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Japan immigration

Labor shortage prompts Japan to fix neglected intern system

Expert panel urges end to current program for foreign trainees, more flexibility

There were 325,000 foreigners in Japan's Technical Intern Training Program as of the end of 2022, more than double from a decade earlier. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

TOKYO -- A government panel of experts has proposed the abolition of the Technical Intern Training Program for foreign workers, citing a wide gap between its ideal of international contribution and actual practice as a way to alleviate an acute labor shortage. The proposal is expected to prompt the Japanese government to consider a new system to address the shortage through using foreign workers.

A set of proposals released by the panel on Monday includes an easing of restrictions on switching to another job, which are seen as a cause of the disappearance of thousands of trainees from their original workplaces, but the pursuit of specific solutions to that problem has yet to begin. At stake is whether the government can correct problems in the program that have been left unchanged across the 30 years since it started in 1993.

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