Seminar “Gender, Ethnicity, and Technical Intern Training Program”

Event Detail

2021.7.23 IGS seminar “Gender, Ethnicity, and Technical Intern Training Program”

This IGS seminar aimed to identify problems for female Technical Interns (TIs) under the COVID-19 pandemic by segmenting the issue into gender and ethnicity.

Two reporters and a discussant analyzed and discussed what female TIs experienced in the countries they were sent from, and what they have witnessed as workers in Japan. Currently, the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) is expected to fill gaps in the labor force shortage due to the rapidly aging of society in Japan. In 2019, TIs accounted for 23.3% of all non-Japanese workers, and the numbers of Vietnamese and Indonesian TIs were in the first and the third place among all TIs.

Waode Hanifah Istiqomah mentioned that TITP is a training program for “semiskilled” workers in Indonesia. It excludes workers by Act 13 of 2003, even though TITP is practically nothing more than the emigration of workers (Nawawi 2010). Consequently, officials and NGOs for emigrant workers have excluded labor from the TITP. Istiqomah focused on the pre-entry process, and the means with which TIs can be trained to comply with the image of the ideal TI, the so-called “disciplinary body,” through research in Indonesia. Emigration policies in Indonesia were first introduced in 1979, and the 1980s was an era of the “feminization of migration.” The first migration infrastructure for emigration to Japan was based on a Memorandum of Understanding between the governments of Japan and Indonesia, allowing male workers in the manufacturing and construction industries. Since then, private recruiting companies have entered the market, and this has led to an expansion of job categories, such as the food manufacturing industry, the fisheries industry, and agriculture. Recruitment of female workers has also been increasing. People who have experience with and have completed TITP are employed in businesses covered by TITP as Japanese teachers and trainers at training institutes. Problems have occurred in the form of extremely complex government and private company migration processes, as well as the unregulated costs of intermediation, causing NGOs to campaign for a halt to emigration in 2020. Istiqomah explained that pre-entry training functions as a “Disciplinary Institution (Foucault 1975)” through these processes. Physical examinations are conducted for all TIs, assuming that TIs will work as factory or construction workers. All participants share a single fate, and conform to dress codes and hairstyles to make themselves look appropriate in the eyes of the Japanese employers. These workers will then have to follow strict rules and regulations, similar to an army camp, while emphasizing their masculinity to create a “docile body.” TIs are strictly instructed to accept the hierarchies of their seniors and juniors, and take intensive Japanese lessons, as well as adhere to instructions regarding the appropriate morals and manners so as to be eligible for jobs in Japan. Many of the TIs who complete this exact program estimate the value of training as something that deeply ingrains honor for the nation or the family into the trainees. Once TIs have completed the pre-entry training, these processes, which define the mechanism that creates the “docile body,” will then filter candidates who are unfit. Istiqomah questioned the notion that employers are in fact expecting these strict processes for every job category in Japan.

Naoko Sunai gave a presentation on TIs’ difficulties focusing on the background structure and gender of migrants under the COVID-19 pandemic by including TIs, former TIs and advocates. Research on ethnicity and gender based on solidarity among Vietnamese women in Japan under the pandemic is unusual in academic fields.

 Sunai mention the “ethnicity” (Tarumoto 2016) of migrants, and showed the structure of “social exclusion” (Saito 2017) and the role of the Vietnamese Catholic church, which supports pregnant women, as “subaltern counterpublics” (Fraser 1992=1999). The background of Vietnamese had experienced the following six deprivations before the pandemic. 1) Economic and cultural deprivation at their country of origin caused by low income and poor education opportunities, as well as undermined gender roles as children and single mothers based on a patriarchic model, 2) economic deprivation caused by migration infrastructure as debt-financed migration, 3) institutional deprivation of human rights and freedoms such as limitations on changing jobs, hindering family accompaniment, and limited length of the visa, 4)economic deprivation caused as a result of low payment, below the poverty line, based on minimum wages with deductions at source, social insurance and rent, 5) deprivation of social capital caused by isolated workplaces at distant locations that complicates the creation of social capital, and 6) limited access to support systems, such as unknown multilingual consultation at OTIT, also due to the limited numbers of NGOs. These social deprivation parameters are definitely not new, and they have existed long before the pandemic. However, the recent pandemic has mingled these parameters with other issues, thus rendering TIs in an even more difficult situation.

Pregnant female TIs have been made to believe that pregnancy is prohibited by the contract, and there have been threats of dismissal and fines from the organizations they were initially sent in Vietnam, even though pregnancy is precisely a right of workers under labor laws. Prior to the pandemic, these women had been unable to continue working, and thus they were forced to return back to their countries. However, since the pandemic outbreak, these women find it not only impossible to remain in their workplaces but are also unable to return home due to restrictions in accessing Vietnam. Finally, from the support for those who wish to return home has emerged the issue of the violation of reproductive health rights. The Catholic churches are an integral part of providing support to Vietnamese workers and they have assumed the role of “subaltern counterpublics” (Fraser 1992=1999, So 2012).There is a base of solidarity in the Vietnamese Catholic community whereby sisters and religious followers who have settled in Japan have assisted temporary residents such as TIs. Through this support, including hearings and language interpretation, women are able to connect with Japanese advocates, who can then work on their cases, which then becomes an “onegai (=asking a favor)” to Japanese experts. The services offered by the Vietnamese Catholic community ensure coordination between clients and supporters or experts are very important, but are still an invisible movement in Japanese society.

Avyanthi Azis: The discussant mentioned the history of Japanese immigration policies, remittances and national development, along with Indonesian emigration policies. Discussions with the audience included the following: a) the expectation for more skilled emigrant workers and the ability for TIs to start their own business after TITP does not match with the current reality in Indonesia, b) the lack of effort in solving pregnancy and birth-related issues at workplaces is due to gendered migration in Japan, c) the solution to the high cost of migration infrastructures necessitates changing the scheme of advocacy that the employer pays for, and d) solidarity in supporting transnational labor is affected by TI policies among the countries of origin.

A total of 117 participants attended the IGS seminar, including academics and advocates from three countries, and generated a great deal of interest as an urgent issue among countries of origin and destination.

Reported by Hisano Niikura (Ferris University)

《Event Details》
IGS seminar “Gender, Ethnicity, and Technical Intern Training Program (TITP)”

【Date/Time】23 July, 14:30-17:30 (JST), 12:30-15:30(WIB)
Naoko Sunai (Ph.D. candidate, Université Laval/ Project Lecturer, Tokyo Gakugei University)
Waode Hanifah Istiqomah (Ph.D candidate, Hitotsubashi University)
【Discussant】Avyanthi Azis (Lecturer, University of Indonesia)
【Moderator】Keiko Hirano (Project Lecturer, IGS)
Institute for Gender Studies, Ochanomizu University
【Language】English and Japanese (with consecutive interpreting)
【Number of attendees】117