Japan's Upper House begins discussion on bill for new foreign trainee program

Japan's Upper House committee has begun deliberations on a bill which would replace the existing technical intern system for foreign nationals with a new training program.

The chamber's Judicial Affairs Committee started discussions on the bill to revise the immigration law on Tuesday. The new program aims to train foreign interns to reach the level of "specified skilled worker" in principle in three years.

Foreign trainees will be accepted in fields that are experiencing labor shortages including nursing care, construction, agriculture and other industries. Interns will be allowed to switch employers in the same sector under certain conditions. The current law does not allow, in principle, interns to change companies.

The revision bill enables the government to revoke the permanent resident status of foreign interns in cases of intentional failure to pay tax. A related provision states that living conditions will be taken into consideration in cases involving the revoking of the status.

In the committee meeting, lawmaker Makiyama Hiroe of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party said the level of technical skill which is required to be granted permanent residency is very high. She said the new program is not likely to largely increase the number of people with permanent resident status. The lawmaker said making it possible to revoke permanent residency based on a wrong assumption is unreasonable.

Justice Minister Koizumi Ryuji responded that whether the number of permanent residents increases or not, improper actions will be rectified.

Koizumi said he hopes to win support for the revised legislation which would be the basis for the appropriate handling of immigration controls.

He suggested that his ministry plans to draw up guidelines regarding the revocation of permanent residency to seek better understanding of the revision.