National

Action taken against 112 firms last year for abuses under Japan's foreign intern training program

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

With cases of abuse ranging from trainees forced to pay illegal deposits to an intern who was forced to work 225 hours of overtime in a month, authorities last year took disciplinary action against 112 firms using the state-sponsored Technical Intern Training Program.

The firms failed to correct practices that violated labor laws and trainees’ rights, the Immigration Services Agency said Friday.

The firms have been banned from accepting foreign trainees for up to five years, officials said.

The officials said that warnings were given to the firms and organizations exempted from new tougher laws because they accepted the trainees before a new system began two years ago.

The new laws, which went into effect in November 2017, are aimed at improving the supervision of companies employing foreign nationals and therefore curbing abuse of the program.

Under the revised laws, company supervisors could face up to 10 years in prison or fines of ¥3 million for physical abuse. Other acts, such as denying compensation claims or confiscating passports, violate labor laws and are also subject to punishment.

Overall, the number of organizations found to have abused laws and regulations related to the program in 2018 fell from 213 cases in 2017 and 239 cases in 2016.

Among the firms and organizations that violated labor laws or abused trainees’ rights were 104 small and midsize businesses. Violations in this category were the most prevalent in the textile and clothing sector, at 46 firms, and the agriculture sector, at 33 firms.

Officials detected 171 types of abuse, including 82 cases in which companies failed to pay wages to technical trainees.

A probe also found that two sewing companies failed to pay a total of ¥12.77 million in overtime to 16 technical trainees over the course of 20 months. Trainees at the two firms were supposed to receive up to ¥500 extra per hour of overtime work.

There were also 38 cases in which employers falsified documents or records related to the program. The two companies that failed to pay overtime were also found to have falsified documents submitted to the Immigration Bureau, the predecessor of the Immigration Services Agency, to hide their illegal practices.

Another 16 cases were related to forcing trainees to pay illegal deposits.

A total of 94 cases, including those related to failure to pay proper wages, were in violation of labor laws.

In one such case, a food manufacturing company forced a technical trainee to work up to 225 hours of overtime in a single month.

The officials said a high number of violations of labor laws has remained unchanged in recent years.

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