Japan Weighs Future of Contentious Foreign Trainee Program

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Trainees from Vietnam work at a dairy farm in Toyokoro, Hokkaido.

A draft report on the contentious foreign technical intern training program has been released by government sources. The final report is set to be revealed this autumn.

The draft, drawn up by a government panel of experts, proposes abolishing the current framework and establishing a new system under which trainees can stay in Japan for up to three years.

Under the envisaged program, trainees would be able to change jobs after spending 12 months at a single company if they meet certain criteria, including proficiency in the Japanese language.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A government panel of experts discuss the foreign technical intern training program, in Tokyo in April.

The draft is slated to be presented at a meeting of the panel, and the government reportedly plans to submit bills to establish the new program during an ordinary Diet session next year.

Possible names for the new system include “Ikusei Gino” (cultivating skills).

The program is aimed at securing and training foreign workers. Those who wish to become “technical interns” — a status that requires certain skills and proficiencies — would have to sit practical and Japanese-language exams; these requirements are not necessary under the current system. If candidates were to fail an exam, they would be allowed to extend their stay for up to one year to retake the test.

Under the current program, trainees cannot, in principle, change jobs during their first three years here, a stipulation that been criticized as a violation of their human rights.

However, the new system would allow trainees to switch companies after one year, providing they possess a certain level of Japanese-language proficiency, as well as basic skills and knowledge related to their line of employment.

In some cases, trainees pay large sums of money to home-country organizations to facilitate their entry into to Japan. The new system would require that Japan-based firms shoulder part of such payments.