Nursing Care Fees: Continue Increasing Wages for Workers Through Fee Raises

As the population continues to age and the demand for nursing care keeps growing, there is a serious shortage of nursing care workers. In order to increase the number of such workers and improve the quality of services, it is necessary to make efforts to raise their wages and reduce the burden on them.

The details regarding the revision of nursing care fees starting in April have been decided. This will be reflected in the fee structure covered by nursing care insurance for the next three years.

At the end of last year, the government decided on a policy to raise overall nursing care fees by 1.59%, including 0.98% for increasing the wages of nursing care employees.

As a specific measure based on the policy, the government will provide businesses that have worked to improve the treatment of their workers a further increase in nursing care fees. Through this measure, the government expects the base salary of nursing care workers to increase by 2.5% in fiscal 2024 and 2% in fiscal 2025.

The average monthly salary of nursing care workers is about ¥290,000, about ¥70,000 less compared to the average of all other industries. The low wage level for the heavy responsibility of working with the elderly is one of the reasons for the shortage of personnel.

It is estimated that by 2025, when all baby boomers will be 75 or older, there will be a shortage of about 320,000 nursing care workers. It is hoped that a salary increase will help secure personnel.

The labor shortage is having a negative impact on the management of home nursing care service providers. According to Tokyo Shoko Research, Ltd., a private credit research firm, there were a record 67 cases of bankruptcy among home nursing care service businesses last year. A sampling survey conducted by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry also found that nearly 40% of such operators were in the red.

There are a number of businesses that have been forced to reduce the number of visits to the homes of elderly people due to the inability to secure home caregivers, and as a result, their business has become unstable. The government must not leave it entirely to the service providers to deal with the shortage of employees.

Although the number of foreign workers in nursing care facilities is increasing, the government does not allow them to work in visiting nursing care services at the homes of the elderly. This is because, in addition to the language barrier, concerns have been voiced that issues such as harassment might arise during one-on-one situations.

In situations in which multiple staff members are involved, including Japanese staff, such as bathing elderly people at their homes, it might be possible to consider utilizing foreign personnel.

The government is encouraging using information and communication technology in nursing care services. In its latest revision of the nursing care fees, the government has decided to provide more fees to establishments that have installed sensors and other devices that monitor an elderly person if they roll over while sleeping or fall out of bed. This is intended to reduce the burden on nursing care staff.

Some have suggested that the current government standard of allocating one staff member for three elderly persons, in principle, should be relaxed through using advanced technology such as nursing care robots. This will be an issue for future consideration.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 21, 2024)