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JAPAN (Tier 2)

The Government of Japan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.  The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Japan remained on Tier 2.  These efforts included establishing a panel to provide recommendations on reforming the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) to reduce vulnerabilities to forced labor, approving a National Action Plan prioritizing labor trafficking and child sex trafficking, and increasing convictions for sex trafficking.  However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.  It continued to demonstrate a lack of political will to criminally investigate and prosecute cases of labor trafficking and child sex trafficking.  Law enforcement continued to identify hundreds of children exploited in the commercial sex industry without sufficient screening for trafficking indicators, which allowed child sex traffickers to operate with impunity.  Authorities continued to prosecute and convict traffickers principally under laws prescribing insufficiently stringent penalties, and for at least the sixth consecutive year, courts issued either fully suspended sentences of imprisonment or fines to most convicted traffickers.   Reports of labor trafficking among migrant workers in the TITP persisted, but the government did not identify any labor trafficking victims within the TITP or any male trafficking victims.  Within the TITP, the government’s memoranda of cooperation (MOCs) with sending countries remained ineffective in preventing foreign-based labor recruitment agencies from charging excessive fees – a key driver of debt-based coercion among TITP participants.  Authorities continued to rely on disparate, ineffective identification and referral procedures, which resulted in officials inappropriately penalizing victims solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.  Some of these procedures were updated during the reporting period.  Not all prefectures offered adequate services for trafficking victims, no government shelters could accommodate male victims, and women and child trafficking victims often had to quit work or school to receive shelter services.  

  • Vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Develop and implement new government-wide SOPs for the identification and referral to care of labor trafficking victims, including those in Japan under the auspices of the TITP, on other visa statuses, and in immigration detention.
  • Enhance screening to ensure victims – including children exploited in commercial sex without third-party facilitation and migrant workers under the TITP and the Specified Skilled Worker Visa (SSW) – are identified and referred to services and not inappropriately detained or forcibly deported solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct resulted of being trafficked.
  • Increase resources for the care of trafficking victims, including survivor-centered shelters with freedom of movement and services for foreign and male victims.
  • Enact an anti-trafficking law that clearly defines trafficking in persons in line with international law, including child sex trafficking, which does not require a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion or third-party facilitation.
  • Increase implementation of the TITP reform law’s oversight and enforcement measures, including by training Organization for Technical Intern Training (OTIT) personnel and immigration officials on victim identification, improving OTIT coordination with NGOs, scrutinizing work plans and contracts prior to approval, thoroughly inspecting work sites, terminating contracts with agencies or employers charging excessive worker-paid commissions or fees, and referring labor violations that are indicative of labor trafficking to law enforcement.
  • Establish formal channels that allow all foreign workers to change employment and industries if desired.
  • Amend antitrafficking laws to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment and increase the penalties for trafficking crimes to include a maximum of no less than four years’ imprisonment.
  • Enact legislation banning employers from retaining foreign workers’ passports or other personal documents.
  • Reduce migrant workers’ vulnerability to debt-based coercion by eliminating all worker-paid recruitment and service fees.
  • Increase enforcement of bans on “punishment” agreements, passport withholding, and other practices by organizations and employers that contribute to labor trafficking.
  • Investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish Japanese citizens who engage in child sex tourism overseas.  

