Japan Panel Wants New Scheme to Nurture Unskilled Foreigners

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A Japanese government panel Thursday submitted to Justice Minister Ryuji Koizumi a final report calling for abolishing the existing technical intern scheme and introducing a new program focusing on nurturing unskilled foreign workers.

The new program is designed to help foreign workers to find medium- to long-term employment in Japan in three years as part of efforts to secure workers amid a severe labor shortage in the country.

Foreign workers in the new program will be able to gain the type 1 residency status, granted to foreign workers with certain skill levels to allow them to work in Japan for up to five years, if they pass skill tests and a Japanese-language proficiency test in three years.

Those who pass tests for the type 2 status for highly skilled foreign workers will be able to effectively live in Japan permanently and bring family members to the country.

Under the new program, foreign workers will be able to change employers to firms in the same industry after one year and if they pass skill and language tests. The current technical intern system does not allow the changing of employers for three years in principle.

The report also seeks stricter licensing requirements for organizations that act as brokers for foreign workers and give guidance to their workplaces.

The Organization for Technical Intern Training, a government-approved corporation tasked with supervising such organizations, will be strengthened through increases in staff members.

The current technical intern system was launched in 1993. It was billed as a program to help citizens of developing countries acquire knowledge and skills, but workers under the scheme have been found to be working long hours for low pay and suffering human rights abuses.

The expert panel, chaired by Japan International Cooperation Agency President Akihiko Tanaka, had been discussing a review of the system since last December.