A government panel on Friday compiled a final report on a new system to replace Japan’s controversial trainee program for foreigners, featuring improved rights protection with increased flexibility for workplace changes and tougher oversights.
The final report will set the stage for the government to submit a bill to the ordinary parliamentary session next year to introduce the new system, which will end the Technical Intern Training Program that has been in place since 1993.
Originally designed to transfer skills to developing countries, the program has been criticized as a cover for importing low-cost labor as Japan’s working-age population shrinks. Many trainees ran way due to unjust treatment, including unpaid wages and harassment.
According to the final report, the new system will focus on “securing and developing human resources” while easing the current program’s stringent rules that have largely prohibited trainees from changing workplaces unless there are compelling reasons, thus allowing them to transfer to similar jobs more flexibly.
Transfers will be allowed in principle for trainees who have worked for at least a year at one place and have passed a skills test and the easiest level of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test.
As there have been concerns of potential trainee outflow from rural to urban areas due to workplace changes, the panel had also explored the option of permitting transfers after two years of work.
In the final report, it ended up mentioning the need to consider “necessary transitional measures” to address abrupt changes, suggesting the possibility of extending the one-year period on an industry-by-industry basis.
Under the new system, after around three years of work, technical interns are expected to have acquired enough expertise to apply for a specified skilled worker system, introduced in 2019, which allows for stays of up to 5 years with the potential for obtaining permanent residency.
To become a specified skilled worker, trainees will have to pass a skills test and become more fluent in Japanese.
The report also called for tightening requirements and oversight of supervising organizations, which act as brokers and supervise companies accepting foreign trainees.
The Organization for Technical Intern Training, an entity that oversees the program, will also increase personnel to strengthen support and protection for foreigners involved.
The report additionally called for a mechanism to ease the financial burden on trainees, who are often saddled with debt due to expenses associated with entering Japan.
The report will be submitted to Justice Minister Ryuji Koizumi in the near future. As of the end of June, foreign technical interns totaled around 358,000 and specified skilled workers around 173,000.
Source : Kyodo News