Devise Ways to Increase Number of Workers who Provide Valuable Services

As the population continues to age, labor shortages in the nursing care field are becoming increasingly serious. Japan must not only accept more foreign nationals who provide valuable services, but also make efforts to improve working conditions for the entire nursing care industry.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has established a study group of experts to review the rules of employment for foreign workers in the nursing care field. A report will be compiled this year.

There were 2.11 million people working in the nursing care field in fiscal 2019. It is said that 2.8 million nursing care workers will be needed in fiscal 2040, meaning there is a shortfall of 690,000 personnel.

Out of such a sense of urgency, the government added nursing care to the foreign technical intern training program in 2017 and established the new status of residence of specified skilled worker in 2019 to recruit nursing care workers. As a result, the number of foreign workers in the nursing care field has gradually increased to 44,000.

The nursing care industry, which is chronically short of workers, has no choice but to rely on the help of foreign staff. It is necessary to find ways to steadily take in personnel.

A focus of the study group’s discussions is whether to allow foreign workers to provide home-visit services, such as assisting with meals and bathing at the homes of nursing care service users.

There are no restrictions on the work that foreign nationals can engage in if they qualify as a government-certified care worker. However, foreign technical intern trainees and foreign workers in the specified skilled worker category who have not attained the government certification are not allowed to provide home-visit services.

Even between Japanese nursing care service users and Japanese workers, cases of sexual harassment and other problems have occurred during some home-visit services, which involve one-on-one care at the home of the user, for example. Such trouble might be more likely to occur with foreign technical intern trainees and others whose Japanese language skills are poor. This is the reason they are not allowed to provide such services.

If foreign nationals in the specified skilled worker and related categories are allowed to provide home-visit nursing care services, they may need to have not only nursing care skills and knowledge, but also a certain level of Japanese language ability. The government should establish clear standards so that home-visit service users will not feel uneasy.

In addition, home-visit services include some tasks in which multiple staff members are needed, such as assisting with bathing. If there is a Japanese staff member, it would not be a problem for a foreign worker to join the staff.

What is important is to create an environment that enables foreign nationals to work in the Japanese nursing care field for a long time.

The hope is that nursing care service operators will focus on improving training and Japanese language education so that foreign workers can become certified nursing care workers. It is vital for the government to support such efforts.

In the first place, to increase the number of nursing care workers it is essential to improve their working conditions.

The fees paid to nursing care business operators under the nursing care insurance program are decided by the government. It is difficult to raise the wages of employees solely through the efforts of service providers. It is advisable for the government to consider raising the fees for nursing care services as well.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 18, 2023)