Japan Foreign Labor
Foreign helpers do some maintenance work on their fishing tools while sitting on their boat docked at the Tomari fishery port in Naha, Okinawa ion June 1, 2023. Photo: AP/Hiro Komae
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Japan OKs new foreign trainee program to attract more workers

53 Comments
By MARI YAMAGUCHI

The Japanese government adopted plans on Friday to scrap its current foreign trainee program, which has been criticized as a cover for importing cheap labor, and replace it with a system it says will actually teach skills and safeguard trainees' rights as Japan desperately seeks more foreign workers to supplement its aging and shrinking workforce.

Under the new program approved on Friday at a meeting of related Cabinet ministers, people who arrive on a three-year trainee visa will be able to upgrade to a skilled worker category that would allow them to stay up to five years and possibly obtain permanent residency.

Japan's population of 126 million is rapidly aging and shrinking, and many short-staffed industries, including services, manufacturing and construction, rely heavily on foreign trainees and language students. Japan also grants visas to some white-collar professionals, often from the West.

The current Technical Intern Training Program, introduced in 1993 as a way of transferring skills to developing countries through youth training, has been criticized as a scheme for importing cheap labor under abusive conditions and unequal benefits. As of last June, nearly 360,000 trainees were participating in the program, with most from Vietnam, followed by Indonesia and the Philippines, according to government data.

The new plan, which still requires parliamentary approval, follows the recommendation of a government panel last year that the current system be abolished after reports of rampant abuses, labor rights violations and other maltreatment.

The new program will continue to restrict which types of jobs are available to foreign trainees, as the conservative governing party remains reluctant to allow a more open immigration policy.

Japan's lack of diversity and inclusivity as well as its comparatively low pay has been making it less attractive to foreign workers, who are increasingly choosing other Asian countries such as South Korea.

“The government seeks to create an inclusive society, and we want to make Japan a country that foreign workers will choose,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at the Cabinet meeting where the new policy was endorsed.

The current program prohibits trainees from changing workplaces, a rule that caused thousands to run away from their employers due to unpaid wages, harassment and other maltreatment. The new system would allow them to change jobs after working for one to two years, but only in the same job category.

Applicants for the new trainee system will also be required to pass a Japanese language proficiency test.

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53 Comments
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The new system would allow them to change jobs after working for one to two years, but only in the same job category.

Meaning not a damn thing will change, as the employers actually doing the hiring in the same category will blackball the one's that run out on them.

-4 ( +18 / -22 )

Foreign helpers do some maintenance work on their fishing tools while sitting on their boat docked at the Tomari fishery port in Naha, Okinawa ion June 1, 2023.  Photo: AP/Hiro Komae

The number of safety issues in that photo is astounding.

7 ( +22 / -15 )

Blood, sweat,tears factory, exploitation to their extreme of using and disposal!

-9 ( +15 / -24 )

I think Japan was getting a lot of international pressure to do more for them. I'm not convinced there was a lot of internal demand.

The government and Japanese people aren't interested in the welfare of these people. They're a resource. That is all.

-11 ( +18 / -29 )

The current program prohibits trainees from changing workplaces, a rule that caused thousands to run away from their employers due to unpaid wages, harassment and other maltreatment. The new system would allow them to change jobs after working for one to two years, but only in the same job category.

As has already been stated still rife with opportunities for abuse by the owners.

Does anyone recall any stories of arrests and prosecutions for businesses rather openly engaging in wage theft and abuse of foreign trainees?

Neither have I.

7 ( +13 / -6 )

The new system would allow them to change jobs after working for one to two years, but only in the same job category.

Do they really think that such “change” will make the country more appealing for foreigners from developing countries?

I highly doubt so, Japan need to deal with it’s xenophobic issue and open for good if it wants to stay competitive in a declining society.

-17 ( +13 / -30 )

"... as Japan desperately seeks more foreign workers to supplement its aging and shrinking workforce."

