Reuters: Subaru Success Fueled By Marginalized Foreign Workers

Reuters Investigates has a scathing report on foreign workers in Japan at some of Subaru’s most important suppliers. According to the news agency, due to the combination of a booming “Abenomics”, Japan’s 2010 asylum seeker program, and manufacturers looking for cheap sources of expendable labor, foreigners are taken advantage of and treated as second- and third-class workers. Another program meant to help Chinese citizens learn manufacturing skills in Japan is also implicated in helping Subaru take advantage of marginalized immigrant workers.
Subaru isn’t the only automotive manufacturer named as the same suppliers also feed parts to Honda and Toyota.

The long, detailed report states there are nearly 18,000 foreign residents in Ota, Subaru’s manufacturing home base in Japan, “making it a rare example of multiculturalism in a country stubbornly resistant to immigration” at three times the national average by percentage of population.
However, that immigration isn’t officially of the economic variety as is typically seen between industrialized nations, but of asylum seekers looking for a better life and finding their way into Japan through labor brokers and as indebted trainees. The situation has also been an example of institutionalized racism within Japan.
From Reuters:
In Ota’s auto industry, labor brokers and a manager at a Subaru supplier said ethnicity plays a part in how workers are placed: Japanese workers are at the top of the chain, followed by Brazilians of Japanese descent, who have been in the country longer under a special visa category and can speak the language. They’re followed by South Asians, many of them asylum seekers, and lastly, African workers at the bottom of the pyramid. An executive at one local manufacturer said he favored asylum seekers from Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, who he said are more willing to take on difficult jobs for lower pay.
“We carefully examined the matter and confirmed that this was not the case,” Subaru said in a written response to questions from Reuters.
The conditions for asylum-seekers-turned-workers in Ota are fueled by Subaru’s popular Forester, Reuters states in the report, running counter to the company’s “Love Promise” to make “a positive impact in the world.” Some workers make as little as minimum wage — $6.60 an hour — before labor brokers take their own cut off the top for housing, utilities and “dispatch fees” for arranging employment.
Many of the employees, typically on short-term contracts, are working illegally while on provisional release from immigration detention centers.
From Reuters:
Asked how people on provisional release were supposed to survive if they were barred from working, Hidetoshi Ogawa, a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said they should rely on support from their relatives, friends and local charities. He said provisional release was a humanitarian measure to avoid long-term detention, “but in truth, these people should leave the country.”
The terms of employment, conditions of work, and treatment of the workers is fully detailed in the report and not what you’d expect from a supposed First World country like Japan.
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