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Diet panel approves bill to penalize employers exploiting foreign trainees

The House of Representatives Judicial Affairs Committee approved a bill on Oct. 21 to penalize employers exploiting foreign trainees.

    The panel also passed a bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act to add nursing care as a residence status to allow foreign citizens who have obtained a nursing care license in Japan to work over a long period in the country.

    After the lower chamber passes both bills during a plenary session, the House of Councillors will deliberate them and likely pass them into law during the ongoing extraordinary Diet session.

    The executive branch of the government intends to add nursing care as a type of occupation to be covered by vocational training for foreign nationals once the bill to improve the vocational training system is enacted. Therefore, the legislation could speed up the hiring of foreigners in the nursing care sector.

    The bill is aimed at enforcing the purpose of the vocational training system, which is to facilitate Japan's contributions to training human resources in developing countries who will play a leading role in their countries' economic growth. The bill has a provision to penalize employers who violate trainees' rights.

    Under the bill, a new supervisory organization would be created to increase guidance to companies that accept foreign trainees as well as industry organizations that supervise these businesses.

    Excellent businesses and industry organizations, such as those with high pass rates among trainees taking vocational skill proficiency exams, would be allowed to accept trainees for up to five years as compared with three years under the current system.

    The proposed revisions to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act are aimed at securing enough nursing care workers as Japan's population ages rapidly. Those who entered Japan with student visas, studied at government-designated training schools for at least two years, and obtained a nursing care license would be allowed to live and work in Japan over a long period as care workers.

    Japan has so far accepted nursing care trainees from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam under economic partnership agreements with these countries. However, foreign nationals who have obtained a nursing care license in Japan have so far not been allowed to work as care workers unless they have undergone vocational training under the EPAs.

    The vocational training system for foreign trainees has been criticized as allowing businesses to use such trainees at low-wage workers.

    In response to such criticism, the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito and the opposition Democratic Party jointly proposed supplementary provisions to the bill to the lower house Judicial Affairs Committee, requiring businesses that accept foreign trainees to clarify work hours and days off, among other working conditions, in their vocational training plans.

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