The government maintained insufficient law enforcement efforts.  Japan did not have a comprehensive anti-trafficking statute that included definitions in line with international law.  It criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking crimes through disparate penal code laws pertaining to commercial sex of adults and children, child welfare, immigration, and employment standards.  Article 7 of the “Prostitution Prevention Law” criminalized inducing others into commercial sex and prescribed penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to ¥100,000 ($759) if fraudulent or coercive means were used, and up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to ¥100,000 ($759) if force or threats were used.  Article 8 of the same law increased penalties to up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to ¥200,000 ($1,520) if the defendant received, entered into a contract to receive, or demanded compensation for crimes committed under Article 7.  The “Act on Regulation and Punishment of Activities Relating to Child Prostitution and Pornography and the Protection of Children” criminalized engaging in, acting as an intermediary for, and soliciting the commercial sexual exploitation of a child and prescribed penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both.  The act also criminalized the purchase or sale of children for the purpose of exploiting them through commercial sex or the production of child pornography, and it prescribed a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.  The government also prosecuted trafficking-related crimes using the Child Welfare Act, which broadly criminalized transporting or harboring children for the purpose of causing them to commit an obscene or harmful act and prescribed penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or a fine of up to ¥3 million ($22,760), or both.  The Employment Security Act (ESA) and the Labor Standards Act (LSA) criminalized forced labor and prescribed penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment or a fine not exceeding ¥3 million ($22,760).  However, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) reported the definition of “forced labor” under the LSA was narrower than the definition of human trafficking under international law and – in practice – rare cases charged as “forced labor” under the LSA were not treated as human trafficking crimes.  When penalties allowed for fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking, they were not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.  Civil society organizations reported reliance on these overlapping statutes continued to hinder the government’s ability to identify and prosecute trafficking crimes, especially for cases involving labor trafficking with elements of psychological coercion.  Many prosecutors reportedly avoided using the ESA and LSA due to a perception that the relatively high penalties were more likely to trigger appellate processes that would decrease their overall conviction rates and negatively affect their professional standing.  The government did not have any laws that prohibited employers, recruiters, or labor agents from confiscating either Japanese or foreign workers’ passports, travel, or other identity documents except for TITP participants, for whom passport or residential identification confiscation was prohibited.  As in the previous reporting period, the government did not report efforts to enforce this law.  Contacts continued to report an acute lack of awareness of trafficking among key law enforcement and judicial stakeholders.

From January to December 2022, the National Police Agency (NPA) and the MHLW investigated 22 suspected traffickers in 60 cases, compared with 61 suspects investigated in 44 cases in 2021.  In 2022, the government initiated prosecutions of 32 alleged traffickers and continued prosecution of seven – all for sex trafficking – compared with 37 alleged traffickers prosecuted in 2021 (33 for sex trafficking and four for labor trafficking) and 50 traffickers prosecuted in 2020.  Prosecutions of six individuals were ongoing at the close of the reporting period.  The government convicted 33 sex traffickers – compared with 24 traffickers convicted in 2021 (20 for sex trafficking and four for labor trafficking) and 50 traffickers convicted in 2020.  None of the prosecutions and convictions involved labor trafficking within the TITP, and the convictions for child sex trafficking remained extremely low compared to the number of suspected trafficking victims within the TITP that NGOs identified and assisted.  Of the 33 convicted traffickers, 27 received sentences of imprisonment ranging from one to eight years, 16 of which were fully suspended; courts sentenced six traffickers to only a fine.  For at least the sixth consecutive year, courts issued either fully suspended sentences of imprisonment or fines to most convicted traffickers (67 percent, compared to 69 percent in 2021).  The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes.

Despite the known prevalence of labor trafficking indicators within the TITP program, the government has never reported holding traffickers who exploit TITP participants criminally accountable or sentenced them with adequate penalties that include terms of imprisonment.  NGO service providers reported repeated attempts to draw attention to specific allegations of labor trafficking occurring at TITP worksites, and despite the government conducting thousands of inspections of these worksites throughout the year, NGOs maintain authorities generally did not proactively investigate these allegations for potential trafficking crimes.  NGOs reported courts set prohibitively high evidentiary standards for labor trafficking cases involving foreign victims, including an overreliance on physical indicators of abuse in lieu of evidence supporting psychological coercion, thereby stymying appropriate law enforcement action.  The government signed a mutual legal assistance treaty with Vietnam.

In a failure to address the pervasive problem of child sex trafficking, the government reported it generally did not investigate or prosecute cases involving child commercial sexual exploitation under trafficking statutes because, in practice, authorities did not formally identify children in commercial sexual exploitation as sex trafficking victims unless a third party facilitated the commercial sex acts.  In 2022, the government reported 630 cases of child sex trafficking involving at least 516 perpetrators and 422 victims.  As in previous years, the government did not prosecute or convict the perpetrators for potential trafficking crimes – whether or not they involved a third-party facilitator – and it failed to identify the vast majority of the children involved in these cases as trafficking victims.  In previous years, authorities similarly processed hundreds of child sex trafficking cases without formally investigating them as trafficking crimes (between 627 and 956 cases per year from 2017 to 2021).  In 2022, the government arrested nine suspects in five cases related to Joshi kosei or “JK” businesses – establishments that can facilitate and be used as dating services connecting adult men with underage high school girls.  Eight major prefectures maintained ordinances banning JK businesses, prohibiting girls younger than 18 years of age from working in compensated dating services, or requiring JK business owners to register their employee rosters with local public safety commissions.  The government continued to provide anti-trafficking trainings to various ministries, including the OTIT, the NPA, and the MHLW on trafficking laws and regulations.

