A recent Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry estimate serves as a reminder that Japan will face an acute shortage of nursing care workers as the aging of its population accelerates in coming years. The government must redouble its efforts to deal with the chronic labor shortage in the nursing care industry, including steps to improve the working conditions of nursing care staff.

According to the estimate, the nation will need 2.53 million nursing care workers in fiscal 2025, when the youngest members of the postwar baby boomer generation turn 75. The nation had 1.77 million nursing care workers, including part-time staff, in 2013. To meet the target, 800,000 more workers will be needed over the coming decade. But unless the current pace of increase picks up, the number of nursing care workers will fall short of demand by 380,000.

A serious labor shortage is forecast to materialize even sooner. It's estimated that as early as in fiscal 2017, the gap will reach 120,000 and, unless effective steps are taken to secure more nursing care workers, it will widen to 200,000 in 2020. The estimated shortage will be more acute in some prefectures, including those in the northern Kanto region, which are forecast to face an exodus of manpower to Tokyo.