Move to Let Foreign Trainees Change Jobs Sooner Sets Japan Govt, LDP at Odds

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The government’s expert panel discusses revising the program for foreign technical intern trainees at the Justice Ministry in Tokyo on Nov. 24.

The government and Liberal Democratic Party are at odds over how much to shorten the period foreign interns have to wait before they change jobs, as part of a planned revision to the technical intern training program.

Currently, foreign trainees under the system are not allowed to move from the company that initially receives them to other employers for three years in principle.

While the government plans to shorten the period to one year, the LDP opposes such a large shift and insists the interns work at least two years before changing jobs.

The two are locked in a tug-of-war ahead of the submission of a bill to revise relevant laws during next year’s ordinary Diet session.

A final report on easing restrictions for the system was compiled by the government’s expert panel in November. The report proposes foreign trainees be allowed to change employer when they have worked at their initial company for more than one year if they meet certain conditions such as having basic Japanese skills.

The proposed change came after criticism that forcing foreign trainees to work in harsh conditions for several years has been one reason why some have fled their workplaces and gone missing.

The proposal aims to improve working conditions for foreign interns under the system.

However, the LDP’s Special Committee on Foreign Workers submitted to Justice Minister Ryuji Koizumi on Thursday a proposal that requested the period be at least two years for the time being.

The party fears that if foreign trainees can change employers more easily, they will concentrate in big cities where working and living conditions are better.

“The government’s plan lacks understanding of the reality in regional areas,” a senior member of the special committee said. “There are some who argue the current restriction should be maintained, so we’re drawing the line at two years.”

The planned revision to the technical intern training program mainly aims to prevent human rights abuses, as competition grows globally to attract foreign workers.

If the government makes a major compromise with the LDP, it could draw criticism from the Japanese public. The government plans to coordinate carefully toward passing a bill for revision next year.