 "...as Japan desperately seeks more foreign workers so it can continue paying rock-bottom wages and prop up uncompetitive businesses in depopulated rural areas. There, I fixed it for you.

 I'm not convinced there was a lot of internal demand.

Maybe Japanese managers were complaining that the rising number of runaways were ruining their abusive businesses.

Applicants for the new trainee system will also be required to pass a Japanese language proficiency test.

If it's anything beyond basic, then good luck attracting anyone. Only one country in the world speaks Japanese, and it happens to be a fairly isolated island nation with very few "outsiders."

-1 ( +14 / -15 )

Japan's lack of diversity and inclusivity as well as its comparatively low pay has been making it less attractive to foreign workers, who are increasingly choosing other Asian countries such as South Korea.

Wow! Glad someone is finally admitting that.

The government seeks to create an inclusive society, and we want to make Japan a country that foreign workers will choose,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at the Cabinet meeting where the new policy was endorsed.

Talk is cheap.

“The government seeks to create an inclusive society, and we want to make Japan a country that foreign workers will choose,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at the Cabinet meeting where the new policy was endorsed.

Meaning not a damn thing will change, as the employers actually doing the hiring in the same category will blackball the one's that run out on them.

Exactly! Beat me to it.

You can judge a nation on the way it treats its immigrant workers.

Then Japan gets a really low score considering that it doesn't even give those people a pathway to citizenship

 Japan need to deal with it’s xenophobic issue and open for good if it wants to stay competitive in a declining society.

THIS!

-15 ( +10 / -25 )

""The current program prohibits trainees from changing workplaces, a rule that caused thousands to run away from their employers due to unpaid wages, harassment and other maltreatment. The new system would allow them to change jobs after working for one to two years, but only in the same job category.""

This is UNACCEPTABLE and WRONG,

As we all know companies in the same industry wine and dine or even collaborate on proposals and government contracts.

If a worker wants to change his or her job they will be asked where they will be moving to and before you know it at the next job he or she will face the same treatment and even worse for causing trouble or speaking out.

Even Japanese workers face this treatment, People should be FREE to choose from a list of open opportunities provided to them from the agency and NOT limited to the ""same job category.""

People learn and change mind and discover that they can do better for themselves doing different work, to LOCK THEM in one certain category limits their Talents, Vision, and creativities.

LET GO JAPAN you haven't learned yet.

4 ( +12 / -8 )

I just hope they conduct at least a basic training on the language and culture for these people before they come, walking around Tokyo, or Fujisan, Hakone, anywhere, 99% of the times something random bothers me its people from other Asian countries doing rude things that are completely acceptable and even normal in their countries, like talking loudly, standing in the middle of a narrow bridge to take 'selfies' while people wait for ages as if its nothing, etc. basic education is needed to alleviate these cultural clashes.

3 ( +15 / -12 )

Being that I have lived life in Japan for 30 plus year and have read enough English articles and based on this one if true this is lip service by the government, and nothing will change. I don't understand why the government does not focus on the unemployed Japanese, provide extended training for them and all the orphan children who are aging out of the system. Let's take care of those who are already born and raised in Japan and who did not come from the most blessed backgrounds and or have fallen on hard times.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

just theory..., those trainees' rights cannot be guaranteed. nothing will prevent slavery...

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

it looks like unsafe working conditions on the photo, too untidy and old ac probably broken. Japanese companies should be forced to adopt and implement proper safety rules.

if the trainees are exposing unpaid work and harassment, why do they have to go through it for a year or 2. Why can’t they immediately change their job and also sue the criminals? Japanese system is always leaving an open door and extend a helping hand to criminals, rather than the victims.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

. I don't understand why the government does not focus on the unemployed Japanese, provide extended training for them and all the orphan children who are aging out of the system. 

I understand your key point, but it overlooks one factor; control. Many of the intern abuses involve being paid less than minimum wage due to the way the program is structured. Interns can’t avoid it due to visa and language barriers.

