Health ministry panel urges allowing foreign caregivers to engage in elderly home care


A health ministry panel compiled plans Friday aimed at allowing potential foreign caregivers entering Japan under bilateral free trade agreements to take care of elderly patients at their homes.

The move to expand work opportunities for the foreign caregivers — currently limited to working in nursing care homes and other facilities — comes as the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry aims to address the acute labor shortage in Japan’s nursing care sector and its rapidly graying population.

The government may implement the proposal in fiscal 2017, sources familiar with the matter said. The panel said in its report that the caregivers should be allowed to engage in home care after passing the national qualification examination.

Foreign caregivers should be eligible to provide services for the elderly at their homes as long as they know the Japanese language and have a certain level of practical experience, the panel said, citing the need to avoid incidents that could be triggered by the language barrier.

Japan accepts caregivers from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam under bilateral free trade agreements, but they must sit for certification tests to continue working in Japan.

Around 2,100 trainees have arrived in Japan from the three Southeast Asian countries since fiscal 2008.

Under the bilateral deals, the current length of stay for prospective caregivers, who study for the exams while working at nursing care facilities, is four years. So far, more than 300 have passed the exams. Nursing care facility operators welcomed the move, saying it will give more opportunities for them to work.

“If they have the ability to pass the test on nursing care and Japanese language, there should be no problem for them to work here,” said Takeshi Kameo, who heads a care facility in the town of Yoichi, Hokkaido, which has accepted six Filipino nurses since 2009.

But of the six, two had returned to their home country due to marriage and other reasons, he said, adding that there aren’t many who stay long term.

  • GBR48

    So if you learn Japanese, which is no easy feat (and tougher the older you are), you can work for a maximum of four years, away from your family, in a tough, low-paid job, before being packaged off back home.

    OK, so the money is good if you come from an impoverished nation, but if you can learn Japanese you can probably put that educational ability to better use and learn something that gives you a career path with no time-limit, and you get to bring up your kids and be with your partner.

    Care work is traditionally poorly paid, often a minimum wage job. Even with the economic disparity between the 1st and 3rd worlds, I wonder if enough people are going to take the bait.

    There seems to be a belief within the government that there will always be enough people out there desperate to learn Japanese and travel far from home to serve the Japanese nation, making up any shortfall in low-paid employment. That’s plan A, with Hollywood-style robots for plan B.

    And all the while, the constant reports of the abuse of cheap foreign labour on assorted schemes are being reported back to home nations on news sites and via social media.

    If this was my government, I’d be concerned. Everything is being put off or watered down, from tax hikes to making arrangements for employment shortfalls, whilst public money is being shovelled into bizarre, fruitless attempts to turn the natural state of the Japanese economy into that of a developing nation to satisfy the financial markets and Japan Inc.

    The problem with having a political party that can win any election without even trying, is that there is no pressure on them to do stuff that actually works. In the long term, that can be catastrophic.

    • Charles

      Well said.

    • Charles

      Well said.