30 more Filipino caregivers bound for Japan this month

by Dario Agnote

Kyodo News

MANILA — The Japanese Embassy in Manila has awarded certificates to 30 Filipino health workers who won scholarships entitling them to free language and skills training for caregivers in Japan.

Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Makoto Katsura distributed the certificates to the 30 care workers on Sept. 18. They are the second group of Filipino health workers to be sent to Japan, and are scheduled to leave later this month.

The entry of Filipino nurses and caregivers is one of the main highlights of the 2006 Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement that took effect last December.

Katsura said there are two modes for Filipino health workers to enter Japan: the “employment track” and the “school track.”

Last May, he said, Japan agreed to accept 283 Filipino nurses and caregivers to Japan under the employment track. This time, he said, the 30 care workers are going under the school track.

The ambassador said the school track exists only for the economic partnership agreement between Japan and the Philippines. Japan has a similar agreement with Indonesia, but it only contains the employment track.

“It’s an innovative arrangement (between Japan and the Philippines) to increase the movement of natural persons across borders, and I hope it will add another building block to the strategic partnership between Japan and the Philippines,” he said.

Reydeluz Conferido, of the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment, said the 30 caregivers, the first batch under the school track, will leave Sunday for six months of language and skills training at six care facilities in Japan.

“These 30 care workers will be considered licensed ‘kaigofukushishi’ (care workers) after completing the course. In short, they can go to work immediately as licensed care workers in Japan,” Conferido said in a recent interview.

Unlike the first group of 283 Filipino health workers who left for Japan in May, he said, the 30 caregivers will not have to take the Japanese licensure examination.

“It’s a special track. This group of 30 will go to Japan primarily to study, while the 283 Filipino nurses and caregivers who left in May primarily went to Japan to work,” he said.

Osamu Yoshioka, of The Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship, urged the 30 candidate care workers to maintain a “wide view and flexible mind” when they get to Japan.

“Everything you need has already been prepared in Japan,” he told them, urging them to focus on their studies but to also make sure to make their lives fruitful while in Japan.

More than 100 Filipino health workers applied for the scholarship, but only 25 women and five men made the cut.

Lorraine Carino, 22, Sephanie Cayton, 22, and Kristoffer Rivera, 22 — all registered nurses in the Philippines — were among the lucky 25.

The three graduated and eventually passed the government licensure exam for nurses in the Philippines last year but failed to land hospital jobs.

The three said in separate interviews that they opted to grab the Japan offer even if they can only work there as care workers rather than as nurses.

“It’s better than staying at home here in the Philippines doing nothing,” Carino said.

Cayton has worked in a call center while waiting for a hospital job to come her way. She said that the allowance she will get in Japan is much higher than her 15,000 pesos ($312) salary as a call center agent in the Philippines. “At least in Japan I will be working at a health care facility,” she said.

Unlike Carino and Cayton, Rivera said he managed to gain six months’ hospital experience at a local hospital in Angeles City, north of Manila. But he said he actually paid 3,000 pesos ($63) to do volunteer work at the hospital.

“This offer by Japan is free. I get the experience for free. The only expense I incurred was my bus fare for coming here to Manila to complete the paperwork,” he said.

The three — all single and without hospital jobs in the Philippines — don’t mind working as caregivers in Japan.

“There are no jobs waiting for us here. We might as well seek our fortune in Japan. That way we can help our families,” Cayton said.