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SOCIETY > Human Rights

Japan to conduct full-scale review into foreign trainee program

  • July 29, 2022
  • , Kyodo News , 3:52 p.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO – The Japanese government said Friday it will launch a full-scale review into the country’s foreign technical intern program to address issues of human rights violations and inadequate support for trainees.

 

An increasing number of cases of harassment and abuse of foreign trainees has resulted in mounting criticism at home and abroad with claims that it is a cover for companies to import cheap labor rather than a program to transfer skills to developing countries.

 

Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa expressed the need to “make consistent the purpose of the system and the actual operation of the system,” after he held study sessions from February this year to hear the views from experts and support groups for foreign nationals.

 

“This is a system that makes it difficult for trainees to create a career path and is structurally prone to human rights violations,” Furukawa told a press conference. “I want to bring this long-standing issue to a historic conclusion.”

 

The government will set up a panel of experts as early as by the end of this year to move forward discussions to make specific revisions to the program.

 

At the study sessions earlier this year participants were told that the purpose of the program was to contribute to the international community through human resource development but the reality was that foreigners are being used to make up for a labor shortage, according to Furukawa.

 

In the meetings, it was also pointed out there is a lack of information shared to both trainees and employers prior to the start of the internships, causing a mismatch in wages paid and skills provided.

 

Among other issues that have arisen include trainees incurring large debts due to the expense of entering Japan, working illegal working hours and not receiving wages.

 

The meetings also addressed the inadequacy of existing supervising organizations that act as mediators between trainees and employers and the government-run Organization for Technical Intern Training.

 

Furukawa said he would take the findings to the expert panel, and stressed that the government would establish a system that will benefit both trainees and the corresponding Japanese parties.

 

Japan introduced the training program for foreigners in 1993, primarily for the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, with trainees allowed to work for up to five years at such workplaces.

 

In 2017, a law designed to strengthen the supervision of companies and farms that accept foreigners working under the government trainee program took effect, with an eye to review its operations five years after enforcement.

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