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Japan immigration

Japan to step up oversight of employers hiring foreign interns

Program body to bolster staff by 70% to stop illegal overtime and nonpayment

Companies facing labor shortages are turning to the internship program to secure foreign workers.

TOKYO -- Japan will strengthen monitoring of businesses that hire foreign workers under a government-administered technical training program, moving to crack down on illegal overtime hours and nonpayment of wages amid a labor shortage.

The Organization for Technical Intern Training, responsible for overseeing the program, will increase its staff by 70% to roughly 590 in fiscal 2019.

Established in 2017, the Tokyo-based organization carries out on-site inspections of companies and brokers to ensure compliance with the law. The added personnel will mostly be assigned to perform inspections at businesses using foreign trainees and to assess their training plans. It will also allocate personnel to field complaints from technical trainees.

Roughly 310,000 foreigners worked in Japan under the training program as of the end of October 2018, up one-fifth on the year. Facing a deepening labor crunch, businesses are tapping the program as a way to secure workers. Program participants now account for more than 20% of the 1.46 million foreigners working in Japan.

The rapid expansion of the program also resulted in increased violations. Of the 5,966 companies inspected by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, such violations as illegal overtime and unpaid wages were discovered at 4,226 sites. the government believes that to attract foreign workers, Japan must ensure that its internship program offers hospitable work environments for recruits.

To crack down on overseas brokers that pocket illicit fees, the ministry plans to revoke the licenses of recruitment agencies that use such brokers. Legislation governing recruitment agencies will be revised in April.

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