On the other hand, a local citizen, regardless of education or work history, can freely switch between any job that will accept them, language and visa are no limitations. There are a lot of working homeless people in Japan who do precisely that. If another day labor job pays more, than they switch job. If they need to con-plain about conditions, there’s no language barrier. Expanded training for disadvantaged groups in society is good for everyone, but the bottom feeder employers want employees that can be controlled easily.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

justaskingToday  08:38 am JST

why the government does not focus on the unemployed Japanese, provide extended training for them and all the orphan children

Gov wants to squeeze like lemons foreigners to do the dirty and dangerous work.

contrary to foreigners, unemployed Japanese can get social help and benefits that allow them to sleep all day long...

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

So the system of paying the trainees lower wages continues ,wake up racist japan !

-8 ( +6 / -14 )

Good idea, workforce aging and shrinking rapidly, Japan by far poorest G-7 Member on per capita GDP basis with highest sovereign debt levels in world....and it's all GETTING Worse Rapidly!

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

people who arrive on a three-year trainee visa will be able to upgrade to a skilled worker category that would allow them to stay up to five years

This is not by coincidence, Japan Inc only want single young cheap worker working in their prime time. After that they just throw them back to their home country.

-11 ( +4 / -15 )

“The government seeks to create an inclusive society, and we want to make Japan a country that foreign workers will choose,” 

Does that include the mandatory contraception rule?

1 ( +8 / -7 )

I'm surprised that foreigners still want to come to Japan.

Pay is low, YEN is cheap.

Long hours, harassment.

BUT good luck with your JAPANESE dream.

-7 ( +10 / -17 )

So they introduced a better form of slavery.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

"The new program will continue to restrict which types of jobs are available to foreign trainees, as the conservative governing party remains reluctant to allow a more open immigration policy."

Is this really necessary! Better keep your opinions to yourself. The only thing this ovacado toast generation is good at is yellow journalism.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

This type of cheap foreign labour happens in nearly all, so-called industrial nations, all over the EU, the USA, the UK, most of the imported workers are use for labour work in the farming industry, but many are used for non-important work in factories. The big difference between these other nations and Japan is the language barrier and Japans societal exclusivity. The English language is almost worldwide and most foreign workers understand and can speak it.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

The Japanese government adopted plans on Friday to scrap its current foreign trainee program, which has been criticized as a cover for importing cheap labor, and replace it with a system it says will actually teach skills and safeguard trainees' rights....

you can put lipstick on a pig and call it whatever but it's still a pig!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Excellent. Now remember, you will probably NOT be signed up for the pension, cause they'll dodge some law by pretending you're part-time. Don't get pregnant or start a family. Next, they will expect you to suck up any orders you're told, less you're kicked out. Don't expect any real literacy, less you become empowered. Expect to hear...but but but you're not Japanese from city hall, or even your employer, especially when it comes to state help when the Japanese will get it and you might be told to "TAKE THE DAY OFF". When you become ill or disabled, please do expect to be A) fired B) told to leave, C) both. When you retire, you will probably not have accumulated enough pension to live a reasonable life, so you will be expected to leave Japan. You may be lucky and they might pay for your plane tickets home. Similar to the Brazilians during the Lehman Shock.

Bottom line is, you're told what and where you can work. Oh and finally don't expect them to pay for any language course. You'll be expected to do that on your one day off.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Just pay better wages and you won't need to import workers and their problems.

There is no shortage of workers only a shortage of workers willing to do the work for the pay offered.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Japan's population of 126 million is rapidly aging and shrinking,

To the author of this article, Mari Yamaguchi, you need to do some fact checking before publishing your articles. The Japanese population is at 122 million as of 2024, not 126 million as you incorrectly claim. In fact, it hasn't been 126m since 2018! Shabby reporting is what this is.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Japan OKs new foreign trainee program to attract more workers

"by any means necessary, get foreign workers at any cost.................EXCEPT HIGHER WAGES!!!!!!"

