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Survey on Japan's entertainment workers reveals power, sexual harassment

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TOKYO -- A survey on actors, models, artists, musicians, film production staff and others in the field of cultural arts in Japan has unearthed shocking examples of harassment considered unique to the industry.

    "A producer asked me if I was willing to become their mistress in return for making me famous." "For seven years I was told I looked ugly." "I was forced to work for two years without being paid anything." These were among some of the responses to a questionnaire conducted by Arts Workers Japan, a general incorporated association in the cultural arts industry.

    A total of 418 people responded to the online survey, which was recommended through various organizations between June 23 and Aug. 31, and the results were announced by the association on its website on Sept. 6.

    Of the respondents, 46.2% were actors, models, singers and other performers; 30.6% were artists, writers, reporters, screenwriters and other media workers outside the field of visual content; and 23.2% were film and TV production staff, broadcasters, directors and other visual industry workers. Of the total, 29.9% were men and 67.2% women. Those who were unemployed, such as freelance workers, accounted for 77.7%.

    To a multiple-answer question asking if they had ever been harassed or seen or heard of harassment, 383 respondents, or 93.2%, cited "power harassment" as the most common form of harassment -- signifying that power harassment is rampant among all such industry sectors. "Sexual harassment" was the second most common form, selected by 73.5%, or 302 respondents.

    When asked about what they had suffered from, the most common form of damage was from "psychological attacks such as threats, defamation and insults," which was named by 346 respondents, or 83%.

    There were 237 specific examples of such harassment. These cases were largely divided into serious sexual harassment, power harassment, and being forced to work unfairly for low wages. Some of the sexual harassment cases included severe harm that could warrant criminal investigations.

    In entertainment and cultural arts-related work, the subcontracting structure is often complex, and contractual relationships, such as those pertaining to wages, are often ambiguous. This is because contracts go through multiple stages before being signed, from sponsors placing orders to advertising agencies, broadcasters, production companies and affiliated offices.

    One respondent complained, "The fee was unfairly lowered. Even after I asked several times, they didn't specify how much it was, and offered a very low amount in the end."

    Association chair Megumi Morisaki pointed out, "The survey results show that in this situation, (workers) are structurally prone to harassment." Japan's power harassment prevention law, formally known as the Act on Comprehensively Advancing Labor Measures, and Stabilizing the Employment of Workers, and Enriching Workers' Vocational Lives, came into effect in June 2020. But it only applies to workers with direct employment relationships, not freelancers.

    Morisaki stressed, "We urgently need to include freelance workers, who aren't covered by the law."

    Lawyer Yamato Sato, who is familiar with labor issues in the entertainment industry, explained, "We often receive consultations from workers complaining they are not informed of the content of the contracts for the work they perform because the contracts are exchanged directly between the production company and their agency. Workers are given one-sided orders which they are forced to carry out."

    (Japanese original by Mami Yoshinaga, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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