TOKYO -- Japan will offer workers from overseas on-the-job training in processing agricultural goods, seeking to relieve a labor shortage for employers that increasingly handle aspects of the farming business beyond producing.
Previously, such foreign trainees were limited to farm work, but now they will be allowed to handle the likes of pre-cut vegetable and cheese processing.
The labor, justice and agriculture ministries will revise the national training system, which offers technical and informational instruction to workers from emerging economies and elsewhere. The training program employed some 210,000 people as of last autumn, of which about 20,000 worked in agriculture.
Farming cooperatives will be allowed to contract with foreign workers and to train them in facilities -- such as fruit-sorting centers -- operated by the central Japan Agricultural Cooperatives group.
Many farms are moving into areas like processing and sales. With foreign workers available for more duties, agricultural employers in areas like the northern island of Hokkaido, where there are fewer jobs to do in winter, will have an easier time taking on employees from overseas year-round.
The role of corporate management in agriculture is growing, leading to an increase in farmers taking on the role of employees in such organizations. But young Japanese are bleeding out of nonmetropolitan regions, and many companies are "keeping workplaces running with foreign trainees," in the words of one Nagano Prefecture agricultural corporation.