About 590 Filipino women have come to Japan to work in the nursing care industry but are in dire financial straits and ineligible for public support under the Japan-Philippines economic partnership agreement.
These people do not receive public assistance in Japan for their language studies or nursing care training, and often arrive in debt due to travel expenses and put up with severe working conditions to pay it off, according to a survey conducted by Kyodo News.
Japan is accepting prospective nurses and caregivers from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam under separate free trade agreements, but many struggle to pass the tough national language test.
Since 2008, when the first of these bilateral FTAs took effect, about 1,540 applicants from the three countries have come to Japan for training. About 830 have since returned because they failed the language test, their visas expired or other reasons.
Separately, however, 590 Filipinas arrived in Japan through privately run recruitment agencies in the Philippines. Many are single mothers of children with Japanese fathers.
Observers say Japan must consider how to provide adequate support to those not covered by FTAs to maintain the quality of the services they perform.
Foreigners account for a tiny percentage of the 1.49 million caregivers in Japan, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
But given the government’s policy of adding the nursing care sector to a list of industries that can accept foreign trainees under a program originally intended to transfer Japanese technology to developing countries, more nursing care facilities may be seeking foreigners to cope with the labor shortage caused by the rapidly graying population.
An official of Shin-Nikkeijin Network Association Inc., a nonprofit organization that sends Filipino care workers to Japan, said it has received several thousand inquiries from people seeking jobs in Japan.
Nursing care facilities that accept foreign workers other than through the FTA schemes are basically responsible for offering them language and nursing care training.
Some facilities offer them a year of training before they come to Japan on the condition that they promise to work in Japan for three years, while others require foreigners to acquire a Japanese proficiency standard as high as those hired through an FTA.