Government earmarks funds to deal with caregiver shortage

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

A crisis in nursing care is brewing. The government estimates that the nation will be short of 300,000 professional caregivers by 2025, when postwar baby boomers will be 75 or older and many will need regular care.

The health ministry says Japan will need 2.5 million caregivers by then to look after the “dankai no sedai” (lump generation), and attaining that figure will require a drastic shift in policy to promote caregiving as a career, a ministry official told the Japan Times.

But the nursing care industry, which includes assisting the elderly and other people with special needs either in their homes or in dedicated facilities, has a negative image.

A 2010 Cabinet Office survey found that 65.1 percent of respondents believe the work of a caregiver is tough both physically and mentally, while 54.3 percent said the profession pays too little. A further 12.5 percent said caregivers risk getting stuck in the role and are unable to advance their careers later on.

To improve the profession’s image and indeed improve conditions for current workers, the official said, the government will spend ¥90.4 billion from the fiscal 2015 budget on the caregiving industry and other medical services including support for medical institutions, of which nursing care itself will secure ¥72.4 billion.

The official said the ministry is determined to support the industry and to nurture would-be caregiving professionals in 2015, which will be the first year the special budget will be used for caregiving.

He said promotional events will include workshops for people ranging from students to middle age to learn about job prospects. Current caregivers will be given opportunities to develop their careers and, it is hoped, renew their motivation.

The nursing care industry in Japan has high turnover, hemorrhaging valuable staff. The health ministry says 16.6 percent of caregivers decided to quit their job in fiscal 2013.

The high turnover in part reflects workers who marry or become parents and are reluctant to resume the profession afterward. But it also represents a fundamental dissatisfaction with the management and patterns of work at care facilities, according to a 2012 survey conducted by the Center for Social Welfare Promotion and National Examination.

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