The government maintained insufficient protection efforts.  The government identified 29 female trafficking victims, a decrease from 47 trafficking victims identified the previous year.  The 29 victims, two of whom were foreign nationals, included 20 girls in sex trafficking, seven women in sex trafficking, and two women in forced labor – a decrease from 16 labor trafficking victims identified the previous year.  Separately, an NGO identified 15 forced labor victims (10 men and five women), 14 of whom were foreign nationals; and a labor organization identified 55 foreign workers in exploitative situations, which may have included labor trafficking.  Additionally, an NGO supporting sex trafficking victims received requests for assistance from 820 victims of sexual violation and/or sexual exploitation (532 female, 89 male, and 199 gender unknown), which likely included additional sex trafficking cases.  The lack of adequate standardized guidelines, poor coordination among ministries, and an incomplete, disparate set of sex and labor trafficking statutes among all relevant agencies contributed to the government’s inadequate efforts to identify and protect victims.  The government updated a handbook for law enforcement officials that included procedures for handling trafficking cases, but Japan’s guidelines for officials to identify victims – initially drafted in 2010 and never updated – were neither comprehensive nor sufficient, thereby constraining access to care for many victims.  Although officials reportedly screened for trafficking among women in commercial sex and TITP foreign workers, the government did not identify any trafficking victims among TITP participants and continued to only identify a fraction of “children in prostitution” as sex trafficking victims.  Interagency stakeholders followed disparate, insufficient victim identification procedures, which did not incorporate all forms of trafficking, especially child sex trafficking and labor trafficking of migrant workers.  Observers further reported police and immigration officials lacked awareness of trafficking indicators, especially in cases involving foreign nationals and even in cases with numerous and persistent indicators.  Due to the limited scope of laws prohibiting commercial sex, widespread exploitation of children and adults took place within a legalized but largely unregulated range of “delivery health service” and commercial sex acts in urban entertainment centers.  Because of the government’s insufficient victim screening and identification procedures and authorities’ misunderstanding of sex and labor trafficking, the government likely continued to arrest, detain, or deport victims solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, including immigration violations.

In 2022, 9,006 TITP participants disappeared from their jobs, some of whom fled exploitative or abusive conditions; and authorities did not identify any as trafficking victims.  This was a large increase from 7,167 individuals in 2021.  Authorities continued to subject TITP participants who escaped abusive employers or abusive conditions to deportation; some labor contracts featured illegal automatic repatriation clauses for interns who became pregnant or contracted illnesses while working in Japan.  Immigration authorities conducted 13,111 screening interviews of TITP participants departing Japan prior to the end of their contracts, an increase from 12,865 screenings in the previous year.  The MOJ did not report whether immigration officials identified any trafficking victims; five TITP participants reported the departure was forced.

Authorities did not identify children as victims of sex trafficking unless a third party facilitated the commercial sex acts, preventing hundreds of children from essential victim protection services and judicial recourse.  The government also reported it did not treat all cases of children in commercial sex as child sex trafficking cases because – contrary to definitional standards under the 2000 UN TIP Protocol – it required the perpetrator to exercise “control over the victim.”  Some provincial law enforcement officials noted in previous reporting periods that Japan’s unusually low age of consent, 13, further complicated efforts to formally identify children exploited in commercial sex as trafficking victims.  In March 2023, the government submitted a bill to the parliament that would raise the age of consent to 16.  Civil society groups maintained that police continued to treat some potential child sex trafficking victims, including LGBTQI+ children, as delinquents and counseled them on their behavior instead of screening them for trafficking, investigating their cases, or referring them to specialized services.

