The number of foreign students enrolling in nursing care schools has nearly doubled this academic year amid a labor shortage in the heath care sector, according to the Japan Association of Training Institutions for Certified Care Workers.
The rise in the number of foreign students started in 2015, and gained momentum following a legal amendment last September making it easier for certified caregivers to obtain residential status, the association said Monday.
The latest figure means one in six nursing care students in Japan is foreign, as the number of Japanese students fell by half over the last five years to 5,714 as of April, according to a survey conducted by the association on 365 institutions with nursing care programs, including vocational schools, junior colleges and universities.
Japanese students appear to be steering clear of care giving jobs. The sector’s average monthly wage is about ¥100,000 less than in other industries.
Of the foreign students, the most were from Vietnam, at 542, followed by those from China, at 167; Nepal, at 95; Indonesia, at 70; and the Philippines, at 68.
The government has been trying to expand its use of foreign workers in the sector, as it is expecting to see a shortage of 340,000 caregivers in 2025 when those in the boomer generation reach age 75 or above.
But it is unclear whether the nation will be able to continue to cultivate growth in foreign student numbers, as other countries such as Germany, Britain, the United States and Singapore are also looking for foreign workers in the health care sector.
Japan needs to provide a more attractive work environment, with benefits such as higher wages and support for child-rearing, to keep attracting foreign caregivers, said Miku Ishibashi of the Daiwa Institute of Research.
“The increase in international student enrollment is a good thing, but at the same time we hope many Japanese students will become interested in becoming caregivers,” an official at the association said.