Japan Details New Scheme to Train Foreign Workers

Tokyo, Feb. 9 (Jiji Press)—The Japanese government adopted plans on Friday to abolish the existing technical intern program for foreign nationals and create a new scheme to train foreign workers as part of efforts to address labor shortages in the country.

The new scheme is designed to help foreigners achieve certain skill levels in three years so that they can work in the country for a long time.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told his ministers in a meeting that based on the plans, the government will work to “make our country attractive to foreign personnel.” The government plans to submit legislation to introduce the new scheme to the ongoing parliamentary session.

The new scheme is aimed at helping foreigners acquire 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 gain the type 2 status for highly skilled foreign workers, they will be allowed to effectively live in Japan permanently and bring family members to the country.

Under the new scheme, foreigners will be unable to change their employers for up to two years depending on industries.

The current technical intern program has been criticized for leading to rights violations, such as unpaid wages and long working hours, as it does not basically allow workers to change their employers.

Last year, a government advisory panel proposed that the changing of employers be allowed after one year of employment. The government set the period for up to two years after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party expressed concerns over a possible exodus of human resources to urban areas.

Organizations in charge of accepting foreign workers and overseeing their employers under the scheme will be obliged to appoint outside auditors. Job placement firms will not be allowed to take part in the scheme for the time being in order to eliminate malicious brokers’ involvement.

The government also plans to review its permanent residence permit system to prepare for an expected increase in the number of applications.

Specifically, the government is considering a law revision to allow permanent residence permits to be revoked in cases of failure to fulfill obligations such as paying taxes and social insurance premiums.