Japan Panel Proposes Abolition of Foreign Technical Trainee Program

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Experts on a government panel gather to discuss the foreign technical trainee program at the Justice Ministry in Tokyo on Monday.

Tokyo, April 10 (Jiji Press)—A Japanese government panel of experts tasked with reviewing the country’s program to accept foreign technical trainees on Monday called for the abolition of the program and the launch of a new program that puts emphasis on securing manpower.

In a draft of an interim report on its discussions, the panel also called on the government to include a system for skill development in the new program to promote mid- to long-term employment.

The government introduced the current program in 1993, aiming to make international contributions by allowing foreigners to gain skills and knowledge in Japan as trainees and use them for economic development in their home countries.

In reality, however, the program has been largely used as a means to cover labor shortages in provincial areas and at small and midsize companies.

The program also has many problems such as unpaid wages, long work hours and other human rights violations. In response to a series of cases in which trainees ran away from workplaces due to harsh working environments, the panel started discussing ways to review the program in December last year.

Regarding the current program, the draft said that there is “a gap between its purpose and reality.”

The government “should abolish the current program and consider establishing a new program aimed at securing and nurturing human resources,” the panel said in the draft.

The panel also proposed creating a system to nurture and assess Japanese language and technical skills of foreign trainees under the new program in order to encourage them to work in Japan for a longer period of time.

In addition, the panel called for allowing foreign trainees staying in Japan under the new program to smoothly acquire special resident status given to foreign workers with specified skills.

The panel urged the government to consider easing restrictions on changes of trainees’ workplaces and tightening requirements on organizations in charge of mediating trainees’ internships and supervising companies and others accepting trainees as part of efforts to exclude malicious organizations.

The panel will discuss details of the new program and whether revisions of related laws would be needed.