Japan Panel Backs Shorter Ban on Foreign Worker Transfers

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Technical intern trainees from Vietnam work at a dairy farm in Hokkaido in April.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A Japanese government panel proposed Friday that foreigners working under a planned system to replace the technical trainee program be allowed to change employers after one year in principle.

The panel, chaired by Japan International Cooperation Agency President Akihiko Tanaka, decided not to adopt an earlier proposal that the minimum working period be set at up to two years from the start of employment, following opposition from panel members.

The one-year principle is included in the draft final report on the planned conversion of the foreign technical intern trainee system into the new one, released the same day.

The new system will focus mainly on securing labor, deeming foreigners as workers rather than trainees.

The current system prohibits foreign trainees from changing employers for the first three years in principle.

The panel drew up a proposal last month to allow foreign workers under the new system to switch to a different employer in the same business sector if they fulfill requirements such as staying at the same company for over a year.

The proposal was based on a Labor Standards Law provision that workers who have entered into a fixed-term labor contract may separate from employment anytime after one year of employment.

But some in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party opposed the proposed change, saying such a move would lead to an outflow of human resources from rural areas to cities.

The panel on Nov. 15 presented a revision in which the government would be able to extend by sector the minimum working period from one year in exceptional cases, granted that the period would not exceed two years.

However, some panel members strongly opposed the revision, saying that restrictions on workers’ rights for the purpose of preventing the outflow of human resources from rural areas cannot be justified.

As a result, the draft report did not include the revision. But it instead proposed discussions on transitional measures, including one to allow the government for the time being to extend the minimum period by sector from one year.

The panel is set to adopt the final report and present it to Justice Minister Ryuji Koizumi as early as this month. The government plans to submit related legislation to next year’s ordinary Diet session.