J.TEST Philippines

October 19, 2023

Japan to Replace Technical Intern Program with New System Allowing Job Transfers

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that about 1.96 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) were deployed in 2022, still below the pre-Covid level of 2.2 million but up 7.6% from the 1.83 million in 2021.

However, a Japanese government panel announced a new system for foreign workers in Japan.

A Japanese government panel of experts released a draft report a new system that would replace the foreign technical intern program, with various changes including allowing workers to switch jobs within the same industry if they meet certain requirements.

The report clearly states that the new system is aimed at “securing and developing human resources in fields facing labor shortages.” The technical intern program has been criticized for being promoted as a way for foreign workers to learn new skills, when in reality many companies were accepting workers only as a form of cheap labor.

“By creating the new system, I believe we can mark a critical turning point in the history of Japan’s acceptance of foreign workers,” he said.

Historically, job transfers were highly restricted for technical interns. According to the draft plan, the new system would ensure that the scope of transfers would be clarified, streamlined and expanded.

Under the new plan, workers who want to work for another employer would be able to do so after they’ve worked for at least a year with their initial company. They also need to pass relevant skills exams and at least the lowest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) — N5.

“If a person wants to change workplaces, they should be allowed to do so under certain conditions to improve their rights as laborers,” the report stated, though it added that certain restrictions should still be in place for training purposes.

A group supervising the workers will be in charge of coordinating the change in workplace with the support of public job service Hello Work and other entities for foreign workers.

The new system would also aim to train unskilled foreign workers in three years to acquire the level of skills needed for the Type 1 visa for specified skilled workers, who can stay up to five years in Japan.

However, advancement to the specified skilled worker visa would also require passing N4 of the JLPT for the Type 1 visa and N3 for the Type 2 visa. If a worker were to fail an exam, they would be allowed to stay for another year to retake the test, which is offered twice a year.

Those who come to Japan through these visas often come from various countries. Tanaka said that while he’s heard the opinion that the government should focus on English, it probably isn’t the most useful in this case.

“When foreign nationals from various countries come to Japan and live alongside Japanese people, the Japanese language is often the most practical means of communication,” Tanaka said. “Therefore, I believe it is essential to prioritize learning the Japanese language in this regard.”

The panel is expected to release a final report as early as next month.

As of the end of 2022, there were about 325,000 foreign technical interns in Japan, of which 54% hailed from Vietnam, followed by Indonesia (14.1%) and the Philippines (9%). Many of them work in the construction, food processing and machinery industries, according to the Justice Ministry.

-Source by The Japan Times