Japan eyes abolition of 3-decade-old training programme

New plan promises to address labour shortage in certain industries

Japan eyes abolition of 3-decade-old training programme

A Japanese government panel is proposing the abolition of Japan's three-decade old training programme for foreigners amid reports of exploitation, according to local media.

Japan's current training programme for foreigners, established in 1993, was developed to get individuals from developing countries and make them interns for up to five years. It has about 320,000 participants by the end of 2022, The Japan Times reported.

Critics from Japan and overseas, however, have pointed out that many of the interns were only brought in for cheap labour with reports of them getting exploited by their employers.

A Justice Ministry panel consisting of 15 academics, government officials, and lawyers was established in November to look into these problems and find way to fix them, according to the report.

New programme proposed

In its draft interim report released on Monday, the panel proposed the abolition of the current programme and the establishment of a new one.

The draft said it is "undesirable to continue accepting (trainees) as workers while saying that the programme's only goal is human resources development," Kyodo News reported.

It underscored that the new system should not only develop human resources, but also secure them.

"Many panel members agreed to the idea of abolishing the current technical intern program and considering creating a new system designed to secure and nurture human resources," said Akihiko Tanaka, panel chair and president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, as quoted by The Japan Times.

According to Tanaka, the new plan would also address Japan's labour shortage in certain industries.

The plan is also suggesting the possibility of allowing interns to switch employers. It is also requesting clarity on how long trainees can stay in Japan and how many of them are supported.

It further underscored the need to correct or eliminate organisations who are abusing their trainees.

The panel aims to compile an interim report as soon as the end of April and finalise it by fall this year, according to the reports.

Japan has been receiving encouragement to introduce various workplace reforms to boost working conditions for many employees.

In March, an expert panel also proposed the expansion of Japan's flexible working scheme and four-day work week that have been introduced for national government employees.

Recently, moves to hike wages have also been reported, with Japan's largest union sealing a 5.28% average pay hike deal while other major employers announce salary increase for their staff.

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