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Japan immigration

Foreign interns in Japan flee harsh conditions by the thousands

Expat houses Vietnamese ex-trainees who faced brutal hours but can't go home

A Vietnamese expat, right, shelters foreign technical interns who have felt no choice but to flee their jobs. (Photo by Eugene Lang)
Vietnamese expat Pham Nhat Vuong, right, who goes by the Japanese name Bungo Okabe, shelters foreign technical interns who have fled their jobs. (Photo by Eugene Lang)

TOKYO -- More than 7,000 of Japan's foreign trainees fled their jobs last year as employers demanded long hours or failed to pay full wages, but a few Vietnamese interns have found a shelter with an expat who tries to get them back on their feet.

The 7,089 runaways represent a 40% increase from 2016, while the total number of foreigners in Japan's technical internship program rose just 20% to over 274,000 at the end of 2017, the Ministry of Justice says. Meanwhile, 4,226 out of 5,966 workplaces surveyed by the labor ministry last year withheld pay or subjected interns to illegal overtime, a 70% figure that highlights serious problems in the program.

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