The government decided Friday to expand the controversial foreign trainee program to counter the nation's rapidly thinning domestic labor force, which is hobbling the construction industry just when demand is skyrocketing for projects related to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The latest step, however, came despite long-voiced concerns and criticisms over the program, in which the trainees' rights have allegedly been violated.

Under the current framework of the internship program, foreigners are granted a three-year visa status as technical interns, supposedly so they can learn about basic industrial expertise and techniques.