[Japan] NPO says racial harassment should be included in prevention law

An Osaka-based nonprofit organization put out a statement this month urging Japan's labour ministry to include racial harassment as a form of power harassment under legal revisions which will require employers to put in place measures against workplace harassment, The Mainichi reports.

The NPO - the Multi-Ethnic Human Rights Education Center for Pro-existence - says the change is needed to improve the working environment in Japan. The country began accepting foreign workers with "specific skills" under new residency statuses in April 2019 as part of the amended Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.

Legislative changes passed in May gave a definition of power harassment for the first time defining it as behaviour by those in higher positions that exceed what is necessary for the job, thus harming the workplace environment.

The NPO urged the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on September 17 to stipulate racial harassment as a specific form of behaviour constituting power harassment. They noted that the number of foreigners living in Japan had increased to around 2.73 million by the end of 2018. Specific types of harassment will be included in the ministry guidelines intended to be established as soon as the year's end.

A Ministry of Justice commissioned survey (disclosed in 2017) conducted on 18,500 randomly selected foreign residents in Japan found that a total 29.8 per cent of the 4,252 respondents who provided valid answers had often or sometimes been subjected to discriminatory remarks over the last 5 years. When asked who had made the discriminatory remarks from a choice of multiple answers, 53.3 per cent of respondents said strangers, 38 per cent said work superiors, colleagues, subordinates and clients had made the remarks.

As part of its statement, the NPO emphasises that discriminatory behaviour damages the working environment and inflicts psychological and physical pain.

Racial harassment was the topic of discussion at a meeting of a subcommittee of the labour ministry's Labor Policy Council, on September 18, some at the meeting reportedly voiced support for specifying harassment associated with certain statuses such as nationality in the guidelines.

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