Foreign care workers take exam for first time

Kyodo

Non-Japanese hoping to become care workers for the elderly and handicapped took the government’s certification test for the first time Sunday.

The candidates included 94 Indonesians who came to Japan in 2008 to prepare for the exam and a Filipino who arrived in 2009. They were tested together with Japanese candidates.

In addition to the exam, obtaining the license requires experience working as a care worker for at least three years in Japan. All the non-Japanese were employed as care workers while studying for the test.

Since the foreign candidates are allowed to stay in Japan for only four years to qualify for the exam, the fourth year provides the only opportunity to take it. Once a candidate passes, he or she is allowed to renew stay permits indefinitely.

As an exceptional measure, the government will extend the stay permits of foreign care worker candidates by a year if they score reasonably well on Sunday’s exam, allowing them to retake the test next year.

The move reflects the low pass rate for foreign candidates, who must take a separate test to get licensed as a certified nurse.

But many candidates who fail the nursing exam, which has been held since 2009, return to their home countries even if they are allowed to stay longer for a second chance.

The overall pass rate for the care workers has been about 50 percent each year.

Japan started accepting the candidates as part of two bilateral Economic Partnership Agreements signed with the Philippines and Indonesia. The accords let Japan benefit from reduced or removed tariffs on its goods in return for accepting qualified nurse and caregiver candidates.