Photo/IllutrationForeign technical trainees sit at a Lower House Judicial Affairs Committee session on Nov. 21. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Opposition party lawmakers are demanding more details as to why 174 foreign technical trainees in Japan died between 2010 and 2017, which the Justice Ministry disclosed on Dec. 13.

At a joint hearing held by opposition party lawmakers, an alarm was raised over the high number.

“It is obviously strange as many of the trainees are healthy young people in their 20s and 30s," an opposition party member said. "There are many cases that are suspicious deaths or suspected deaths from overwork.”

They demanded the ministry provide full details of the deaths.

When trainees die, the organizations that employed them are required to report the facts to the ministry in writing.

The ministry showed documents created from those reports. The dates of the deaths, the nationalities and causes of the deaths were written in a short format.

Opposition parties singled out a case where a female trainee who worked at a women and children's clothing factory drowned in January.

Opposition members pointed out that at the time of her death there is little likelihood that someone would be swimming in the ocean or a river.

“There are many suspicious deaths,” a member said.

In the causes of deaths attributed to diseases, opposition members raised the possibility that the deaths may have been related to overwork and called for full disclosure of the original documents submitted by organizations that accepted the trainees.

The labor ministry recently reported that 30 technical trainees died in work-related accidents between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2017 at a rate roughly double that of all Japanese workers.

That number reflects the fact that many foreign trainees work in construction and food production industries where accidents often occur, and they may not have received proper safety training.

According to the labor ministry report, the number of foreign technical trainees in Japan rose over the four years, from 167,626 in 2014 to 192,655 in 2015, 228,588 in 2016 and 274,233 in 2017.