(Asahi: December 20, 2015 – p. 1)
Foreigners participating in the nation’s Technical Intern Training Program are going missing in increasing numbers. According to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), about 4,930 trainees have gone missing this year as of the end of October. This [ten-month] figure already exceeds last year’s total of 4,847, the current high. It is thought that many of these vanished trainees are searching for workplaces that offer better conditions.
According to the MOJ, about 170,000 foreign trainees were working in such industries as construction, agriculture, and fisheries as of the end of 2014. The Technical Intern Training Program was created as a way for Japan to contribute to the international community by helping people from developing countries gain job skills by working in Japan. Reports have surfaced, however, that trainees are often engaged in hard, unskilled labor – work that Japanese tend to avoid.
Under the training program, businesses are required to report to the Immigration Bureau if a trainee goes missing. According to the MOJ, 2,005 trainees went missing in 2012. It appears certain that this year’s tally exceeded 5,000 in November, setting a new high, and this year’s total will likely reach almost 6,000.
Last year, Chinese trainees, at 3,065, represented the largest group of foreigners disappearing, followed by Vietnamese, at 1,022, and Indonesians, at 276.
Most of those who go missing are thought to be staying in the country illegally. One missing person applied for refugee status and received special resident status. According to the MOJ, there are two main factors behind the sudden rise in missing persons. In addition to the fact that the number of foreign trainees is increasing, smartphones and other devices have made job hunting easier.