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Their country..

Their rules..

Japan is giving an opportunity..

Take it or leave it..

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

unpaid wages, harassment and other maltreatment.

How about this problem?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

justasking Today 08:38 am JST

Let's take care of those who are already born and raised in Japan and who did not come from the most blessed backgrounds and or have fallen on hard times.

This is how all countries should behave. A government’s first priority is to its citizens. But Japan like Western countries is being pushed to accept droves of foreigners to offset population decline. But unlike Western countries, Japan does what it can to give the appearance of taking action while trying minimize the replacement of the Japanese people by newcomers. Western countries unfortunately take a different view and can’t work fast enough to try to replace their peoples.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

As an addendum to my comment which asserts that Western countries are "being pushed to accept droves of foreigners," I post the following video which details exactly how this is being done to the United States and by who: https://youtu.be/Bk66WyMBjvQ .

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Blood, sweat,tears factory, exploitation to their extreme of using and disposal!

Not that much different from foreign language teachers.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

These trainees should just go to western countries where they are very much welcome and will be fairly treated

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Bobs Your Uncle Today 02:08 pm JST

We all owe a lot to immigrant labour.

The problem is not with immigrants per se. Regulated and controlled immigration is what is the issue. When immigrants come in reasonable numbers, integrate into the society, adopt the culture, and take citizenship to become true members of the society, there is no complaint. Such immigrants enhance a society. But what we are seeing is an intentional Cloward–Piven move to use immigrants to overwhelm Western countries in an effort to destabilize them. This only serves to destroy a society. This is unacceptable to Japan and so Japan intentionally drags its feet on opening the floodgates wide open like the West. Good for Japan I say.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

"The problem is not with immigrants per se. Regulated and controlled immigration is what is the issue. When immigrants come in reasonable numbers, integrate into the society, adopt the culture, and take citizenship to become true members of the society, there is no complaint. Such immigrants enhance a society. But what we are seeing is an intentional Cloward–Piven move to use immigrants to overwhelm Western countries in an effort to destabilize them. This only serves to destroy a society. This is unacceptable to Japan and so Japan intentionally drags its feet on opening the floodgates wide open like the West. Good for Japan I say."

EXACTLY!!!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Bobs Your Uncle Today 02:43 pm JST

Yeah, I'm not one for wild unsubstantiated conspiracy theories though aye.

That is why I substantiated my post with documentation. Perhaps you just have not been exposed to such information: https://youtu.be/Bk66WyMBjvQ .

And if you are not familiar with the Cloward-Piven strategy, Wikipedia is helpful here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloward%E2%80%93Piven_strategy .

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Bobs Your Uncle Today 03:05 pm JST

this is just a theory that has never willfully at least been put into practice

Umm,

The "Cloward-Piven Strategy" seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, amassing massive unpayable national debt, and other methods such as unfettered immigration thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse by overwhelming the United States.

— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloward%E2%80%93Piven_strategy

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Kiwi 7, I agree with you on every point you made and that is why what is written in this article is lip service and nothing will change.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Japan OKs new foreign trainee program to attract more cheap labor.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Bobs Your UncleToday  02:42 pm JST

Futaro GamagoriToday 02:20 pm JST

These trainees should just go to western countries where they are very much welcome and will be fairly treated

You have to wonder if Japan was their last choice for many of them.

Japan is their only choice

Even though there are (allegedly) "abused" trainees, the majority are happy that this kind of opportunity is available to them

I don't know any Western country that accept this kind of workers

Legally, at least

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hi everyone I am a student of the Japanese language and have been studying for 6 years I would like to start looking towards these avenues to Japan and Ive researched a few does anyone have any first hand experience with these trainee schemes, how do I apply and anything else I should know? どもありがと

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My Japanese brother in law can't find either Japanese staff nor foreigners for a water proofing business. 4 Mongolians quit after six months

Japanese wage is too cheap.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This is the correct direction but needs a much faster, bolder pace.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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