Invite foreign interns to settle in Japan, think tank says


Staff Writer

A Tokyo think tank says the nation should replace its discredited national foreigners’ trainee program with a system that invites overseas interns to settle in Japan, which would help solve an immediate labor shortage and an approaching demographic crisis.

The Japan Center for International Exchange, or JCIE, unveiled the proposal on Wednesday, calling it a comprehensive replacement for the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program, which has been criticized as a source of rights violations.

The think tank advocates granting foreign interns a renewable three-year visa and, after six years, giving them access to long-term or permanent residency.

In what is perhaps its most radical recommendation, the group also proposes that Japan establish a new ministry to oversee the program.

It says the government should strike bilateral agreements with other nations and coordinate directly with their ministries to guard against unscrupulous private brokers trying to profit from and manipulate the supply of labor.

The proposal says foreign interns should be required to learn basic Japanese language skills and contribute to Japan’s social security system by paying taxes. To facilitate their integration into Japanese society, it urges the government to strengthen legislation against discrimination.

The framework is similar to an employment program for foreigners in South Korea, the think tank said, adding that it based the draft in part on South Korea’s model.

“It’s finally time Japan began seriously considering accepting foreigners on a long-term basis to address the problem of its ever-accelerating population crisis,” said Toshihiro Menju, the think tank’s managing director.

JCIE is a Tokyo- and New York-based foundation established in 1970 with the aim of boosting Japan’s role in the international community by drafting policy proposals and initiating exchange programs.

The group says it may approach politicians with the proposal directly.

  • Richard Solomon

    This won’t ‘solve’ Japan’s demographic challenges but it will help bring new ideas and energy into the country at a time when it needs such things.

    • Japanese Bull Fighter

      How will this bring in “new ideas?” The trainee program targets people with low level or no skills (that is why they are trainees) who start ab initio with the Japanese language. Cheap labor maybe, new ideas unlikely.

      • Roy Warner

        I’ve known a few “trainees.” The “trainee” program targets those who are not satisfied with their chances in their home country but have the ambition to improve their lot by working and saving a bit in Japan. They are not really receiving training. They are simply used for cheap labor. The majority have low educational attainment but that does not equal low intelligence. Some were born too poor to undertake extensive schooling. Some already have skills but can earn more as unskilled laborers in Japan than as skilled laborers at home. The United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia were colonised to a large extent by folks who weren’t quite able to make a go of it in their native land for one reason or another. Why not Japan?

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        “Why not Japan?” Because the mass migration to the US took place at a time when the US had a very low population density, when the overall educational level of the US was quite low, and when there was a large number of jobs that could be filled by people who had little or no knowledge of English. The countries that you mention all had (have) enough space that mutually hostile groups do not have to live next to each other. None of the countries you mention took in immigrants to replace a decline in the native population. And, of course, those countries took in immigrants not “trainees.” Further, Canada and Australia have very selective immigration programs. Particularly in the case of Canada, money counts. That’s why there are so many wealthy Chinese in British Columbia.

      • itoshima2012

        “were colonised” says it all I guess…..

    • James Santagata

      The catch is that there is absolutely no certainty that this will bring new ideas or energy to Japan. However, it opens a pandora’s box that could irretrievably harm Japan. Japan is teeming with talent and teeming with ideas. Japan simply needs more labor, tax and market reforms that allow for the easier accumulation and formation of capital and launching of new ventures. This would put immediate pressure on ossified incumbents to get their act together or be chewed up and composted by the market. In the coming global blowout and unwinding, Japan’s salvation and trump card is a small, highly educated and cohesive society. The last thing Japan needs is the US’s problems where everything is a racial issue or this issue or that. Japan is still the 3rd largest economy with a population less than half the size of the US and 1/10th the size of China. Japan and her people should be proud and keep striving, things are changing and if we look back to even 2006, 2000, 1995, I see sea-changes that have occurred positively for Japanese business.

    • itoshima2012

      yep, like all the new ideas people are having in Calais’s Jungle camp…. open the doors, let them in, they’ll bring the real advancement…..

  • Guest

    or they could try giving foreigners equal protection under the law. see how that goes over.

  • Charles

    Okay, so let me get this straight… Under these suggestions from this “think tank:”
    – These “interns” will be able to get permanent residency in just six years, despite not having very much education. They also get three-year visas right off the plane!
    – However, people who actually got a bachelor’s degree or other tertiary education and came here on a proper work visa, are not mentioned, meaning they still have to wait ten years to get permanent residency. And many of them have to put up with an endless string of one-year visa extensions (I’m on my fourth consecutive one-year extension).

    Is there any way I can cancel my work visa and come back to Japan as a factory worker, fish scaler, or other laborer? Because according to what this “think tank” is recommending, I’d get longer visas and quicker access to permanent residency that way…

    Here’s an idea, Japan, and I’m not even a think tank:
    – Reduce permanent residency to five years for any foreigner already working here who is reasonably well-behaved and healthy and who can speak intermediate-high Japanese (JLPT N2 or above).
    – Enact a full anti-discrimination law. Actually make some attempt to enforce it.

    • itoshima2012

      it’s a think tank…. no clue if they’re actually thinking… they think financed by tax payers money and issue statements/research that’s gonna screw the taxpayer even more…. think tanks, a bit like consultants… a lot of smoke and no meat….

  • Adam

    I don’t think a three year internship sounds fair at all, to the interns. It is not nice to feel like an underclass, like you’re less than a regular member of society.

    If Japan is going to do this, they should do it all the way through and create a path to citizenship. It is Japan who needs the population influx, so there should be a fair bargain.

    Also, I don’t mean to complain, but this article should have named the think tank. It’s hard to believe that they could only be quoted on background due to the confidentiality of their reports.

    • Charles

      I agree with you that the article should have named the think tank.

      However, if you read the article, it says that according to the think tank’s recommendations, these “interns” could apply for permanent residency after six years. That is a much shorter time than the ten years required for foreign professionals.

      I got my degree before I came here (I was not allowed to work in Japan before getting my degree because of Japanese immigration laws), and I have a good job. My Japanese is JLPT N3, and my kanji is Kanji Kentei 4-kyuu (1,322 kanji). However, every time I go to the immigration office to extend, they just give me one year visas. I am on my fourth one-year extension, now. I am also required to wait ten years before I can get permanent residency.

      However, according to the think tank’s proposal, some uneducated laborer could just come here and immediately get three-year visas right off the plane (better than mine) and permanent residency in six years (faster than me).

      That is not fair! I worked very hard for my degree, and to learn Japanese. I wanted to move to Japan from an early age, but had to wait years and years because I had to finish the degree first. And then these “interns” just get to cut in line, come here without a degree, get better visas, and apply for permanent residency faster?!

      “If Japan is going to do this, they should do it all the way through and create a path to citizenship.”
      This proposal IS a path to citizenship. They work here for six years and get permanent residency. Even though it is not mentioned in the article, it is common knowledge that permanent residency is almost as good as citizenship (you can live here indefinitely and work any job), and applying for citizenship is relatively easy if a person already has permanent residency–just file lots of paperwork.

      Basically, this think tank’s suggestion is fine in and of itself. The problem is that it only addresses laborers. What about foreign professionals? They continue to have to wait ten years to apply for permanent residency!

      Now, of course there is the “points system,” but if you look at the criteria, the “points system” is almost impossible. I do not know a single person who has qualified.

  • Lukas Meza

    this is great i want to live in japan one day, im from colombia and this is making things easier for me.

  • itoshima2012

    agree James