Japan: Laws and Legislation

No modern slavery laws and noted as being particularly inactive compared to other developed countries.




Japan does not have legislation for ethical sourcing in public procurement. The Order Stipulating Special Procedures for Government Procurement of Products or Specified Services does not include standards that explicitly prohibit using businesses suspected of using forced labour, or purchasing products that were made using forced labour. Japan has, however, shown commitment to ensuring its suppliers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics do not use exploitative labour and has formulated a Sustainable Sourcing Code for all its procurement activities concerning the Olympics.

In 2016, the Japanese government identified 50 trafficking victims, of whom 37 were victims of sexual exploitation, nine were forced to work as hostesses, and four were victims of labour exploitation, of whom two were forced to work as manual labourers and one was forced to work in construction. The industry in which the fourth victim was exploited is not reported. The Japanese government arrested 425 individuals, including employers and brokers, in regard to crimes relating to the exploitation of foreign workers.1


Forced labour in Japan has been reported among migrants working under the government-run Technical Intern Training Program (TITP).2 The TITP has faced international criticism, with opponents arguing that, rather than providing professional development opportunities for “interns,”3 the program’s main purpose is to address labour shortages in low-skilled sectors and that it does so in ways that involve exploitation and human rights abuses. As of October 2017, the TITP employed 257,788 workers, accounting for about 20 percent of all migrant workers in the country.4 Of these, Vietnamese migrants accounted for nearly 44 percent (105,540 workers) and Chinese migrants made up nearly 23 percent (84,179 workers).5 Other significant groups of workers come from the Philippines and Indonesia.6 Workers are dispatched to 77 industries,7 including food processing, construction, machinery,8 fishing, agriculture,9 and textiles.10 Nursing was added to the program in 201711 as caregiving for the elderly is a sector predicted to suffer severe labour shortages in the next 10 years.12,13

In 2016, the Prefectural Labour Standards Inspection Offices and Labour Bureaus issued corrective action orders to 4,004 TITP workplaces that had violated labour standard laws and regulations. Of these, 40 workplaces were referred to prosecutors for serious violations of labour standards laws, such as paying below minimum wages and enforcing illegal overtime. The Labour Standards Inspection Offices also investigated 23 technical training workplaces for suspected human rights violations, including forced labour.14 Since 2010, there have been two cases of TITP workers dying from overwork – a phenomenon in Japan known as karoshi.15 Overtime hours are reportedly under-recorded in Japan,16 rendering it difficult to ascertain the extent of these violations.

A more recent phenomenon is the labour exploitation of foreign students who enter Japan on a student visa, which allows them to study and work legally part-time up to 28 hours per week. This visa scheme is suspected to be used as a new avenue to get past Japan’s strict immigration laws and enter the country legally to work, rather than study. At the end of 2016, the number of foreign students enrolled in Japanese educational institutions had nearly reached 300,000 which is about 100,000 more students than four years prior. Most foreign students were from China, Vietnam, and Nepal.17 It is reported that foreign students often take on large debts to be able to afford the steep tuition fees and to cover travel and living costs. Foreign students usually end up working as unskilled labourers in jobs that are often unpopular with local workers, such as those in factories, restaurants,18 home delivery services, or newspaper delivery. Due to the minimum pay that is often common in these jobs, foreign students are at severe risk of becoming caught in a cycle of debt and exploitation.19

There are reports that Japanese-Filipino Children (JFC) are vulnerable to forced labour exploitation in Japan.20 Since the 1980s, Filipinas have migrated abroad and to Japan in search of job opportunities. After the breakdown of relationships, or falling pregnant while working as a hostess or in the entertainment industry, Japanese-Filipino Children (JFC) were born in the Philippines,21 often without the support of their Japanese fathers.22 There are a reported 300,000 JFC in the Philippines and Japan.23 Since the revision of Nationality Law in 2009, JFC are now allowed to obtain Japanese nationality if the Japanese father recognises the child as his own. This has led to the proliferation of “helping foundations” in the Philippines that target JFCs under the guise of offering assistance.24 Taking on substantial debt, JFC reportedly come through brokers to Japan with their mothers, who often seek employment in nursing, factories, or bars25 where they are made to work under exploitative conditions. For example, in July 2014, a media report revealed that a nursing care service company in Higashi-Osaka demanded that JFC and their mothers, prior to their arrival in Japan, sign contracts that required them not to bring a charge against the company in the event of their death.26


