As part of efforts to alleviate a labor shortage in the elderly care sector, the welfare ministry plans to extend to fiscal 2026 special transitional measures that grant graduates of care courses provisional certification without the need to pass a national exam, ministry sources said Sunday.
Officials hope that extending the measures — originally scheduled to continue until fiscal 2021, which ends in March 2022 — will encourage an increasing number of foreign nationals to work in Japan after graduating from universities and vocational schools that offer training in elderly care, the sources said.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will submit a bill on the matter to the ordinary Diet session that convened for the first time Monday.
With Japan expected to face a shortage of around 340,000 care workers by 2025, when the youngest of the baby boomer generation will reach 75, the government is pinning its hopes on graduates from training schools having workplace-ready skills.
Ruling party lawmakers and related groups have expressed concern that the number of applying from overseas for elderly care courses will drop if the national exam is made compulsory. Others, however, argue that passing the exam is essential to ensuring the quality of care.
Foreign students admitted by training schools in April 2019 totaled 2,037, double the figure seen the year before, according to the Japan Association of Training Institutions for Certified Care Workers.
Students from Vietnam accounted for 1,142, followed by 212 from China, 203 from Nepal, 163 from the Philippines and 106 from Indonesia.
But the pass rate for the national exam has remained low among foreign nationals, who struggle with specialist terms in Japanese.
While the rate among care workers who are Japanese nationals hovers around 90 percent, the average pass rate for foreign nationals has been about 35 percent over the past two years.
“Even without passing the exam, (foreign care workers) perform well enough,” said a representative of the care workers’ association.
Previously, those who graduated from training schools were automatically eligible for certification. But a legal revision in 2016 made passing the state exam an additional prerequisite for those graduating in fiscal 2022 or later.
Special transitional measures effective during the five-year period from fiscal 2017 stipulate that graduates must pass the exam within five years of graduation or work in the field of elderly care for five years after graduation in order to maintain their certified status.