Japan recruits homeless men for one of the world’s least desirable jobs
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
Employment rates in Japan are on the rise as clean-up efforts at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility ramp up.
The Japanese government has reportedly allocated billions of dollars on the “rebirth of Fukushima.” The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant experienced a meltdown in the aftermath of an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The natural disaster killed approximately 18,500 people and left countless others displaced.
A lack of applicants for positions at the nuclear site prompted the Japanese government to ask recruiters for assistance. The program rewards recruiters with $100 for each worker found.
While the government meant for this to be a reasonable measure to speeding up the clean-up effort at the Fukushima plant, recruiters have taken advantage of the program, recruiting homeless Japanese men to work for less than minimum wage. Even Japan’s notorious Yakuza gangs have been in on the action, with reports that up to 50 different Yakuza clans are operating in and around the Fukushima area.
With the clean-up effort behind schedule, the Japanese government and the contractors involved in the clean-up are pulling out all the stops to bring the clean-up back on track. Japanese residents, however, are not willing to work in such a high-risk area for the little compensation they would be receiving.
Vulnerable workers are often housed in a small apartment with numerous others, leading to having no personal space. Contractors would take costs associated with housing and food off of a worker’s wages, leading to very little net compensation for the people doing the work.
Seji Sasa, a recruiter, told Reuters of the corruption that routinely occurs: “So if their employer decides to skim their wages or charge them exorbitant amounts of money for food, for heating, for coffee, for cigarettes, for whatever, very often, they don’t get paid in advance, or they don’t get paid weekly, but they sometimes get paid in 45 day instalments and these people have very little or nothing.”
Some gangsters have been arrested for sending workers to the clean-up site without a licence, and one admits to pocketing upward of $60,000 in his workers’ wages in a two-year period.
There are approximately 8,000 registered workers currently at the Fukushima plant and contractors say they require at least 12,000 workers to bring the clean-up back on schedule. The full cost of the clean-up has been estimated at $125-billion.