Foreign nurse, carer intake slow / Facilities worried about extra burdens when hiring Indonesians

The Yomiuri Shimbun | Apr. 16, 2009

Foreign nurse, carer intake slow / Facilities worried about extra burdens when hiring Indonesians

The number of nurses and caregivers Japanese facilities have applied to accept from Indonesia in fiscal 2009 was only about 20 percent of the anticipated number as of early April, it has been learned.

The slow intake is believed to stem from concerns by hospitals and nursing care facilities about the obligations they would take on in accepting Indonesian nurses and caregivers, such as having to teach them Japanese.

The Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services (JICWELS), which is tasked with assisting Indonesian nurses and caregivers accepted by Japanese facilities, is working hard to persuade them to accept more such workers. The organization also extended the application deadline for the facilities to apply for Indonesian workers to be accepted from April 3 to 20.

Under a bilateral economic partnership agreement signed by Japan and Indonesia in August 2007, Japan is supposed to accept 1,000 Indonesian nurses and care workers over a two-year period. However, due to a lack of preparation, only about 200 Indonesian nurses and caregivers arrived in Japan in the first year. Japan therefore needs to accept about 300 nurses and 500 caregivers from Indonesia this fiscal year to meet the target.

According to sources, several thousand Indonesians have requested to go to Japan under the scheme, about 960 of whom passed a screening process conducted by the Indonesian government. They were scheduled to attend briefing sessions in Jakarta and other cities in late April.

However, as of April 1, Japanese facilities had requested only 169 Indonesian workers. Twenty-nine hospitals applied to accept a total of 65 nurses, and 45 nursing care facilities said they would accept a total of 104 caregivers.

In addition to extending the application period, JICWELS also postponed the briefing sessions until May.

Foreign nurses need to pass the national examination of nurses within three years, while foreign caregivers have four years to pass their respective national examination after arriving in Japan through the EPA if they wish to continue working in Japan. Failing candidates have to return to their home country.

As well as paying the same salary to Indonesian nurses and caregivers as Japanese workers, the hospitals and nursing care facilities also have to teach Japanese to Indonesian workers and offer them time to study for the national examination. Officials of the facilities therefore say they need an incentive if they are to bear the additional burden in accepting such workers.

The director of one special nursing home in Tokyo decided not to accept Indonesian care workers for two years in a row.

"We need to prepare full-time instructors if we accept Indonesian caregivers—one to teach Japanese and another to train them," the director said. "That’s very difficult when we’re suffering from staff shortages."

Eisei Hospital in Hachioji, western Tokyo, accepted two Indonesian nurses last year and is requesting another two nurses this year.

Miyoko Miyazawa, an adviser to the hospital, said: "It’s true that hospitals have to bear most of the burden under the current system. But as the number of students entering vocational schools for nursing or caregiving decreases in Japan, we have to think how to secure high quality human resources in the long term. The costs are an investment in the future."

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said it was inevitable there would be a heavy burden on receiving facilities because the main purpose of accepting Indonesian nurses and caregivers is to foster future human resources.

However, the ministry is determined to ensure the number of Indonesian nurses and caregivers coming to Japan does not fall too far below the 1,000 mark, and it already has started approaching hospitals and nursing care facilities about accepting such workers.

In May, meanwhile, nurses and caregivers will arrive in Japan from the Philippines. Japan plans to accept 200 nurses and 250 caregivers from the country. There have been 301 caregivers requested by nursing care facilities, but only 145 nurses have been requested by hospitals.

source: Yomiuri Shimbun