‘Poor working conditions’ force 5,803 foreigners to flee Japan in 2015

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Tokyo / DPA

The number of foreign technical intern trainees who fled from workplaces last year reached the highest level ever at 5,803, greatly surpassing the previous year’s figure, according to a Justice Ministry survey.
The government believes that poor working conditions have resulted in the incidents in many cases. To counter this situation, the government plans to take legislative action to strengthen supervision in corporations and organisations that take on foreign trainees, aiming to stop an increase in the number of runaways.
The purpose of the foreign technical intern trainee system is for young foreign nationals to acquire the latest work skills in Japan and then use these skills in their home countries to aid economic development. At the end of June last year, about 180,000 trainees were participating in the scheme.
The number of foreign trainees who fled in 2012 was 2,005. The number rose to 3,566 in 2013, and to 4,847 in 2014. In recent years, the number has risen annually by about a thousand.
By nationality, the largest number of trainees who ran away in 2015 were Chinese at 3,116, followed by 1,705 Vietnamese and 336
Myanmar nationals.
Sources close to the issue have pointed out that there are brokers who abuse the trainee system: These brokers introduce other jobs to foreign technical intern trainees and encourage them to leave their original workplaces. In some cases, foreign trainees have applied for refugee status after fleeing their workplaces with the aim of finding other jobs in Japan.
One of the reasons behind the problem is the awful treatment of foreign trainees by some of the companies and organisations that take part in the scheme.
The number of companies and organisations found to have engaged in misconduct, such as not paying a living wage, has been rising over the last five years. Last year, the number increased by 32 from the previous year to 273.
The sources said that there were some cases in which an employer paid a salary more than 1 million yen (US$8,800) less than had been agreed, and foreign trainees were even physically hit, apparently for making low-quality products.
Last year, the Justice Ministry submitted a bill to the Diet to create a law for proper implementation of the foreign technical intern trainee system and protecting trainees under the system, which will contain penalty clauses for human rights violations against the trainees. The ministry wants the bill to pass as soon as possible.

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