The Japanese government identified 37 victims of sexual exploitation in 2016 and nine victims who were forced to work as hostesses. Japanese victims tended to be forced to engage in sex work via online matchmaking websites, whereas foreign victims were forced to work as hostesses or forced to engage in sex work at entertainment establishments.27 Working as a hostess may, but does not always, involve sex work.28

There is evidence that suggests Filipino women are trafficked to Japan for the purpose of sexual exploitation. They are legitimately recruited under false promises of high-paying jobs but then are forced into sex work29 or to work as hostesses.30 The lines between smuggling and trafficking can be blurred in these instances as victims who willingly depart the Philippines either without documents, or with forged ones, are trafficked once they arrive in Japan.31 In 2016, the Philippine government issued a warning advising its citizens of the risk of being trafficked to Japan for sex work or forced labour.32 Of the 50 trafficking victims identified by the Japanese government in 2016, eight were Philippine nationals.33 It has also been reported that traffickers use fraudulent marriages between foreign women and Japanese men to facilitate their entry into Japan for forced sex work.34

There are also reports that women are forced into performing in “adult videos” (AV), a term common in Japan to refer to pornographic videos. Women are reportedly tricked into the industry under false promises of modelling or acting jobs, and then forced to perform in AVs.35 If victims try to refuse, agents allegedly threaten that they will have to pay penalties, or they will reveal the videos to the victim’s family. Victims are also forced to sign contracts through which they abandon certain legal rights, such as copyrights of the films in which they are portrayed.36 A Japanese NGO working on trafficking reportedly received more than 100 calls and messages from new victims experiencing sexual exploitation in the AV industry in 2016.37

There are concerns that sexual exploitation may be present in the “JK” business (joshi kosei, meaning “high school girls” in Japanese), where businesses offer dating services as well as “hidden options” with high school girls aged between 15 and 18 years old.38 Although a 2015 news report places the number of girls in the JK business at approximately 5,000,39 it should be noted that it is extremely difficult to estimate the real number.40 Girls in the industry are generally compensated for their work but experts express concerns that the practice can lead to abuse and sexual exploitation by clients and employers.41 For example, one 17-year-old girl was allegedly forcibly held underwater in a bathtub by a client until she fell unconscious, at which point the client cut her skin and burned her with a cigarette lighter.42 In 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography noted concerns that practices such as JK and “compensated dating” (enjo kosai), where girls individually provide dating services to Japanese men for a fee (sometimes involving sexual services), appear to be socially accepted and tolerated.43 In 2016, the Japanese government reported 809 cases of the criminal offence of purchasing sex or sexual services with a child.44


While forced marriage does not appear to be a widespread practice in Japan, there have been reported cases of women from the Philippines coming to Japan in search of work but being forced into marriages to Japanese men upon their arrival.45 In recent years, the number of marriages to foreign nationals has declined in Japan following revisions to immigration policy.

Who needs to report?

Entities will need to report under the Act if they are an entity or carry on business in that country with a minimum annual consolidated revenue of $100 million. 

What does reporting entail?

Reporting obligations relate to the risk of modern slavery in the operations and supply chain of a reporting entity (and its owned and controlled entities), as well as the steps it has taken to respond to the risks identified. 

Unlike other jurisdictions, the reporting criteria in Canada are mandatory.  Reporting entities must have a reasonable basis for any opinions expressed in their Modern Slavery statement, so it is important that reporting entities take the time to assess their risk.  The reporting criteria can be found here.

What should entities do?

It is crucial that reporting entities begin reviewing their supply chains and operations to comply with the new reporting obligations.

What is the timing?

A modern slavery statement must be submitted within six months after the end of the reporting entity’s financial year.  The reporting period is the entity’s first full financial year that commences after 1 January 2020.

Entity’s annual financial reporting period First reporting period under the Commonwealth Act Due date for statement
1 July to 30 June 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020 31 December 2020
1 January to 31 December 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2020 30 June 2021
1 April to 31 March 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 30 September 2020