Japan’s homeless are being recruited to do cleanup work for what is now the world’s worst nuclear disaster at Fukushima, with local gangsters skimming off the wages intended for them, this according to an in-depth report from Reuters. This is how Japanese labor contractors are finding people willing to work at minimum wages for the US$35 billion (over 3.5 trillion yen) taxpayer-funded project, cleaning up the total area that is larger than Hong Kong.
Seiji Sasa, a 67-year-old contractor, was arrested in November for recruiting homeless men at the Sendai train station. “This is how labor recruiters like me come in,” Sasa said. “I don’t ask questions; that’s not my job,” he added. “I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That’s it. I don’t get involved in what happens after that.” Sasa said that he is paid US$100 (10,500 yen) for every worker he finds. The workers he found were handed off through a chain of contracting companies all under the big contractor called Obayashi, who won the US$1.4 million (147 million yen) contract to cleanup and decontaminate roads in Fukushima, this according to police data. Sasa was eventually released without being charged.
The police were going after the head honcho of the operation, a certain Mitsunori Nishimura, who is known to be part of the localyakuza. Nishimura reportedly put his workers in dorms that were too small for good living conditions located at the edge of Sendai and paid them minimum wage. Nishimura reportedly skimmed an estimated US$10,000 (over 1 million yen) of public funding monthly from the money intended for the workers’ wages. Nishimura was arrested, but was set free after paying a US$2,500 (over 260,000 yen) fine.
The truth of the matter is that, according to the report, this practice is already systemic in Japan’s minimum wage level labor industry, and that the gangs are heavily involved in it. “If you don’t get involved with gangs, you’re not going to get enough workers,” said Kenichi Sayama, a manager of a labor outsourcing outfit. “The construction industry is 90 percent run by gangs.” In the incident leading to Nishimura’s arrest, the managers of his company said that “everyone is involved in sending workers. I guess we just happened to get caught this time.”