Japanese Govt Panel to Call for Abolition of Foreigners’ Intern Program

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The government panel on the technical intern program meets at the Justice Ministry on April 10.

A government panel studying the technical intern program that allows foreign workers to get on-the-job training in Japan will call for its abolishment, and recommend that its replacement with a new system of securing labor to better reflect current circumstances.

Following a meeting at the Justice Ministry, the panel released its interim report on Friday, in which it said the concept of the program no longer matches the reality.

The technical intern program was established with the aim of making a global contribution by developing human resources for other countries, but has been used for the purpose of securing cheap labor.

The interim report noted that in light of Japan’s declining population, it has become necessary to accept a suitable number of foreigners to alleviate a serious labor shortage.

A final report is expected to be compiled by this autumn, upon which the government will propose legislative measures to establish the new system as early as next year’s ordinary Diet session.

The interim report emphasizes that “it is undesirable to continue accepting workers with the sole aim of the program being making a global contribution.” It concludes that a new system should be established for the purpose of securing labor and training human resources.

Under the current law, outside of the technical intern program, a system exists in which foreign workers can be accepted in fields in which there are labor shortages by obtaining “specified skilled worker” residence status.

The interim report recommends that the applicable jobs and fields in the two systems be unified, so after gaining experience as an intern in Japan, foreign nationals can smoothly transition to specified skilled worker status.

The panel also urges the government to tighten the accreditation criteria for supervisory organizations that monitor the companies that accept technical interns.