The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

‘Technical intern’ program for foreigners to be reviewed

- The Yomiuri Shimbun

A training program for foreign nationals will be reviewed by an expert panel that the government plans to set up by the end of the year, Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa announced July 29.

e so-called “technical intern training program” was initiated to support developing countries through the transfer of technical skills, but in reality, foreign trainees have been used as cheap labor.

e government is accelerati­ng e orts to drasticall­y review the program, which has come under internatio­nal criticism.

e issues to be addressed in the review include communicat­ion di culties due to insu cient Japanese language skills of trainees; debts incurred by trainees to join the program; inadequate consultati­on and support systems at the supervisor­y body that oversees host companies and protects trainees; and job switching by trainees.

Establishe­d in 1993, the technical intern training program has been plagued by problems.

Assaults and bullying by employers have come to light, and there has been a

ood of disappeara­nces of trainees unhappy with the low pay. According to the Justice Ministry, about 7,000 trainees ran away in 2021.

From the start of the program to the end of June this year, 325 entities that accepted foreign trainees have had their certi cations revoked.

“It has been pointed out that there is a gap between the program’s purpose of internatio­nal contributi­on and the actual situation, in which trainees are used to supplement the workforce amid labor shortages. I accept that point,” Furukawa said at a press conference on July 29. “I want to deepen discussion­s steadily and bring these long-standing issues to a historic conclusion.”

“Technical intern training” is one of the residence statuses that allow foreign nationals to work in Japan. It covers 86 job categories, including constructi­on and food manufactur­ing, and the maximum period of stay is ve years.

According to the ministry, more than 270,000 foreign trainees were staying in Japan as of the end of last year.

e government also plans to launch a review of the “speci ed skilled worker program,” which was introduced in 2019 to allow foreign nationals to do jobs that involve manual work. e program’s Category I status holders can stay in Japan for up to a total of ve years, and Category II status holders can stay for a longer period together with their spouses and children.

Category II status currently covers only the constructi­on, shipbuildi­ng and ship machinery sectors. e government plans to consider expanding the scope of the status to attract more workers.

Foreign trainees can extend their stays by changing to the Category I speci ed skilled worker status if certain requiremen­ts are met.

Furukawa set up a study group in the ministry to look at the technical intern and speci ed skilled worker programs in January, interviewi­ng professors and lawyers to compile opinions. (July 30)

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