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Just as the government’s amendment to the immigration control law lifting the official ban on simple foreign labor is deliberated in the Diet, the problems in the foreign technical intern program — which is widely deemed a cover for supplying cheap foreign labor to domestic sectors facing a manpower shortage — are once again under scrutiny. The program, ostensibly intended to contribute to the economic development of the trainees’ countries by teaching them job skills to take back home, needs a fundamental review in light of its reportedly rampant abuse.

The number of non-Japanese who work at companies and farms under the Technical Intern Training Program, introduced in 1993, reached 258,000 as of October last year, or roughly 20 percent of all non-Japanese workers in this country. The program has been expanded in scope over the years to effectively deal with growing domestic manpower shortages in many sectors — most of the 14 industries that have been singled out for needing low-skilled workers from abroad under the new program have already accepted technical trainees to fill their manpower needs.

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