33 foreign care workers go home; test too difficult

Thirty-three Filipinos and Indonesians who came to Japan to work as nurses and nursing care workers have returned home after becoming discouraged by their slim prospects of passing the national exams for their professions, it has been learned.

Eleven went home after learning they had failed the latest annual nursing exam. Only 1.2 percent of foreign applicants have passed the exam.

More would-be nurses and care workers could decide to return home after becoming discouraged by the language barrier in the exams, according to observers.

The government plans to review the exams’ format, including the language and terminology used.

Since fiscal 2008, 998 nurses and care workers have arrived in Japan under bilateral economic partnership agreements with the Philippines and Indonesia.

No foreign applicant passed last year’s exams, as they apparently had difficulty understanding kanji and technical terms written in Japanese. This year, only three passed the nursing exam.

The 33 trainees who returned home were among the 880 who arrived in fiscal 2008 and 2009. They comprised 15 Indonesians, including 12 nurses, and 18 Filipinos, including 11 nurses.

According to the Japanese International Corporation of Welfare Service, which oversees the program, 118 nurses and care-givers arrived this fiscal year.

Under the bilateral agreements, the nurses are given help learning Japanese and preparing for the exams while working at hospitals and care facilities in the nation.

Applicants can take the exam when they are deemed to have professional skills and knowledge equal to those of graduates of Japanese nursing schools or university nursing science departments.

These foreigners can work in Japan as certified nurses or care workers only if they pass the exams within three or four years of arriving here, respectively. They can only work in limited trainee nurse roles until they pass the exam: If they fail to pass the exam before the three- or four-year term expires, they must return home.

An expert panel of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry this month discussed measures to alleviate the problem, such as using simpler alternatives to difficult technical terms in the nursing exams.

The panel will draw up proposals as soon as next month.