As in previous years, the government failed to provide overall adequate protection services, such as survivor-centered shelters, psycho-social care, and legal aid, to victims of all forms of trafficking.  Authorities only referred nine of the 29 identified trafficking victims to care, eight of whom were children.  This was a decrease from referring 15 labor and sex trafficking victims to Women’s Consultation Offices (WCO) shelters or child guidance centers for services in the previous year.  The government did not refer any male victims to care because it did not identify any.  An NGO separately provided services to 15 potential labor trafficking victims.  The availability and quality of government-run services for victims varied widely according to prefecture.  The government contributed funding for WCOs and child guidance centers, which could provide shelter for female and child trafficking victims alongside victims of other crimes, and “one-stop assistance centers,” which could assist victims of sexual abuse, including some forms of sex trafficking.  Each prefecture had at least one WCO, child guidance center, and one-stop support center.  WCO shelters provided food and other basic needs, psychological care, and coverage of medical expenses; and shelter residents could leave the facilities freely.  Some NGOs continued to allege the physical conditions and services in these facilities were poor and overly restrictive.  WCOs in less resourced prefectures required women and children seeking shelter to quit their jobs or schooling, reportedly for the shelters’ secrecy.  Additionally, civil society providers reported that if a trafficking victim sought assistance, government providers could not assist until the government formally identified the victim, which delayed services.  WCOs could not accommodate all LGBTQI+ individuals; no government shelter could accommodate male trafficking victims.  The government stated it could provide male trafficking victims with other temporary accommodations but did not report doing so.

Foreign trafficking victims had limited or no access to other government-provided social services from which legal resident victims could benefit.  The government provided two female trafficking victims with residency permits, a decrease from 11 in 2021.  The government relied on and expected foreign embassies to provide protection services to their nationals whom traffickers exploited in Japan.  Temporary, long-term, and permanent residence benefits were reportedly available to foreign victims who feared the repercussions of returning to their countries of origin, but the government did not report whether any victims received these benefits.  The government continued to fund an international organization that provided return and reintegration assistance to foreign trafficking victims identified in Japan.

Victims could file civil suits to seek compensation from traffickers, but – as in previous years – the government did not report whether any did so.  However, in response to a civil suit filed by seven victims in 2017, a court awarded partial damages for unpaid wages; the judge denied the victims’ request for additional damages.  Some employers pressured TITP participants to leave their labor unions to reduce their chances of seeking recompense for labor abuses committed against them.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking, although overall efforts, particularly to prevent trafficking among the highly vulnerable migrant worker population, remained inadequate.  The government maintained a national-level interagency coordinating body for anti-trafficking efforts and a lower-level law enforcement coordination group that each met once in 2022.  The government produced its eighth annual report on government actions to combat trafficking and tracked measures against the stated goals of its 2014 action plan.  In December 2022, the government passed a new anti-trafficking NAP – its first since 2014.  The plan prioritized strengthening penalties for convicted traffickers, improving identification of child sex trafficking, and preventing labor abuses, including labor trafficking, within the TITP.  Authorities continued to raise awareness of trafficking by disseminating information online – including on the NPA’s public website – and through radio programs, posters, and brochures, as well as through leaflets distributed to NGOs, immigration and labor offices, and diplomatic missions in Japan and abroad.  The government did not make sufficient efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.  The government had extraterritorial jurisdiction to prosecute Japanese nationals who engaged in child sexual exploitation abroad but, for the third consecutive year, did not report investigating any such cases.  Several ministries continued to operate hotlines to identify potential trafficking cases, but none reported if calls to these hotlines resulted in the identification of any trafficking victims or trafficking investigations.

