Photo/IllutrationOfficials of the Japan Actors Union and two other organizations hold a news conference at the labor ministry in Tokyo on Sept. 10, joined by freelancers who are victims of harassment. (Osamu Uchiyama)

  • Photo/Illustraion

More than 60 percent of freelance workers in media and entertainment have been psychologically or physically abused, and one-third faced sexual harassment, a survey shows.

One woman, speaking in a news conference at the labor ministry, said she was raped by a business partner while working as a video producer.

Freelance workers are vulnerable as labor laws often do not apply to them, and large numbers of freelancers are employed in the media and entertainment industries.

The online survey, released Sept. 10, showed that 61.6 percent of freelancers experienced power harassment and 36.6 percent were sexually harassed.

The survey was jointly conducted from July through August by the Japan Actors Union, the Freelance Association Japan and the Mass Media Information & Culture Union.

Valid responses were received from 1,218 people. It is regarded as the first in-depth survey on the situation facing freelancers in the media and entertainment industries.

More than 3 million people work as freelancers in Japan, according to the Cabinet Office. Of them, many work as actors, stylists, camera operators and other professionals.

Asked about what type of harassment they were subject to, 59.4 percent said "psychological attacks," such as threats and defamations; 42.2 percent said "excessive demands," such as being forced to carry out tasks beyond what is reasonable; and 39.1 percent said "economic harassment," such as non-payment of remuneration.

Multiple answers were allowed.

Some of the answers indicated that criminal acts had occurred. For example, 21.8 percent said they suffered "physical attacks," including violence resulting in injury; 5.4 percent said they were followed home or to another destination; and 4.4 percent said they were forced into sexual acts without their consent.

At a news conference held by the three organizations at the labor ministry on Sept. 10, Internet video producer Mayumi Yahata, 41, said she was raped by a male business partner in a hotel room about 10 years ago.

"Labor unions and consultation groups did not really exist in the industry (at the time). Everyone around me was a rival, and because of that I could not turn to them," she said.

Mari Hirata, representative director of the Freelance Association Japan, said, "There are only a few business partners that freelancers (in the entertainment and media industries) can choose to work with. Because of that, harassment can easily occur, and victims tend to endure it in order to achieve their dreams."

As the contracts that freelancers or one-person business operators conclude with companies are not labor contracts, laws that protect workers do not apply to them, in principle.

In May this year, a revised law that obligates companies to take measures to prevent power harassment passed the Diet. However, it only applied to company workers, not freelancers.

In submitting the survey results to the labor ministry, the three organizations also demanded that companies be required to take measures to protect freelancers from such harassment.

(This article was written by Osamu Uchiyama, Erika Toh and Takehiko Sawaji, a senior staff writer.)