The government's plan to expand the foreign trainee internship program to cover manpower shortages in nursing-care services for the elderly is problematic in multiple ways. It deviates from the purpose of the program to promote technical transfers to developing economies by training internees from those countries, while failing to properly address problems in the program, which is criticized for being widely used as a cover for exploiting low-cost labor from overseas. The government should explore other ways of securing enough nursing-care workers to meet the increasing needs of Japan's rapidly aging population.
The Abe administration wants to make up for the domestic manpower shortage by using the Technical Intern Training Program to increase the number of foreign workers. It has already decided to extend the maximum training period of foreign workers employed at construction firms from three to five years beginning in fiscal 2015 as an emergency measure to cope with serious labor shortage in the sector, where demand for labor has been rising due to reconstruction work in areas hit by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami as well as public works projects to prepare for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Nursing care for the elderly is another sector where the labor supply is increasingly tight. As the aging of the Japanese population accelerates, the government estimates that the nation will need 700,000 more nursing-care workers in 2025, by which time all of the postwar baby boomer generation will have turned at least 75 years old. However, care-service providers face a chronic staff shortage for the physically demanding but low-paying jobs.