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Missing foreign trainee survey records released at urging of opposition

The original responses from 2,870 foreign technical intern trainees who fled their workplaces to a 2017 survey conducted by the Justice Ministry are seen before directors of the House of Representatives Judicial Affairs Committee on Nov. 19, 2018. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- The Ministry of Justice on Nov. 19 handed over the original records used in a 2017 survey of foreign technical intern trainees that fled their workplaces to leading members of the House of Representatives Judicial Affairs Committee after the ministry came under fire for providing an inaccurate explanation.

The original responses from all 2,870 trainees were presented to directors of the lower chamber's judicial affairs panel representing ruling and opposition parties.

As it has been deemed that the Justice Ministry made mistakes in the processing of the survey data, the opposition requested the disclosure of the original survey records. Moreover, the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) has submitted a motion to the committee calling for the removal of its chairman Yasuhiro Hanashi of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) over his handling of the matter.

The questionnaires that have been released are partially blacked out, and their copy or removal from the premises is prohibited. During Diet deliberations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe explained that the responses contain information voluntarily collected from foreign trainees who run the risk of potential criminal punishment under the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, and as such, "it is difficult to release the findings from the standpoint of influencing future investigations and ensuring respondent privacy."

Shiori Yamao, a CDP lawmaker, stated after viewing the questionnaire ballots, "Out of the 20 people (whose responses I saw), while 17 clearly were being paid below minimum wage, the number who checked 'payment below minimum wage' as their motivation for fleeing their workplace was zero." Yamao further criticized the Justice Ministry's handling of the survey as "trying to cover up the fact that the ministry had come to ignore the known illegal acts carried out by employers of trainees," and called for closer analysis of the responses.

The survey contains questions asking about motivations for fleeing work places, and is divided by sex and nationality. According to the corrected results, a total of 1,929 technical trainees (67.2 percent) selected "low wages" as their motivation for leaving, coming in first in the questionnaire where multiple answers could be chosen. Of those citing low wages, 144 people said the wage was "lower than in the contract" and 22 reported that it was "lower than minimum wage." Trainees who responded that their monthly wage was "less than 100,000 yen" came in at 56.7 percent -- 1,627 people. Those who reported receiving over 100,000 yen but less than 150,000 yen per month came in second at 1,037 people or 36.1 percent.

Technical trainees who worked illegally after fleeing made up 91.8 percent of the respondents, or 2,634 people.

(Japanese original by Takeshi Wada, City News Department, and Hiroshi Odanaka, Political News Department)

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