People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus walk on a street in Tokyo, March 14, 2022. (KOJI SASAHARA / AP)
TOKYO – The Japanese government on Friday said it would comprehensively review its contentious technical intern program due to mounting incidents of human rights violations, abuse and lack of support for overseas trainees in the country.
Increasing numbers of disturbing incidents have been making the headlines with increasing frequency regarding the program, with trainees found to be the victims of physical abuse and harassment.
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The trainee program has come under fire both at home and overseas from cultural, civic and educational groups amid concerns some Japanese companies are simply using the trainee program for what amounts to be slave labor
The program has come under fire both at home and overseas from cultural, civic and educational groups amid concerns some Japanese companies are simply using the trainee program for what amounts to be slave labor.
Under the program, trainees from overseas are supposed to be given opportunities to learn new skills here before being transferred back to their respective countries.
After hearing the views from experts and support groups for foreign nationals since February this year, Japan's Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa said it was of paramount importance to "make consistent the purpose of the system and the actual operation of the system."
"This is a system that makes it difficult for trainees to create a career path and is structurally prone to human rights violations. I want to bring this long-standing issue to a historic conclusion," Furukawa told a press briefing on the matter.
Revisions to the program will be implemented following discussions involving experts, although it may take until the end of the year for the panel of experts to be set up, sources said.
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Other problems plaguing the program included trainees forced to work illegally-long working hours, not receiving wages and having their passports confiscated upon arrival, sources said.
The technical intern training program for foreigners was introduced by the Japanese government in 1993 to allow those from certain developing countries to work in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. Trainees were allowed to work for up to five years.