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Japan will accept 400 nurses and 600 caregivers from the Philippines under the bilateral free-trade agreement signed over the weekend, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Monday.

Tokyo gave the numbers to Manila, which accepted them, ministry officials said.

“These are realistic and appropriate numbers that will not have any negative effects on the domestic labor market,” Tetsuo Tsuji, vice labor minister, told a news conference.

The first group of Filipino workers would be allowed to come to Japan in the beginning of fiscal 2007, which begins April 1, if the two countries can quickly complete all the procedures, including parliamentary ratification of the pact, the officials said.

Nurses and caregivers will have to pass exams in Japanese to be certified to work here.

According to the ministry, Filipinos who want to work in these professions will be required to take Japanese-language lessons for six months when they arrive.

They will then undergo specialized training to work at Japanese hospitals and facilities for the elderly.

After arriving, nurses will have three years to pass the licensing exam and people who want certification to work as caregivers will be required to pass the exam within four years.

People who pass the exams will be allowed to work in Japan indefinitely.

Observers said the Japanese test requirement means that Filipino applicants will have to have the same level of linguistic capability as their Japanese counterparts.

Therefore, they said, it’s not clear how many of the 1,000 Filipinos allowed into the country under the FTA will be allowed to stay.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed the FTA in Helsinki on Saturday. The deal also scraps tariffs for 94 percent of bilateral trade value.

The pact is the first such deal committing Japan to accept foreign workers.

The deal might open the door to workers from other countries. Thailand and Indonesia have asked Japan to accept chefs and other professionals.

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