Sat, Jul 14, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Firms used foreign trainees in nuclear cleanup: reports

AFP, TOKYO

Four Japanese companies forced foreign trainees who were in the country to learn professional skills to take part in decontamination work after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster, local media said yesterday.

The reports cited a Japanese Ministry of Justice investigation, but the ministry declined to comment.

The reports are likely to revive criticism of the foreign trainee program, which has been accused of placing workers in substandard conditions and jobs that provide few opportunities for learning.

The misconduct was uncovered by a ministry probe conducted after a Vietnamese trainee was found in March to have participated in cleanup work in Fukushima, public broadcaster Japan Broadcasting Corp said.

A powerful earthquake in March 2011 spawned a huge tsunami that led to meltdowns at the nuclear plant, causing the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

The ministry said after the March discovery that decontamination work was not appropriate for foreign trainees.

It was not immediately clear how many trainees were forced to take part in the decontamination work.

Local media said one of the four companies has been slapped with a five-year ban on accepting new foreign trainees.

The ministry has finished its probe into 182 construction companies that hire foreign trainees and is to look into another 820 firms by the end of September, local media said.

Japan has been accepting foreign trainees under the government program since 1993 and there were just more than 250,000 in the country late last year.

However, critics have said the trainees often face poor work conditions, including excessive work hours and harassment.

The number of foreign trainees who ran away from their employers jumped from 2,005 in 2012 to 7,089 last year, the ministry probe found. Many cited low pay as the main reason for running away.

The report came as Japan’s government moves to introduce more foreign workers into the country to tackle a labor shortage caused by the country’s aging, shrinking population.

The government last month said it wanted to create a new visa status for foreign workers, with priority given to those looking for jobs in sectors such as agriculture that have been hardest hit by the labor shortage.

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