TOKYO -- The Japanese labor ministry will lengthen the internship period for foreign technical trainees from three years to five at employers with good track records, seeking to improve a program marred by poor working conditions.
The program, which brings foreigners to Japan to learn skills on the job, has under the pretext of international assistance become a vital source of hands in a shrinking labor market. Numerous cases of substandard treatment, including unlawfully long hours and low wages, have thrown a national spotlight on its flaws.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will offer an incentive of an extended internship period starting in fiscal 2017 to employers scoring 60% or better in an evaluation. Criteria include pay above the minimum wage, the availability of support for trainees who seek it, and most importantly the proportion of participants receiving skills accreditation. The last of these accounts for 70 points out of the maximum score of 120.
A law enacted last year provides for the establishment of a body to oversee employers of foreign trainees. Program participants have been on the rise, totaling more than 200,000 as of the end of October.