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Osaka NPO urges labor ministry to include racial harassment in prevention law

Participants at a rally held by a labor union in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward call for beefed up laws and regulations for workplace harassment, on April 15, 2019. (Mainichi/Satoko Nakagawa)

OSAKA -- A nonprofit organization here submitted a statement this month urging Japan's labor ministry to include racial harassment as a form of power harassment under legal revisions requiring employers to implement measures against workplace harassment.

The Multi-Ethnic Human Rights Education Center for Pro-existence nonprofit argues that the move is necessary to improve the working environment in Japan, which started accepting foreign workers with "specific skills" under new residency statuses in April 2019 under the amended Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.

Legal changes passed in May defined power harassment for the first time as behavior by those in higher positions that exceeds what is necessary for the job, thus harming the workplace environment.

As the number of foreigners residing in Japan has increased to about 2.73 million as of the end of 2018, the NPO urged the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on Sept. 17 to stipulate racial harassment as a specific form of behavior constituting power harassment. Types of harassment are to be included in ministry guidelines that will be established as early as the end of this year.

According to a survey conducted on 18,500 randomly selected foreign residents in Japan, a total of 29.8% of the 4,252 who provided valid answers stated they had often or sometimes been subjected to discriminatory remarks in the previous five years. When asked who had made the discriminatory remarks and allowed to choose multiple answers, 53.3% of respondents said strangers, while 38.0% chose work superiors, colleagues, subordinates and clients. The survey was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and disclosed in 2017.

In its statement, the NPO points out that discriminatory behavior inflicts psychological and physical pain and damages the working environment.

Racial harassment came up as a topic of discussion at a Sept. 18 meeting of a subcommittee of the labor ministry's Labor Policy Council, and some attendees voiced support for specifying harassment associated with certain statuses such as nationality in the guidelines, according to those involved.

A labor ministry official explained, "It's likely that we will have to judge if particular (racially harassing) behaviors constitute power harassment based on the latter's definition."

(Japanese original by Daisuke Okazaki, Osaka City News Department)

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