[Vietnam] Ineligible candidate passed new skilled worker status test

Since the introduction of the Specified Skilled Worker residence status, which came into effect in April to allow companies nationwide to employ more non-Japanese workers, a foreign trainee who did not meet the eligibility requirements has sat for and passed the skills test to attain the new status, it has been learned.

The test result of the trainee in question is expected to be nullified.

This situation is believed to have been caused by the lack of information about the testing requirements in languages other than Japanese, and test facilitators’ failure to verify the qualifications of the test-takers, exposing a faulty system that was hastily put together.

Thus far, skills tests have been held overseas for care workers, and domestically for workers in the food service and accommodation industries, with about 2,000 trainees earning passing marks.

A 25-year-old male trainee from Vietnam was the one who passed the test despite being ineligible. He moved to Japan in 2016 and was in training at a factory in the Chugoku region that produces premade food items when he attended the second skills test for food service workers in June.

The Immigration Services Agency has released guidelines prohibiting trainees who are still in training or have left the company at which they had been training from taking the tests for the Specified Skilled Worker. Those who have passed the exam despite being ineligible will not be granted Specified Skilled Worker status.

Trainees who have completed their training programs, however, have the option of changing their status to Specified Skilled Worker without needing to take a test, provided they remain in the same occupational category in which they have trained.

Trainees who make this switch are expected to account for roughly half of all Specified Skilled Worker status holders.

Japan’s system for providing technical training to foreign workers is in part guided by the principle of “serving the international community,” something it does by encouraging workers to use the skills they have gained in Japan to aid in the development of their home countries.

Trainees who are in Japan with Technical Intern Trainee residency status are presumed to be acquiring skills in line with their training programs. This is why workers who are currently in Japan under Technical Intern Trainee status, and are thus presumed to be acquiring skills in line with their training programs, are deemed ineligible for the Specified Skilled Worker tests.

No verification of eligibility

However, the technical trainee system has been criticized throughout its existence as one that serves in practice as a source of cheap labor. Many of the trainees are working for minimum wage, and it is not uncommon for them to withdraw from the programs.

Meanwhile, although the information offered on the websites of the organizations that administer the tests for workers in the fields of food service and accommodations does include a list of the requirements for eligibility, the details are only offered in Japanese.

One of the requirements for Specified Skilled Worker status is to have passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test at level N4, the second lowest of the five levels.

However, the head of an employment agency that works primarily with foreign nationals expressed concerns.

“I doubt that someone at the N4 level would be able to read and understand the test information,” the agency head said.

According to the Tokyo-based Organization for Technical Skill Assessment of Foreign Workers in Food Industry, which facilitates the tests for food service workers, test-takers must present a residence card or passport as identification at the test location, but the organizers have not been going as far as to verify that those present for the tests meet all of the requirements for eligibility.

The organization said it would implement a method to verify that test-takers meet all of the visa eligibility requirements at locations where the tests are held.

While it is unclear as to whether any ineligible foreign workers have passed the test for the accommodations industry, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, which has jurisdiction over the matter, is said to be looking at ways to verify candidate eligibility at the time of application for the test.

The revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, in which the Specified Skilled Worker status was established, passed in December 2018 and came into effect on April 1. Even though there was criticism of inadequate deliberations over the new law in the Diet, the government was quick to pass and enact it as a measure to address the country’s acute shortage of workers.

‘I want to retake the test’

The Vietnamese trainee who passed the food service skills test spoke about the circumstances.

“I thought I’d be able to keep working in Japan. If I end up being ineligible, that would be unfortunate,” he said with his eyes downcast.

He was told about the Specified Skilled Worker status by a Vietnamese acquaintance on Facebook. He applied to take the test through the Yokohama restaurant management company at which his acquaintance worked, and received a test admission ticket shortly thereafter. However, he said he was unaware he did not meet the requirements for the visa.

In preparation for the test, he pored over a textbook after work and on his off days. He passed the N2 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, the second-highest level. His Technical Intern Trainee status is set to expire shortly, but he had been looking forward to continuing to work in Japan for up to five more years as a Specified Skilled Worker.

To be able to work in the food service industry, he will have to take the skills test again after he has completed his training. “Living in Japan is safe and convenient. Everyone here is kind. I want to retake the test and work in Japan.”

Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun
Published on 21 August 2019
Link: https://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0005952733

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