There were 166,728 TITP workers who entered Japan from January through November 2022.  The 2016 Act on Proper Technical Intern Training and Protection of Technical Intern Trainees mandated the MHLW approve work plans outlining living conditions, working hours, and other factors developed jointly by incoming TITP participants and their employers.  The OTIT inspected new work plans and did not accredit 3,565 out of more than 185,000.  Despite this initial screening, however, observers maintain that authorities did not fully implement oversight procedures to ensure unity among sending and receiving organizations’ contracts nor among these contracts and the participants’ work plans, resulting in discrepant language that left many participants vulnerable to labor abuses, including labor trafficking.  The OTIT continued to inspect supervising and implementing organizations but did not publicize how many of these organizations it inspected.  The OTIT provided non-binding guidance to several hundred employers for either retaining workers’ identity documents or not providing training according to their accreditation training plans.  The MOJ and MHLW punished 79 supervising organizations and employers, which could include prohibiting them from participating in the TITP for five years, and publicized their names, addresses, and reasons for punishment, including non-payment of wages and not following the accredited training plans, on government websites.  The OTIT identified 358 cases in which the actual working conditions deviated substantially from those the employers had promised in the accreditation plans, and the OTIT revoked the corresponding training plans.  This was an increase from revoking 157 training plans in the previous year.  For all these administrative actions, the government did not report whether the OTIT or MOH identified any trafficking cases, or whether the OTIT or the MOJ referred any cases for criminal investigation.  The government generally treated issues within the TITP, including abuse and exploitation, as personal disputes between the employer and employee or as administrative violations under the LSA rather than potential trafficking crimes.  Civil society and international organizations continued to report the OTIT was understaffed and could not adequately screen participants or investigate allegations of abuse, including labor trafficking.  For example, although the OTIT reportedly screened work contracts for excessive fees, in a 2021-2022 MOJ survey of 2,100 Vietnamese and Cambodian TITP participants, 80 percent reported incurring an average of $4,000 in recruitment fees.  Additionally, one-quarter of TITP participants who became pregnant reported harassment, including being told to quit.  Some participants reported the OTIT was unresponsive to requests for mediation when their employers suddenly changed or terminated their contracts.  The OTIT had a hotline for TITP participants to report employment issues and seek assistance in their native languages; the hotline received 191 reports of trafficking, an increase from 69 in the previous year; the government did not report whether these complaints led to the identification of any trafficking victims or investigations.

In July 2022, the MOJ announced an interagency review of the TITP with the goal of narrowing the divide between the program’s stated purpose of training foreign workers and its reality of labor abuses.  In November 2022, the government created an expert panel composed of representatives from businesses, unions, academia, and lawyers to recommend how to reform or abolish the TITP, address the onerous recruitment fees on workers, and decide whether workers should have the ability to change employers.  The panel did not include civil society members, although the MOJ and the panel held meetings with civil society.  The panel’s final recommendations are due in fall 2023.

The government maintained TITP MOCs with 14 labor-sending countries.  MOCs remained the Japanese government’s primary tool to regulate recruitment practices, and it held three meetings with sending countries through the MOCs.  The MOCs remained largely ineffective, however, because the government often failed to abide by its obligations to cease accepting TITP workers from sending countries whose governments did not address abusive labor practices and labor trafficking crimes by recruiters and sending organizations, such as charging “excessive fees” known to place workers in high debt.  The Governments of Japan and Vietnam finalized, but had not yet implemented, a direct recruitment platform for TITP participants from Vietnam, which would reportedly give the governments greater visibility into the recruitment process, including fees.  The government sent 10 reports of alleged misconduct by sending organizations to source-country governments.  The MOJ revoked the approval of 23 sending organizations, an increase from 19 the previous year.

The government continued to implement the SSW visa program to fill labor shortages in 13 sectors, including construction, shipbuilding, and nursing care.  Observers continued to express concern this program engendered the same vulnerabilities to labor abuses, including labor trafficking, as the TITP, and the government’s oversight measures were similarly lacking.  SSW participants could change employers within the same category and could switch job type if covered by the same qualifying exam.  TITP participants could only change employers in limited cases, such as verified human rights violations within the program.  NGOs continued to report these structural and practical hurdles on TITP participants’ ability to change employers remained significant obstacles and tools for exploitation.  In 2022, TITP participants filed 6,700 applications to change jobs; the government did not report how many it approved.  NGOs reported authorities approved approximately 10 percent of applications of exploited TITP participants to legally change employers.  Japanese law enabled for-profit employment agencies and individuals to become “registered support organizations” – with no licensing requirements – to liaise between labor recruitment brokerages and employers for a fee.  Observers reported these service fees could create additional risks for debt-based coercion among migrant workers entering under the auspices of the regime.


