English>Statements and Opinions>Statements>Statement Concerning Advisory Panel’s Final Report on the Ideal Form of the Technical Intern Training Program and the Specified Skilled Worker System

Statement Concerning Advisory Panel’s Final Report on the Ideal Form of the Technical Intern Training Program and the Specified Skilled Worker System

The Advisory Panel of Experts on the Ideal Form of the Technical Intern Training Program and the Specified Skilled Worker System (the “Advisory Panel”), which was established under the Ministerial Conference on Acceptance and Coexistence of Foreign Nationals, complied its final report on November 30, 2023.

The Technical Intern Training Program has been under intense criticism, including from human rights treaty bodies, as well as in the Trafficking in Persons Report by the United States Department of State, for serious human rights violations being committed under the Program, such as trainees basically being prohibited from changing employers, being required to pay high levels of fees and other charges, not being paid for overtime work, and being subject to abuse. The Advisory Panel’s final report, as well as the enactment of a new law and the amendment of the existing legislation that should follow, should highlight Japan’s strong determination towards eliminating human rights violations. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”), while expressing a certain amount of appreciation for the draft final report presented by the Advisory Panel on October 18, 2023, pointed out, in its President’s Statement dated October 26, 2023, that there were some points in the draft that should be amended.

However, the changes that were eventually included in the final report were different from those proposed by the JFBA.

In the proposals section of the final report, under Item 4 regarding trainees changing employers under the new program, there is a proposal to allow trainees to change employers at will after one (1) year has passed since they started working at a given workplace. However, under Item 10 regarding the other matters to be considered for the new program, there is a proposal to allow transitional measures to be implemented as necessary, for the time being, such as allowing a period longer than one (1) year to be set depending on the field. Even though such measures are said to be “transitional” in nature, describing such measures as being implemented “for the time being” only, without setting an expiration date or stipulating the conditions thereof, will allow for restrictions on employer changes for more than one (1) year to be permanent and unlimited, and this will reverse the principle under Item 4 and the exception under Item 10.

During discussions within the Advisory Panel, it has been confirmed that restricting employer changes for three (3) years under the current program cultivates trainees’ dependance on their employers and indirectly restricts the exercise of workers’ rights, thereby causing a structural problem that enables repeated human rights violations. Despite strong concerns and opposing opinions expressed by multiple members of the Advisory Panel over the inclusion of the phrase “for the time being”, such wording was included in the final report under the pretext of being “transitional measures.” This can attract criticism that the new program, which is supposedly created with a focus on protecting the human rights of foreign nationals and the enhancement of their rights as workers, is basically the same as the old program just with a new name.

Furthermore, the “Advisory Panel’s review leading up to the proposal” under Item 10 states that there is a concern that allowing trainees to change employers at will under certain requirements, which has never been permitted under the current program, may pose an obstacle to the development of human resources and cause an exodus of personnel. It also states that there is a need to consider measures to mitigate against the rapid changes that may be caused by implementing the new policy regarding trainees changing employers, from the perspective of giving consideration to local businesses, as well as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). However, the possibility of such exodus of personnel while only allowing employer changes within the same job category has in no way been proven. In addition, the retention of trainees in workplaces should be achieved not only through wages, but also via improving the working and training environment of trainees at their workplaces and enhancing various measures for coexistence in their communities. It is hardly justifiable that the final report, while proposing various measures to this end, is basically proposing that a limit be placed on the constitutionally guaranteed human right of the freedom to change jobs, just so that employers can retain trainees.

The draft bill that is to be prepared in the coming months should allow the in-principle right of trainees to change employers as proposed under Item 4, once the bill takes effect, without setting permanent and unlimited restrictions on such changes under the pretext of “transitional measures”.

In addition, the final report is still insufficient in terms of addressing how to ensure the financial and personnel independence of supervising organizations from receiving organizations, and creating measures to eliminate the practice of collecting high levels of fees from trainees when they are sent overseas, which the JFBA pointed out the importance of in its President’s Statement dated October 26, 2023. The prohibition on allowing trainees to bring their families with them also remains unchanged in the final report. 

For these reasons, the JFBA strongly urges the government to reflect on the JFBA’s opinions regarding the issues facing the Technical Intern Training Program and prepare a draft bill in a manner that will establish a new program that serves to truly protect the rights of foreign nationals.

December 7, 2023
Motoji Kobayashi
President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations

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