Japan Starts Talks to Ease Foreign Care Worker Rules

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A welfare ministry panel Monday started discussions to increase the types of work foreign care workers can perform amid labor shortages in the elderly care service sector.

The panel of experts will examine whether to allow foreign workers to engage in home-visit care services, currently not permitted to them partly due to concerns about language barriers.

The panel, which held its first meeting Monday, plans to show the basic direction of an expected revision to the existing system by year-end.

Foreigners can work at elderly care facilities under Japan’s programs to accept foreign technical interns and foreign workers with specified skills.

But they are not allowed to engage in home-visit care services, involving assistance in bathing and eating, which are usually provided one on one to service users by care workers.

Care service providers call for reviewing the regulation amid labor shortages.

The technical intern training program limits care service providers that can secure foreign workers to facilities that have been in operation for at least three years.

Japan also has a rule limiting foreigners who can be counted as employees at elderly care facilities to those who have passed six months since the start of their practical training.

A different panel of experts has proposed abolishing the technical intern training program and establishing a new system to train and secure human resources from abroad.

The ministry panel will discuss these issues.

“It’s necessary to have discussions in light of the sharp decline in the working generation,” a participant said at Monday’s meeting, referring to the labor shortages in the care sector.

“We should keep in mind that our country is competing with others for foreign human resources,” another participant said.

According to the welfare ministry, Japan will need an estimated 2.8 million elderly care workers in fiscal 2040. The country will face a significant shortfall unless workers increase significantly.