work,” he says. “The whole teaching-English-in-Japan thing is a complete fraud and the experience can be quite bitter.”

But for anyone set on working in Japan, the Nova language school should be the last option, he says.

Japan should aggressively accept foreign workers

Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of the influential Japan Business Federation, said Monday Japan should accept foreign laborers “in all business categories” to cope with a shortage of labor in the near future.

As Japan’s labor population will begin to decrease by 1 million a year after 2010, it will be difficult to overcome a resultant labor shortage…

Equality still has a long way to go

Louis Carlet, deputy general secretary of the 2,600-member National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu (to which some Japan Times employees belong), agreed. It is always those women in less stable situations who bear the brunt of negative trends in the economy, he said.

“When companies downsize, or when they shift toward fixed-term contracts, the first target, in my experience, is women,” he said. “That is because there is still a mentality that real workers are men.”

Two Colleges Drop ID Requirement For Foreign Applicants

Two colleges, one in Fukuoka Prefecture and the other in Tokyo, have stopped requiring non-Japanese applicants to submit identification certificates, following complaints that it is a discriminatory practice, school officials said Thursday.

Kyushu Dental College in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, made the decision after a South Korean resident of Japan complained to the college that the requirement was discriminatory. After consulting with the education ministry, the college decided to eliminate the requirement next day. Tokyo-based Showa University received a similar complaint last month and eliminated the requirement, it said.