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Editorial: Diet must base discussions on boosting foreign workers on sound data

Mistakes were found in data submitted by the Justice Ministry to the House of Representatives Judicial Affairs Committee in connection with the planned revision of Japan's immigration law to accept more foreign workers.

The mistaken information pertained to interviews the ministry's Immigration Bureau conducted with technical intern trainees who disappeared from their training locations but were later located. The submitted data erroneously stated that approximately 87 percent of 2,870 interviewees who were asked about the reasons for their disappearances left their jobs "seeking better wages." The actual figure was 67 percent.

The ministry explained that its workers added up answers that should not have been tallied. The survey evaluation was clearly nothing but a slipshod job.

Technical trainees cannot change job categories or training locations freely, as doing so means losing their residency status. As many as 7,814 former trainers are staying illegally in Japan as of July 1.

It should be realized that the trainees are fleeing because of flaws in the technical intern trainee program. The program's stated purpose is the transfer of technical know-how to developing countries by "training" people from those countries so that they can use the expertise and experience after their return home. In reality, however, an increasing number of trainees are ditching their places of work to escape low pay and long working hours. This is partly because the task of extending assistance to trainees has been left up to corporate mediators and other such bodies.

Preparing proper working and living environments should take priority over the introduction of new residency statuses for accepting more foreign workers.

The government bill being debated in the Diet, however, would leave the trainee program as it is, and envisions ushering trainees who have completed their training periods into the regular workforce with new statuses of residence. The government apparently thinks that this arrangement would be cheaper for firms, because those workers would already possess Japanese language and technical skills, meaning costly new training would be unnecessary. But it is unacceptable to leave distortions in the program.

The mistaken interview results surfaced in Justice Ministry data that was supposed to serve as the basis for Diet deliberations on the issue of foreign workers. The emergence of the errors has prompted the government to delay discussions on legal revisions within the lower house Judicial Affairs Committee. Such data should be checked before starting deliberations as a matter of course, considering that the bill is a very important one that would bring substantial changes to the nation's immigration policy.

In the previous ordinary session of the Diet, the government was forced to give up on expanding the discretionary work program after irregularities were found in the results of surveys on working hours.

This raises suspicions that the current administration has a tendency to push bills without first properly examining the data backing those bills. This time, too, the government provided the Diet with data about the estimated number of new foreign workers only after the bill revising the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act was submitted to the national legislature. This practice of rushing to prepare data leads to absurd mistakes.

The Justice Ministry survey data should include real voices from trainees. That data should not be wasted a bit in Diet discussions.

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