To cope with Japan’s graying society, more universities and colleges will offer courses to train nursing care and social welfare specialists, according to an advisory panel to the education minister.

According to the University Chartering and School Juridical Person Council, the ministry has approved 18 universities and seven junior colleges to set up new departments for nursing care and social welfare fields.

Despite the shrinking school-age population, five new public and 13 private universities as well as one new public and three private junior colleges will open in the 1999 academic year. Of these new schools, 11 will include nursing and social welfare departments. Most of the new universities will manage to open by shutting or scaling down existing junior colleges.

The increased emphasis in nursing and social welfare fields reflects the nation’s concern over the rising number of senior citizens. The Health and Welfare Ministry estimates that one in five Japanese will be age 65 or older by 2010 and one-third will be by 2050.

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