Japan’s caregiving sector eyes workers from Nepal

Japan, renowned for its high elderly population, is eying to employ Nepali workers to fill the labour shortage in the caregiving sector.

Makoto Ishii, president and chief executive officer at Nihon Care Quality, which runs 18 group homes and two private retirement homes, said that over the years, the number of youths interested in working in the caregiving sector has declined in Japan.

“Foreign nursing care workers have become indispensable to Japan,” said Ishii at a programme organised in Kathmandu on Monday.

Established in August 2002, the Nihon Care Quality currently has 436 staff, 53 of whom are foreigners, including 12 Nepalis.

It provides services for the elderly, people with disabilities, and the needy, especially for those with dementia.

According to the World Health Organisation, dementia is a term for several diseases that affect memory, thinking, and the ability to perform daily activities. It mostly affects older people.

Japan opened up its labour market to Nepalis as specified skilled workers in March 2019 after the two countries signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to send Nepali workers with the status of residence.

Though the country was expected to recruit Nepalis in 14 sectors, nursing care, agriculture, food and beverage manufacturing, and the food service industry among others, the machine parts and tooling industries, industrial machinery industry and electric, electronics and information industries were merged into one field in May last year.

Nepali workers, however, have been hired in a few sectors–mostly in nursing care.

Japan does not discriminate between Japanese and foreign workers in terms of work, salaries and benefits, Ishii claimed.

“The basic salary for nursing caregivers begins at Rs160,000 monthly,” Ishii said. “The caregiver gets an additional Rs5,000 for a night shift.”

The company bears 50 percent of their accommodation cost, which normally is Rs50,000 per month, he said. “The caregivers can further reduce their accommodation cost by sharing an apartment.”

Though caregivers need to clear an examination in Japan to become certified nurses, those who happen to be licensed nurses in their country can get as much as Rs225,000 in basic salary, depending on the company.

The workers are also provided with a bonus, twice a year, besides an allowance from the government and pay rise every year.

After working for three years and a six-month long training, the caregivers can sit for an examination to become certified nurses. The company bears the cost for workers to appear in such examinations.

A certified nurse gets a raise of Rs25,000 in their monthly salary.

Though the specified skilled workers can work in Japan for as long as five years, the Japanese authorities plan to allow the caregivers to apply for permanent residency in the country after working for five years and becoming certified nurses, according to Ichiro Kiryu, chief executive officer at Human-i, a placement company in Japan.

“The authorities plan to ease the entry by making the examination system more flexible, but tighten the rules for caregivers to change the company in the coming days,” said Kiryu. “Japan is expected to hire an estimated 345,000 foreign workers over a period of five years ending March 2024.”

Kiryu argued that a lack of preparation from the Nepali side might have hindered the hiring of the workers in all the sectors under the specified skilled workers scheme.

Citing the United Nations Population Division, the World Economic Forum said in February that the number of people aged 65 and older is expected to double over the next three decades, reaching 1.6 billion in 2050.

Asia is at the forefront of this trend, with Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan expected to have the highest share of people aged 65 and older by 2050, the forum said.

Along with nursing care, the discussion has also begun for the hiring of dental care workers.

Buddhi Man Shrestha, chairman of Kantipur Dental College Teaching Hospital and Research Centre, said that it would be a good opportunity for Nepali dental hygienists if Japan would hire them.

Ishii from Nihon Care Quality agreed with Shrestha.

“We understand the necessity of oral health services in care homes,” Ishii said. “It is up to the governments of Nepal and Japan to form a policy for this purpose.”

Published on: 23 May 2023 | The Kathmandu Post


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