EDITORIAL: Technical intern scheme needs quick government review

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Eight major companies, including Toyota Motor Corp., have launched a joint project to support foreign workers in Japan.

Officials said the project will provide counseling services to non-Japanese citizens working at participating companies or their business partners on challenges they face in the workplace, such as rights violations.

These services will allow businesses and workers to grasp reality and seek solutions.

Allegations that many foreigners are forced to work in miserable conditions have continued, and the issue has been raised internationally. The situation must be corrected quickly.

Technical trainees, who do not have the freedom to change workplaces, face particularly difficult conditions.

An out-of-court settlement was recently reached in a case in which a Vietnamese technical trainee who worked for a construction company in Okayama, the capital of Okayama prefecture, complained of being physically assaulted by his colleagues.

The construction company and a supervisory organization, which arranged his placement in the company, apologized and paid him a sum of money.

The man sought help from a union based in Fukuyama, a city in neighboring Hiroshima prefecture.

The union obtained a video showing how he was physically assaulted and presented the recording as evidence of the misconduct during his collective bargaining with the company. The union has also brought this inhumane practice to public attention.

Technical trainees have been harmed physically and mentally by a succession of irregularities, such as violations of safety standards, illegal overtime, unpaid wages and abuse of authority.

Unions have helped save some of them in other cases as well. They should work with local governments, bar associations and employers alarmed by the current situation to step up their efforts.

The Organization for Technical Training of Interns (OTIT), an authorized company founded five years ago, is responsible for supervising and guiding those responsible for implementing training programs and other parties. Yet more than 5,700 violations of labor standards laws and regulations were recognized in 2020 alone.

Many cases have also been reported, such as that of Okayama, where an oversight organization, which was supposed to provide assistance to technical trainees regarding their lives and livelihoods, failed to fulfill its role. Many regulatory bodies have had their licenses revoked.

OTIT itself has not been spared criticism.

It recently emerged that an official from the OTIT office in Sendai emailed a trio of Vietnamese technical trainees asking them to withdraw from a local union they had joined. Last month, Labor Minister Shigeyuki Goto expressed regret to the Diet.

Training program implementers, parent agencies and OTIT are all faced with the question of whether they understand that they are responsible for treating foreign workers fairly, who are essential supporters of society, and to defend their livelihoods and human rights.

The Asahi Shimbun has called in its editorials for the rapid abolition of the trainee technical training program, which serves as a means to ensure access to cheap labor despite the program’s stated goal of provide foreigners with vocational skills in Japan and bring them back to Japan. their countries of origin.

A “Specified Skilled Worker” program was introduced in 2019 to allow foreign workers under the relevant category to change jobs and, under certain conditions, also bring their families to Japan.

There were, however, only about 64,000 specified skilled workers in Japan in March, less than a quarter of the number of technical trainees in the country. And those working in the new setting have expressed the same old complaints about their work environment and the way they are treated.

A study group was set up under the Minister of Justice earlier this year to discuss the executive pair – the Technical Intern Program and the Specified Skilled Worker Program – and study what they should be in the future.

Political leaders should recognize that this is an urgent matter and responsibly end the abnormal situation we are facing.

–The Asahi Shimbun, May 30

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