AP reports that in Tokyo, People have said that Japan’s current foreign trainee program is just a way to bring in cheap labor. On Friday, the Japanese government decided to get rid of the program and replace it with a system that they say will teach skills and protect trainees’ rights. Japan needs more foreign workers to help its aging and shrinking workforce.
A group of related Cabinet ministers passed a new program on Friday that lets people who come with a three-year trainee visa change their status to a skilled worker category. This will let them stay for up to five years and maybe even get permanent residency.
Japan has 126 million people, but that number is quickly getting older and smaller. Many businesses, like construction, manufacturing, and services, depend on foreign language students and trainees to fill open positions. Some white-collar workers, usually from the West, can also get passes to visit Japan.
People have said that the current Technical Intern Training Program, which started in 1993 as a way to teach developing countries new skills by training young people, is really just a way to bring in cheap labor in unfair working circumstances. According to government statistics from June of last year, there were almost 360,000 trainees in the program. Most of them were from Vietnam, followed by Indonesia and the Philippines.
The new plan, which still needs to be approved by parliament, comes after a government panel said last year that the present system should be thrown out because of widespread abuses, violations of workers’ rights, and other forms of mistreatment.
The new program will keep limiting the types of jobs that foreign trainees can apply for because the right party in power still doesn’t want to open up immigration rules.
Because Japan isn’t very diverse or open to everyone, and because it pays less than other Asian countries, more and more foreign workers are choosing to work in South Korea or another Asian country.
The new policy was approved by the Cabinet. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “The government wants to create an inclusive society, and we want to make Japan a country that foreign workers will choose.”
The current program doesn’t let trainees switch jobs, which is a rule that made thousands of people leave their jobs because they weren’t getting paid or were being harassed or treated badly in other ways. With the new method, they could switch jobs after one to two years, but only within the same type of job.
People who want to join the new training system will also have to pass a test of their Japanese language skills.
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