Brazilian workers protest layoffs in Japan

Some 200 Brazilian workers Sunday protested over layoffs by Japanese companies, which are forcing many of them to leave the country despite their community having been integrated in Japan for more than two decades.

The demonstrators, who included mothers with their children [and also included members of the Nambu Foreign Workers Caucus], marched through the centre of Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza shopping district, calling for the government’s support for stable employment.

The crowd, many holding Brazilian flags, demanded “employment for 320,000” Brazilians in Japan.

“We are Brazilians!” they shouted in unison. “Companies must stop using us like disposable labour.”

Since 1990 Japan has given special working visas to hundreds of thousands of Brazilians of Japanese descent, many of whom have taken up temporary positions as manual labourers in factories.

Amid the global economic downturn, however, many are being laid off and being forced to return to Brazil. They are often overshadowed by the 85,000 Japanese contract workers also said to be losing their jobs by March.

“No matter how hard we worked in Japan, we are being cut off because we are contract labourers,” said Midori Tateishi, 38, who came to Japan nearly 20 years ago. “Many of us are totally at a loss with children and a housing loan.”

Last year, Japan and Brazil marked the 100th anniversary after the first group of Japanese immigrants left for Brazil in search of a better life.

Brazil is now home to more than 1.2 million people of Japanese descent, or “Nikkeis”, the world’s largest population of ethnic Japanese outside of Japan itself.