TOKYO -- As many as 69 foreign technical trainees died from 2015 through 2017, including 12 who were killed in accidents during training and six who killed themselves, according to a Justice Ministry analysis of reports from businesses that hired those and other trainees.
The revelation was made to the Mainichi Shimbun in a contribution by Akira Nagatsuma, policy affairs chief of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. It comes amid growing concern about the government-run Technical Intern Training Program, formally intended to transfer Japanese technical expertise to developing countries but which faces criticism as a cover to secure cheap labor under rough conditions.
Many of the 12 who were killed during training suffered fatal injuries while working. In one case, a trainee was crushed by a forklift when the vehicle overturned while the trainee was operating it. In another case, a trainee died while trying to rescue a Japanese colleague buried while digging a ditch for pipe work for water services.
Regarding suicides, besides the six cases clearly ruled as such, there are multiple instances in which suicide is suspected. One trainee was hit by a train after entering a railway crossing, while another died after drinking pesticide.
Four trainees were also murdered, two of whom were stabbed to death by fellow foreign trainees, according to the Justice Ministry data revealed by Nagatsuma.
As many as 260,000 foreign technical trainees are said to be in Japan now, and more than 7,000 went missing from their employers in 2017 alone.
"Those fatal cases emerged for the first time, but their background and the responsible parties are still unclear," Nagatsuma wrote in his article. He added that the government needs to do more to grasp what is really going on with the trainees, as the trainee program is the basis of immigration system reform the government intends to introduce as early as next April.