Foreign student forced to work as unpaid ‘volunteer’ in Japan

(Illustration) Female graduate students of Kyushu University, wearing a montsuki and hakama, Japanese traditional formal attire, pose for a photograph at Ito Campus in Fukuoka Prefecture on March 20, 2019, after attending a degree awarding ceremony. 2,538 student commemorated the spring graduation. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

KAWASAKI, Japan (The Japan News/ANN) — A foreign student was forced by a nursing care facility in Kawasaki  to work in excess of the legal limit of 28 hours per week and then failing to pay her wages by disguising the overtime as “volunteering.”

A nursing care facility in Kawasaki was admonished for forcing a foreign student to work in excess of the legal limit of 28 hours per week and then failing to pay her wages by disguising the overtime as “volunteering,” sources told The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The Kawasaki-Kita labor standards inspection office has advised the facility to rectify the situation, claiming it has violated the Labor Standards Law. The incident revealed an example of businesses using clever tricks to force foreign students to work amid a labor shortage.

Under the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, the maximum working hours for foreign students who have come to Japan are 28 hours a week. This is less than the average worker’s 40 hours a week in principle, stipulated under the Labor Standards Law, so as not to interfere with their schoolwork.

According to the sources, the group home run by a care home operator in Nakahara Ward, Kawasaki, made the Filipino woman in her 20s work for about 10 hours a week as a “volunteer” in addition to her 28 hours of part-time work. Much of the student’s overtime work was unpaid. In March this year, the labor office recommended that the facility take corrective measures.

The group home wrote down the woman’s work hours and “volunteer” hours separately on her worksheet and time card. However, the labor office conducted an on-site inspection of the facility and concluded that the woman was actually taking care of the residents during her “volunteer” hours.

According to POSSE, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization that supports foreign students, four Filipino students who worked part-time at facilities run by the same operator in Kawasaki, including this woman, consulted with the NPO between January and February.

The four were going to the same Japanese language school in Tokyo. A broker in their home country introduced the company to the students when they came to Japan, and later this company introduced them to the language school.

For the first six months, their tuition was deducted from their wages. One of them was told by a faculty member of the school, “You may have to go back to the Philippines if you quit [your part-time job],” and that the student had no choice but to “volunteer” because their student registration, which is important for them to stay in Japan, would be rescinded if they quit their job.

In mid-March, the four students filed reports with the labor office and began collective bargaining. After the advisory was issued, the operator paid the four a total of about ¥2.5 million in unpaid wages for “volunteering.”

In regards to working in excess of 28 hours a week, the facility’s director and the four students may be charged with violating the immigration law, but it is not yet clear whether the labor office has reported the case to the Tokyo Immigration Bureau.

In an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, the company said: “We’ve settled with our employees and cannot comment on the facts. We are now working on improving the working environment.”

An official at the Japanese language school said it would refrain from making any comment.

By News Desk