The government plans to give Filipinos and Indonesians seeking to become nurses and caregivers in Japan an extra year in the country to prepare for qualifying exams, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday.
The special measure is based on the low passing rates so far for the prospective health care workers from the two Southeast Asian countries, who eventually hope to gain employment here under bilateral free trade accords.
The move will benefit about 500 candidate nurses and caregivers who came to Japan without undergoing six-month-long Japanese language training sessions to help boost their chances of passing the qualifying exams.
In the face of a shortage of nurses and caregivers in Japan’s aging society, the candidates are given the chance to train and work in the country, but the language barrier, especially the use of kanji characters and technical terms in the exams, has been a major hurdle.
A one-year extension will be given to those who arrived in Japan in fiscal 2010-2012 without taking any Japanese language course, as well as to candidates who received short-term training of up to three months.
Currently, the length of stay for candidate nurses is three years and that of caregivers is four years. The candidates need to pass the exams within the designated period or else return home.
Since 2008, the government has accepted nurses and caregivers from Indonesia and the Philippines to train and, once they pass the required qualifying exams, to work in Japan as agreed under their FTAs.
The candidates study for the exams while working at Japanese hospitals and elderly care homes, but face extreme difficulty passing the tests.
In 2012, only 47 of the 415 test-takers passed the nursing exam, and 36 of 95 test-takers passed for the exam given for caregivers.
The government had already extended by one year the period of stay for those aspiring to be nurses and caregivers who arrived in Japan in fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2009.
Among the special measures implemented for this year’s exams to boost the pass rate for foreign applicants, the exam period was extended and there were “furigana” readings next to the kanji characters used in the exams.
Calls have been growing to accept non-Japanese nurses and caregivers because of the chronic labor shortage in these posts, given the hard work and relatively low pay.