The trainees will receive wages, will come under the application of labor laws and will be able to enjoy the same treatment as their Japanese coworkers. However, they will not be allowed to undergo unlimited vocational training. Furthermore, only those deemed to have reached a certain proficiency by the evaluation of their technical ability would continue on-the-job training. The former foreign trainee system was a one-year program of lectures, including language study, plus practical training involving actual operations. The new system, on the other hand, has shortened the duration of the training period to 9 months and has added a one-year-and-three-month vocational training period under formal employment contracts. The new system represents a vast departure from the traditional definition of the trainee program: the trainee program should be implemented irrelevant to employment relations."
Under the new program, trainees will be given a skills test after they complete a 9-month long program consisting of three-months of lecture, including study of the Japanese language, and a six-month period of practical training. Those deemed to have reached a certain proficiency will be allowed to continue training for one year and three months. Those trainees who have completed lectures in their home countries will be able to shorten their training period to a minimum of six months. The training period is two years and cannot be extended. The system applies to those job categories which can be publicly evaluated: 133 jobs subject to technical ability tests and 16 subject to authorized technical ability examinations.
The new system is aimed at encouraging smaller firms in particular to accept foreign trainees. Currently, the number of trainees to be accepted is restricted to one twentieth of regular staff members at a firm, and thus the new system aims to relax these restrictions.
Ministry of Justice has incorporated a similar idea into its basic plans for immigration control. However, the two ministries do not allow acceptance of unskilled foreign workers. In business circles, Keizaidoyukai (Japan Committee for Economic Development; Head: Masaru Hayami) has unveiled a "new trainee program" to accept foreign workers.
In the Japanese labor market, it is expected that growth in the working population will slacken and that the absolute number of the labor force will decrease in the 21st century. Also, it is predicted that individuals' perception of living will be further changed away from emphasis on the workplace to an emphasis on realizing a life in which the workplace, the family and the rural community are well balanced. To respond properly to these changes, the Cabinet decided on July 10 upon the 7th Basic Employment Measures Plan. In step with a five-year economic plan for 1992-96, recommended by the Economic Council, the plan for the next five years aim to map out mid- and long-term employment measures.
The plan incorporates realization of 1,800 annual work hours through revision of the Labour Standards Law(LSL), spread of the home-care leave system, continued employment of the elderly and consolidation of an employment environment for women. The plan stresses the following three specific measures to attain the goal of 1,800 hours: first, switching to the 40-workweek through revision of the LSL; second, spreading and encouraging the five-day workweek and annual paid leave; and third, raising the rate of increase in wages for nonscheduled work.
To cope with the full-fledged graying of society, the plan calls for the 60-year-age limit to take firm root by 1993. Furthermore, the plan envisions establishment of an employment system which allows those elderly people wishing to work to continue to do so until age 65 and to this end, it calls for further diffusion of the continuous employment system. In addition, the plan seeks to strengthen the counseling system regarding enterprises' wages and personnel management adapted to employment of older persons. The plan also proposes active utilization of aid systems relevant to employment of the elderly. To assist elderly people in their efforts to find early reemployment, the plan calls for helping the employer hire older persons while also seeking to substantiate job placement and counseling functions to enable diversified forms of employment, such as short-time work.
Regarding female workers, the plan calls for study of treating both men and women workers equally under the LSL, particularly under those articles referring to general protective measures for women, with the exception of maternity protection measures. The plan proposes that special protective measures for women be reduced in coordination with women's shouldering of domestic burdens such as housekeeping and childcare and progress in improved conditions to enable women to combine a job with a family. What is more, the plan asks for implementation of public vocational training and service projects for preparing women for reemployment in response to their diversifying needs.
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