Japan’s New Foreign Trainees’ Work Law Has Penal Regulations

Japan is increasing its efforts to entice foreign vocational trainees after tougher new laws took effect last November 1. The new laws is expected to eliminate abuse by employers through misusing the Technical Intern Training Programs in order to obtain cheap labor amid domestic manpower constraints.


Photo credit to: https://www.japantimes.co.jp


An official of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry who oversees the program said that the revisions in the law is aimed to prevent and end human rights violations done by Japanese employers and overseas intermediary bodies.


In 2016, there were 5,672 employers inspected for foreign human rights violations. 4,004 of them were proven to be guilty. The harsh conditions in the workplace have led many trainees to get sick, commit suicide, or worse, die from overwork.


Japanese employers are now obliged to secure accreditation for Technical Intern Training Programs to get foreign trainees. The government also created the Organization for Technical Intern Training (OTIT) to serve as the watchdog for the program and screen whether companies are complying with the new rules or not. To reduce foreign trainees’ human rights violations at work, the new law has introduced penal regulations and requires equal treatment with their Japanese counterparts.


Employers who violate the trainees’ rights could be imprisoned for up to 10 years or be fined ¥3 million for physical abuse. Confiscating passports, denying compensation claims, and violating the Labor Standards Law are also subject to punishment.


Employers that will follow the new laws will be allowed to get additional trainees and extend the training program for two years. Until now, foreign trainees can do their training during their first year in Japan and perform their duties only for another two years.


Moreover, Japan will now accept trainees that are certified by the candidates’ countries and has clarified conditions, including fees imposed on the trainees. The trainees can choose among 137 jobs available in 77 categories including agriculture, construction, food processing, machinery work, and nursing care.


However Shoichi Ibuski, a lawyer and an expert in human rights issues, and a representative of the 140-manned Lawyers Network for Foreign Workers said that the revisions will not address underlying issues resulting from flaws in the system. According to him the system did not clarify whether trainees are eligible for a fair compensation, minimum wage at the very least, as of the first year of their stay wherein trainees are performing actual jobs in reality. The group said there are a lot of foreign trainees who are not even paid the minimum.


Furthermore, specific sectors such as in nursing care are requesting that OTIT can look into remote areas where human rights violations may be higher than in urban places.


The labor ministry says that as of end last year, there are about 228,589 foreign vocational trainees working in Japan.


Reference: With new rules, Japan looks to wipe out abuse in trainee system — but critics say more must be done


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