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     Apr 24, '14

Aging Japan seeks more foreign workers
By Suvendrini Kakuchi

Desperate for more workers to support a construction boom, Japan has proposed to expand its controversial foreign trainee program to permit more unskilled labor from Asia to work in Japanese companies for five years from the current three years.

The internship plan launched in 1993 invites foreign trainees to

work in Japanese companies under the slogan of learning new technologies before returning home, but it is ridden with problems.

More than 200 companies were reported in 2012 for abuses such as low pay and long working hours for foreign workers. Activists view the trainee system as a blatant stop-gap measure to counter Japan's aging population - a quarter of its 130 million people are aged more than 65. From a peak of 83 million workers in 1995, their number had fallen by almost five million in 2012.

The construction industry badly needs foreigners for jobs such as plasterers and mold makers.

The government has now proposed a plan for trainees to extend their visas by two years for ''designated activities'' to pave the way for employment for trainees. Labor activists say the move is suspiciously timed for Japan to host Olympics 2020, and that it will do little for the stated policy of the trainee system to exchange technology with developing countries. More ...

(Inter Press Service)




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