26.5% of female foreign technical interns harassed over pregnancy

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Vietnamese technical intern trainees watch a video produced by the Osaka prefectural police in Kashiwara, Osaka Prefecture, in October.

More than a quarter of female foreign technical interns in Japan have been the subject of improper remarks about pregnancy and childbirth, including being told they would lose their job if they became pregnant, according to a first-ever survey conducted by the Immigration Services Agency of Japan.

According to the agency, the remarks came from members of the Japanese companies that employ the women and the supervisory organizations tasked with overseeing the program, as well as from organizations in the interns’ home countries that dispatch trainees.

The agency has sent letters to the supervisory organizations and companies accepting foreign trainees, demanding that such remarks and actions not occur.

It also said it will notify the interns’ home governments and demand they take strict action against the organizations under their jurisdiction that dispatch trainees.

Starting in August, the agency surveyed foreign technical intern trainees about whether they had been treated inappropriately regarding pregnancy or giving birth.

It received replies from 650 female trainees from seven countries, including Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.

A total of 172 respondents, or 26.5%, said remarks were made to them indicating that they would have to quit their job as a trainee and return to their home country if they became pregnant.

Among the offending entities, organizations that dispatch trainees made such remarks in the largest number of cases, or 73.8%, while 14.9% came from officials at supervisory organizations. Companies that employ the trainees accounted for 11.3%.

Also, 5.2% of the female trainees said they signed documents with organizations that dispatch trainees or other related entities stating they would have to quit their job if they got pregnant.

Fewer than 60% were told by supervisory organizations or others that negative treatment for such reasons is prohibited.

As of the end of June, about 320,000 foreign technical intern trainees were working in Japan.

The government has received complaints from some trainees that they were urged to quit their jobs because of pregnancy or giving birth. Some cases have resulted in lawsuits.

A Philippine trainee who worked at a nursing home in Fukuoka Prefecture sued the facility’s operator for damages in October, claiming she was pressured to quit her job and return to her country because of her pregnancy.

In Kumamoto Prefecture, a former Vietnamese trainee was indicted in 2020 on a charge of abandoning the dead bodies of her newborn twins. The Fukuoka High Court concluded that she did so in an attempt to conceal her situation so she could continue working as a trainee.