The Japan Franchise Association (JFA), a general corporate judicial person, which each convenient store company joins, has decided within the year to request the government to add convenient stores to the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP), vocational training for youth and adult workers from all countries, Kanagawa Shimbun learned on Sept. 18. The government will apparently have an expert panel examine the request and approve it if there are no issues with the offered training program.
The convenient store industry, in which there is a chronic labor shortage, actively hires foreign part-timers who are mostly foreign students studying in Japan. Currently, the three leading convenient store companies employ a total of about 44,000 such foreigners, which accounts for a little less than 6% of all employees. Should convenient stores be authorized for the TITP, the number will certainly increase further.
The TITP is a program in which foreign trainees learn vocational skills at Japanese companies or farms to cultivate human resources who will eventually contribute to the economic growth of developing countries. In recent years, however, the program has been criticized as being abused as a way to secure cheap labor. The JFA stressed that its request is not aimed at securing workers. The association claims that learning how to manage convenient stores will contribute to developing the distribution industry in the sending countries. The JFA intends to develop a vocational training program to gain understanding from the government. If realized, trainees will likely work longer hours than foreign student part-timers, so the proper management of working hours will become a challenging issue in the workplace. Restricting the number of trainees in areas suffering a labor shortage will also become a point of contention.
The number of foreigners working in Japan exceeded the record high of 1.08 million as of the end of October last year. The increasing number of foreign student part-timers and the TITP trainees significantly contributed to the setting of a new record.
According to figures approximated by the three major convenient store companies in August this year, Seven-Eleven Japan employees about 26,000 foreign part-timers, 6.5% of all employees, marking a quintuple increase in 8 years. FamilyMart employees about 10,000 (5%). Lawson employees about 8,000 (4.5%). Foreign part-timers tend to be concentrated in Tokyo where there are many Japanese-language schools. (Abridged)