The welfare ministry has proposed to an expert panel a plan to conditionally allow foreign nationals to engage in home care services for the elderly.

Under the plan outlined Friday and aimed at expanding the scope of jobs available to such personnel and easing labor shortages in the sector, nursing offices that hire foreign staff will be obliged to provide them with necessary training programs.

Currently, foreign technical intern trainees and foreign workers with so-called specified skills are allowed to work at care facilities in the country. They are banned from engaging in home help services to provide one-on-one assistance to users, however, due to concerns about their Japanese communication skills.

The ministry will finalize the plan at a future meeting of the panel, hoping to lift the ban as early as fiscal 2024, which starts in April.

Personnel shortages among home-visit nursing care service providers are particularly serious, with the ratio of effective job openings to seekers standing at 15.53 in fiscal 2022, according to the ministry. The home care worker population is also aging.

The ministry put forward the plan to allow foreign workers to provide home-visit nursing care on condition that training programs are provided on communication skills and Japanese lifestyles, that dispatched foreign workers are accompanied by people involved in such services for a certain period and that guidelines are created to tackle harassment by service users.

Foreign nationals will be allowed to engage in home-visit bathing services provided by multiple workers if the necessary training is provided, according to the proposal.

Nursing offices will be asked to give careful explanations to users and their families when they dispatch foreign workers. A harassment consultation service will be provided in the native language of foreign personnel.