Caregiver Trainee Program Coming Up Short, but Options on Table also Daunting

Tomohiro Osaki
April 19, 2015
Japan Times

“Filipino caregiver Mary Grace Subardiaga gently wipes the runny nose of an elderly woman with dementia as she tries to feed her lunch at a Tokyo nursing home. The octogenarian patient responds with a tantrum. Unperturbed, Subardiaga moves a spoonful of curry to her mouth and tells her to chew well.

Subardiaga is one of the foreign caregivers who came to Japan last year under Japan’s economic partnership agreement with the Philippines, helping alleviate the labor shortage in the nursing care industry. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry estimates the nursing care industry will face a shortage of about 300,000 caregivers by 2025, but the EPA framework, which targets qualified nurses from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, is not enough to resolve the shortage. To lure more foreign nurses, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pursuing two other avenues: expanding a state-sponsored foreign internship program and creating a new visa status for foreign caregivers.

At a glance, this may seem like good news for non-Japanese looking for job opportunities in the nursing industry of the world’s most rapidly graying nation. But opponents are especially critical about expanding the maligned internship program, saying it is simply a way to exploit cheap foreign labor to make up for Japan’s labor shortage, including nurses and caregivers.”

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Mary Grace Subardiaga (lying down) and three compatriots learn how to remove a patient from a bed at the Asakusa Horai nursing home in Taito Ward, Tokyo, on April 8. | Photo Credit: YOSHIAKI MIURA

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