Statement Concerning the “Review Results (Report) Regarding the Direction of Revision of the Technical Intern Training Program for Foreigners”
The Subcommittee for Review of the System for Accepting Foreigners under the Immigration Control Policies Meeting, which is a private body of the Minister of Justice, reported to the Minister of Justice about the “Review Results (Report) Regarding the Direction of Revision of the Technical Intern Training Program for Foreigners” (the “Report”) on June 10, 2014.
Based on the premise of retaining the Technical Intern Training Program for Foreigners (the “Program”), the Report suggested the following under the “basic concept” that “the Program should be utilized while thoroughly resolving its problems” as a direction for the expansion of the Program: i) the extension of the training period, which is currently up to three years, for a maximum of two years more, or allowing the interns to retake the training for a maximum of two years after returning temporarily to their home countries; ii) an increase in the upper limit of the number of foreigners who can be accepted; iii) an expansion of the types of jobs covered under the Program, namely, employment within automobile service industry, forestry, deli manufacturing industry, service industries such as nursing care, etc., and management of retail outlets, etc.
Further, on June 16, 2014, at the Industry Competitiveness Council at the government’s Headquarters for Japan’s Economic Revitalization, copies of the “Revision of the ‘Japan Revitalization Strategy’ (Draft Report)” (the “Draft Report”) were distributed. The Draft Report suggested, as one measure for utilizing foreign human resources, that the government should carry out a fundamental revision of the Program, including expanding the covered range of occupations; extending the internship periods; and increasing the number of admitted interns.
On the other hand, in light of the successive human rights violations which have been pointed out by the JFBA and other organizations, such as the collection of a bond or guarantee money by overseas organizations which dispatch interns to Japan, the non-payment of wages, and forcing trainees who requested improved working conditions back to their own country, the Report illustrated the following points as a direction for the revision of the Program in order to bring about its improvement: i) the enhancement of consultation systems; ii) the establishment of a more flexible structure which allows foreign workers to transfer from an accepting company, which has performed inappropriately in their acceptance, to another, improved workplace; iii) enforcing the regulation of overseas organizations which dispatch foreign workers by such means as concluding bilateral accords between Japan and those countries which provide the foreign workers; and iv) fully ensuring that the level of wages for foreign workers is roughly equivalent to those for Japanese workers performing equivalent work. The Draft Report indicated measures for the government to fundamentally strengthen the management of and supervision system for the Program.
The Program has been considered as a system aimed at achieving international contribution by way of a transfer of Japanese technologies to overseas countries through foreign trainees. However, there has been a big gap between the theory and the reality surrounding the Program, i.e., in reality, the Program has been utilized as a source of supplying an inexpensive and lower-skilled workforce. In addition, under the pretext of having a transfer of skills as its aim, workers have not been allowed to even have the right to change their place of work, which is a freedom that should naturally have been given to foreign workers. Thus, it is difficult to construct a fair and equitable labor-management relationship. With such problems lying under the functions of the Program, there has been an endless series of human rights violations.
Including sincere and thoughtful responses to the problems inherent in the Program, the suggestions for revision of the system described in the Report are certainly creditable. However, there are still problems remaining, such as the fundamental problem of the gap between the theory and the practice regarding the transfer of skills, and the limitation on the ability to change workplaces to only cases where an “inappropriate” acceptance has been recognized. Further, it is not clear as to how and who will decide on what constitutes such “inappropriate” cases. Therefore, the suggestions made have not yet achieved the resolution of the practical and fundamental problems described above.
The JFBA hereby reiterates its call for the abolition of the Program, and calls on the government to once again conduct a thorough review concerning certain vital matters in relation to the Program, namely: i) aiming for the abolition of the Program by thoroughly making efforts in the direction of the revisions for improvement detailed in the Report; and ii) if the acceptance of lower-skilled foreign workers will be expanded as suggested in the Report, setting up a new system which enables the formation of an equal labor-management relationship, etc. by designating the expansion of the acceptance of lower-skilled workers as the objective of the Program.
June 18, 2014
Japan Federation of Bar Associations