The health ministry has approved a plan to include nursing care under the technical intern training program for foreigners to help increase the number of foreign care workers and solve a labor shortage in Japan’s aging society.
The plan by a panel of experts calls for adding nursing care to skills under the training program in fiscal 2015 and start accepting foreign caregivers in April 2016 on condition the interns have some Japanese-language proficiency and nursing care expertise.
It will be the first time for a person-to-person service to be included in the training program, which covers 69 types of businesses, including agriculture, fishing and manufacturing. The program is designed for Japanese companies and business groups to accept young foreign workers to enable the transfer of industrial and other skills.
Based on opinions of nursing care business representatives, the government slightly eased requirements of Japanese-language proficiency compared with levels required in a draft plan released last Friday.
Under the plan approved Monday, foreign interns need to understand basic Japanese when they start training and will be required to grasp the language for everyday use to some extent at the start of the second training year.
Such foreign interns would be limited to 10 percent of full-time care workers at any facility that has up to 30 workers. Interns in the second training year or later will be allowed to work night shifts. They will not be allowed to visit individual homes to offer nursing care.
Japan currently accepts caregivers from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam under bilateral free trade agreements, but they must take certification tests to continue working in Japan as qualified workers.
The number of certified care workers from other countries has been limited to around 240 because of the language barrier.
Japan’s nursing care sector has been plagued with a chronic labor shortage, prompting growing calls for proactive acceptance of foreign care workers.