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174 foreign technical interns die in Japan in 2010-2017: ministry

  • December 13, 2018
  • , Kyodo News , 07:41 p.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO – A total of 174 foreigners who were working in Japan as part of the country’s technical internship program died between 2010 and 2017, due to accidents, illness and other reasons, a Justice Ministry inquiry showed Thursday.

 

The revelation may raise further questions about the substandard working conditions for foreigners who companies have turned to as a source of cheap labor under the program as Japan prepares to accept more overseas workers from April to address the country’s labor crunch.

 

According to the tally, the 174 deceased workers were made up of both men and women and were aged from 18 to 44. By nationality, Chinese nationals accounted for the largest number at 98, followed by Vietnamese at 46, Indonesian at 12, Filipino at six, Thai at four, Myanmar and Mongolian at three each, and Lao at two.

 

In a separate data revealed the same day, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said 125 foreign workers, including technical interns, have died due to work-related accidents during the 10 years through 2017.

 

Both of the tallies were presented at a meeting of opposition parties which have been critical of the government for moving too hastily to open the door to an influx of blue-collar workers, given the many foreign laborers already in the country appear to be working in harsh conditions under the technical internship program.

 

It is believed many of the technical interns will continue to work in Japan by applying for the new visas that will be created under a revised immigration control law enacted last week.

During the meeting on Thursday, the opposition party lawmakers called on Justice Ministry officials to disclose the source materials used in compiling the data so that they can more clearly understand the technical interns’ situation.

 

A ministry official replied, “We will study in what way we can show the material.”

 

Akira Nagatsuma, a lawmaker representing the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said, “We would like to completely expose the dark side of the technical intern program.”

 

According to the Justice Ministry, the tally was created based on reports from companies and other entities that have accepted the technical interns.

 

The document states some deaths were due to illness, drowning or traffic accidents, such as when riding a bicycle.

 

The data came to light a week after an opposition lawmaker disclosed a Justice Ministry document showing that 69 foreign trainees died between 2015 and 2017. The ministry has said it will look into the matter.

 

Japan introduced the training program for foreigners in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to developing countries. But the scheme has been criticized for providing cover for companies that want to import cheap labor.

 

As of the end of October last year, about 258,000 technical interns were working in Japan. Many of them work in the food, construction and farming industries, among other areas.

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