Japanese internship association investigated for swindling Vietnamese students

By Minh Nga   March 11, 2018 | 08:30 pm PT
Japanese internship association investigated for swindling Vietnamese students
Vietnamese high school students and their families attend an international education fair in Hanoi. Photo by AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam
The head of the association said he ‘was not aware it was illegal.’

Authorities in Japan are investigating an association that helps connect foreign students with internship programs in the country for allegedly taking a cut out of Vietnamese students' salaries.

Labor inspection offices in Japan’s Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures have sent prosecutors the results of their investigation into the Japan Asia International Friendship Association based in Fukui, Japan Today said in a Sunday report.

According to investigators, the association had allegedly withheld nearly 3 million yen (over $28,000) in payments from a dozen Vietnamese female college students who were working at guest houses and other lodgings in Ishikawa and Fukui. 

The accommodation facilities sent the students' salaries to the association's bank account from which the association had extracted 100 yen per hour under "administration costs," Japan Today cited the Fukui labor office as saying.

The payments were taken between September 2016 and May 2017.

Toshihide Inoue, head of the association, told Kyodo News that the money was used to cover the association's labor costs and other expenses, and that he "was not aware it was illegal.”

He added that the association had stopped the practice after being told to do so by labor authorities.

The number of Vietnamese students in Japan grew more than 12-fold from 2010 to 2016 to around 54,000, Bloomberg cited the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) as saying in a report last year.

They accounted for nearly a quarter of international students in Japan, just behind Chinese students who made up 41 percent.

The growing presence of Japanese companies in Vietnam has students and their parents thinking about studying in Japan in the hope of landing a well-paid job with a Japanese company, Itsuro Tsutsumi, director at JASSO’s student-exchange department, told Bloomberg.

The Vietnamese expat population in Japan increased by four times from 2012-2017 to 232,562, the Japan Times reported earlier this month.

Vietnam has surpassed Brazil to become the fourth biggest minority group in Japan, the publication said, predicting that Vietnam may soon overtake the Philippines to take third place.

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