The government has expanded the scope of the vocational training program for foreign workers to cover health care services. The Technical Intern Training Program, under which Japanese firms accept trainees from developing countries for the purpose of helping them acquire job skills, has been criticized as a cover to exploit cheap labor from abroad. Many cases have been reported of trainees subjected to illegally long work hours and denied proper wages. The government must step up surveillance of employers and workplace conditions to protect trainees' rights.

The system was introduced in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills in the industrial, agricultural and fisheries sectors to developing economies. Now, as of Nov. 1, firms providing nursing care services can also accept trainees and the maximum training period has been expanded from three years to five years.

Although the participants' status is that of vocational trainee, they have in fact become an indispensable part of the labor force amid Japan's demographic woes. At the end of 2016, there were 229,000 trainees under the program. Vietnamese, numbering 88,000, accounted for the largest group, followed by Chinese at 81,000, Filipinos at 23,000 and Indonesians at 19,000.