 As reported over the past five years, human traffickers subject Japanese and foreign men and women to labor and sex trafficking and Japanese and foreign children to sex trafficking.  Traffickers also transport victims from elsewhere in the region through Japan before exploiting them in onward destinations, including East Asia and North America.  Traffickers subject male and female migrant workers, mainly from Asia, to labor trafficking, including at companies participating in Japanese government-run programs, such as the TITP.  Japan’s fast-growing foreign student population is at risk for trafficking in the unskilled labor sector due to abusive and often deceptive work-study contract provisions.  Men, women, and children from Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Latin America, and Africa travel to Japan for employment or fraudulent marriage and are subjected to sex trafficking.  Traffickers use fraudulent marriages between foreign women and Japanese men to facilitate the entry of women into Japan for sex trafficking in bars, clubs, brothels, and massage parlors.  Traffickers keep victims in forced labor or commercial sex using debt-based coercion – sometimes through recruitment debts equaling more than one year of salary – and threats of violence or deportation, blackmail, confiscation of passports and other documents, and other psychologically coercive methods.  Employers require many migrant workers to pay fees for living expenses, medical care, and other necessities, leaving them vulnerable to debt-based coercion.  Brothel operators sometimes arbitrarily impose “fines” on victims for alleged misbehavior, thereby extending their indebtedness as a coercive measure.  During the reporting period, reports emerged of traffickers contacting elderly foreigners through job posting websites and social media and using religious- or retirement-based scams to defraud them into transporting disguised narcotics from African countries through Japan to the United States.  During the reporting period, an international organization identified at least one Japanese labor trafficking victim in a Cambodian scam call centers.

Traffickers subject Japanese citizens and foreign nationals – particularly runaway teenage girls and boys – to sex trafficking.  Enjo Kosai, or “compensated dating” services, and variants of the JK business, often with ties to organized crime, continue to facilitate the sex trafficking of Japanese children; children from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of Korea, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam are also reportedly exploited in these establishments.  The pandemic caused a surge in unemployment and domestic violence, which increased the risk of some Japanese women and girls – especially runaway children – to enter into “compensated dating.”  JK bar owners may subject some underage boys and girls, including LGBTQI+ youth, to labor trafficking as hostesses and club promoters.  Highly organized commercial sex networks target vulnerable Japanese women and girls – in some instances those living in poverty or with cognitive disabilities – in public spaces such as subways, popular youth hangouts, schools, and online, and subject them to sex trafficking in commercial sex establishments, small musical performance venues, retail spaces, and reflexology centers, often through debt-based coercion.  Some groups posing as model and actor placement agencies use fraudulent recruitment techniques to coerce Japanese men, women, boys, and girls into signing vague contracts and then threaten them with legal action or the release of compromising photographs to force them to participate in pornographic films.  Some transgender youth and adults who seek employment in unregulated urban entertainment districts as a means of financing their gender-affirming care are subsequently exploited in labor or sex trafficking.  Private Japanese immigration brokers help Japanese-Filipino children and their Filipina mothers move to Japan and acquire citizenship for a significant fee; upon arrival, some of these individuals are subjected to sex trafficking to repay their debts.  Organized crime syndicates posing as immigration brokers also lure these families to Japan with deceptive job offers and then subject the women to labor and sex trafficking in the nightlife industry.  Japanese men remain a source of demand for child sex tourism in Asian countries.

Cases of labor trafficking continue within the TITP.  TITP participants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, the PRC, India, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam pay sending organizations in their home countries thousands of dollars in excessive worker-paid fees, deposits, or vague “commissions” – despite bilateral agreements between sending countries and Japan aimed at curbing the practice – to secure jobs in fishing, food processing, shellfish cultivation, ship building, construction, textile production, and manufacturing of electronic components, automobiles, and other large machinery.  TITP employers place many participants in jobs that do not teach or develop technical skills, contrary to the program’s stated intent; others place participants in jobs that do not match the duties they agreed upon beforehand.  Some of these 400,000 workers experience restricted freedom of movement and communication, confiscation of passports and other personal and legal documentation, threats of deportation or harm to their families, physical violence, poor living conditions, wage garnishing, and other indicators of labor trafficking.  Some sending organizations require participants to sign “punishment agreements” charging thousands of dollars in penalties if they fail to comply with their labor contracts, including by becoming pregnant.  Participants who leave their contracted TITP jobs lose their legal status, which traffickers use to coerce some into labor and sex trafficking.  Some foreign workers within the SSW visa program – including former TITP participants – may be at risk for trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future