• Kyodo News

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A total of 16 Indonesian and Filipino nurses passed the Japanese qualification examination in February, paving the way for them to stay in Japan, the health ministry said Friday.

The group accounts for only 4 percent of all foreigners who took the exam, up about a point from last year, when a mere three candidates passed, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

Under bilateral free-trade agreements Japan concluded with Indonesia and the Philippines, nurses from the countries are allowed to work in Japanese hospitals for three years and stay if they can pass the exam in that period.

The kanji and technical terms used in the original exam are said to be a considerable hurdle to foreign applicants. The three who passed the exam in February 2010 were the first to succeed.

Starting with last month’s exam, the ministry rephrased difficult expressions so they were easier to understand and added English translations for medical terms, including disease names, to make it easier.

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