Japan's Diet has passed a bill aimed at replacing the technical intern system for foreign nationals with a new training program.

The bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and relevant legislation was approved at the Upper House plenary session on Friday, with a majority in favor. The main ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito, as well as the Japan Innovation Party and others, supported the bill. The Constitutional Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and others voted against it.

The new program aims to train foreign interns to reach the level of "specified skilled worker" in three years, in principle.

Foreign trainees will be accepted in fields that are experiencing labor shortages such as nursing care, construction and agriculture.

Interns will be allowed to switch employers in the same sector under certain conditions. Currently, they are not allowed to change their employers, in principle.

The bill would enable the government to revoke permanent resident status in cases of intentional failure to pay taxes and other public dues. A related provision states that living conditions will be taken into consideration in cases that involve the revoking of the status.

In a debate before the vote, Constitutional Democratic Party lawmaker Makiyama Hiroe argued that the bill is a man-made disaster, as it contains a provision on the possible revocation of permanent residency.

She said the bill symbolizes the stance of Prime Minister Kishida Fumio's Cabinet of resisting attempts to achieve a more inclusive society.

Shimizu Takayuki, a lawmaker of the Japan Innovation Party, said the current technical intern program urgently needs to be improved, as human rights issues and some other problems have been pointed out. He said he does not believe the bill can solve all the problems with the system, but he thinks it will be a step forward.

The revised legislation will take effect by 2027.


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