By Minami Funakoshi
Almost 40 percent of foreign residents who sought housing in Japan had applications turned down and almost a quarter were denied jobs in the past five years, a survey showed on Friday, highlighting discrimination in a largely homogeneous society.
The findings from the Justice Ministry survey come as the number of foreign workers and residents in Japan hit record highs as the country prepares to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
However, immigration remains a touchy subject in a land where conservatives prize cultural homogeneity and foreigners make up less than two percent of the population.
Language skills weren't the problem, the survey suggested, with about 95 percent of those who were denied jobs and more than 90 percent of those who were denied housing saying they spoke Japanese conversationally, professionally or fluently.
"The landlord said I couldn't live in the flat because of my nationality," said a Korean respondent in her fifties quoted in the report.
"I was born and raised in Japan and Japanese is the only language I know. There is still so much bias and discrimination in Japan," she said.
The survey was conducted so that the Justice Ministry could better understand what discrimination and human rights issues foreigners in Japan face, and to find ways protect their rights.
The first government survey of its kind, it was conducted by the Centre for Human Rights Education and Training in November and December last year.
Of the 18,500 foreign residents contacted, 4,252 responded. More than half of them were Chinese and Korean, and more than 40 percent had lived in Japan for more than a decade.
Nearly 20 percent of the 2,788 respondents who had looked for work in the past five years said they received lower pay than Japanese people for the same job, and more than 17 percent said they couldn't get promoted because they were foreign.
About 13 percent said their working conditions were worse than those for Japanese co-workers, with longer hours and fewer days off.
Separate Justice Ministry data this month showed that violations, including unpaid wages, among groups accepting foreign trainees in Japan had risen last year.
Around 30 percent of respondents said they were insulted or discriminated against occasionally or frequently.
"One time, when I tried to enter a small shop in Harajuku, the staff told me it's for Japanese only," said a Brazilian woman in her twenties.
A Korean woman in her sixties said: "Japan is my home and I love Japan, but discrimination against foreigners is deeply rooted. I wish for a society that recognizes diversity."
Published on Thomson Reuters' website on March 31, 2017.
By Linda Sieg
Japan's cabinet on Tuesday approved legislation that would penalize criminal conspiracies, a move critics say threatens civil liberties, but officials say is needed to prevent terrorist targeting events like the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Proponents say the steps are vital in a security climate where terrorism risks have grown and in order to ratify a U.N. Treaty aimed at battling international organized crime.
"Considering the current situation regarding terrorism and looking ahead to the Olympics and Paraolympics three years hence, it is necessary to fully prepare to prevent organized crimes including terrorism," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
Japanese governments have tried to pass similar legislation three times since 2000, when the United Nations adopted a Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, but the bill stands a better chance of success this time.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition has a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament and public worries about terrorism ahead of the Olympics have grown after deadly attacks overseas, although an opinion poll released by Kyodo news agency on March 12 showed 45.5 percent were opposed to the bill while 33 percent favored it.
Suga said the legislation would apply only to groups preparing to commit terrorist acts and other organized crime groups and would not target the "legitimate activities" of civil groups or labor unions.
Opponents, including the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, have doubts. They view the proposed change as part of Abe's agenda to tighten control at the expense of individual rights, chilling grassroots opposition to government policies such as the construction of a U.S. military base on Okinawa island.
"It is very clear that the Japanese public security sector – police and prosecutors – employ an extremely expansive interpretation of any aspect of criminal law so ... regardless of the limited list of potential crimes, they will interpret it in an extremely elastic way," said Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Meiji University in Tokyo.
The lawyers' association has said Japanese law already prohibits preparations to commit certain serious crimes such as murder, arson and counterfeiting or plotting an insurgency or the use of explosives, so additional legislation is unnecessary.
This article was published on Reuters' website on March 20, 2017.
A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom from involuntary servitude; and the right to equality in public places. Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of an individual are denied or interfered with because of their membership in a particular group or class. Various jurisdictions have enacted statutes to prevent discrimination based on a person's race, sex, religion, age, previous condition of servitude, physical limitation, national origin, and in some instances sexual orientation.
Source: Cornell University Law School