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Vietnamese Is Now the 3rd-Largest Group of Foreign Residents in Japan

At 330,835 people, Vietnamese now constitute the third-largest group of foreign residents in Japan behind Chinese and South Koreans. 

Japan's justice ministry revealed on Monday that the nation saw a 6.6% increase in foreign residents in the last year, largely fueled by Vietnamese technical trainees and students. Vietnamese arrivals increase totaled 26.1%. An official explained: "In [the] case of Vietnamese residents in particular, this tendency is owing to strong growth in the number of technical trainees and those who come to work as engineers or specialists in humanities."

The trainee program that many of the Vietnamese fall under, however, has been marred by scandal. The Technical Intern Trainee Program was established to help foreign nationals acquire technical skills they can use in their home countries. Many Vietnamese, though, have fled the positions citing low and unpaid wages, excessive hours, violence and sexual harassment. Last year, scandal rocked the system when one Vietnamese who was meant to study engineering was forced to clean up radioactive waste at the Fukushima nuclear plant. 

The system has been described as a backdoor for cheap unskilled labor, which is desperately needed in a country with an aging population and shrinking birth rate. Increasingly, Vietnamese are paying bribes of US$1,000 to recruiters to land one of the positions. To raise the funds they often have to borrow money which puts them in precarious positions that make them prone to exploitation.

Shigeru Yamashita, managing director of the Vietnam Mutual Aid Association in Japan explains: "The situation is completely different from what they were told back home. They have debts they cannot repay with their salaries at home, so the only option is to flee into the black market for labor."

[Photo/CC BY]

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