TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The government on Thursday revoked its permission for a body to supervise companies accepting foreign trainees, in the first such move since Japan introduced the program last year.
Creative Net, a cooperative association based in Kasai, Hyogo Prefecture, was found to have submitted false records on training at three companies it had been supervising. In a related move, the Justice Ministry also withdrew its approvals for intern training plans for a total of 11 Thai women who had been accepted by the companies in the western Japanese city.
Under the government's Technical Intern Training Program, foreign trainees are required to take Japanese language courses and guidance on daily life in Japan during the first two months after they arrive in the country, and cannot start working during that period.
But the three companies made their trainees work for about a month during the transition period, and Creative Net submitted false training records to the government-affiliated Organization for Technical Intern Training.
The three companies and Creative Net have all admitted to the document falsification, according to the ministry.
The OTIT learned about the case after being consulted by the trainees.
Of the 11 trainees, four have already returned to Thailand, while two others have switched working places in Japan and the remaining five are searching for a replacement company with the help of the OTIT.
The Justice Ministry is planning to investigate by March all cases that it suspects could amount to similar violations and disclose the result of its probe.
Japan introduced the training program for foreigners in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to developing countries. But the scheme has been criticized for providing cover for companies that want to import cheap labor.
Amid reports of illegally long working hours and harsh conditions trainees have faced under the government program, Japan enacted a law in November last year to penalize employers who violate trainees' human rights and require supervising organizations that connect trainees with host institutions to obtain permission from the state to operate.
As of the end of October last year, about 258,000 technical interns were working in Japan. Many of them work in the food, construction and farming industries, among other areas.
The predicaments of the foreign trainees were highlighted again this year during Diet deliberations on amending the immigration law for accepting foreign blue-collar workers.
The revised immigration law passed the Diet earlier this month and Japan is expected to start accepting more foreign workers from April.