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The government bill that would allow foreign trainees to start working as caregivers — approved by the Lower House this week and set to get Diet approval during the current legislative session — fails to address the inherent contradiction that a scheme designed to provide technical training for interns from overseas is effectively being used to supply cheap labor to make up for the domestic shortage in manpower. The state-sponsored Technical Intern Training Program has been widely criticized as a hotbed of labor abuses, including overworking and underpaying trainees. It isn’t the proper way to deal with the staff shortage in the nursing care sector.

The legislation to revamp the foreign trainee program will add nursing care for elderly people to the 74 types of jobs in which the trainees are currently allowed to work for up to three years. In response to the criticism of abusive working conditions for trainees, the bill will create a new oversight body to watch over wrongdoing by employers. It will be empowered to conduct on-site inspection of businesses that hire trainees and organizations that accept and dispatch interns to firms. The maximum term of the apprenticeship will be extended to five years for employers found to observe the highest labor standards.

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