Foreign nurses deserve helping hand

Given the serious shortage of medical and nursing care workers and nurses, lifting certain restrictions so qualified foreigners in these fields can apply their skills in this country is an obvious solution.

In its fourth basic immigration control policy plan compiled late last month, the Justice Ministry stated it would reexamine the mandatory limit on the length of time foreign nurses and dentists can work in Japan when they hold residential status.

Even if non-Japanese qualify to work as a nurse or dentist after passing state exams, they are not permitted to work here for more than seven years and six years, respectively. A four-year limit is imposed on public health nurses and midwives.

Many foreigners with such qualifications desire to continue working in Japan beyond the set limits. Their aspirations are rightful in view of the fact that they have passed national exams and conquered the Japanese language barrier.

The limits on working years for non-Japanese were mostly probably introduced out of concern that Japanese might be deprived of working opportunities. The restrictions have been criticized as excessive for years. The time limit for foreign doctors was dropped four years ago.

Speed up ordinances’ review

The ministry plans to revise relevant ordinances to abolish time restrictions on all remaining medical professions, including nurses. This is a necessary corrective step. We want the ministry to accelerate its work on revising these ordinances.

The ministry’s fourth basic immigration control plan incorporates a policy to study accepting foreigners in the nursing care field on condition they graduate from universities in Japan and pass state exams.

The population of elderly people requiring nursing care is growing at an ever-quickening pace. The nation has about 1.24 million nursing care workers today; estimates suggest the nation will need almost double that number in 2025.

Meanwhile, many Japanese who have earned qualifications as care workers then opt to work in another field. The physical and emotional demands of a career in nursing care, combined with the low pay, often are too much to bear.

To alleviate the manpower shortage in nursing care, the first step is to improve the working environment for Japanese. However, there is a limit to just how quickly the ranks of Japanese nursing care workers can be increased. Because of this, opening the door to foreign nursing care givers is the right decision.

Remove language barrier

More help also should be extended to the people from Indonesia and the Philippines whom Japan has been accepting as candidates to work as certified nurses and care workers based on economic partnership agreements with the two countries.

National exams for nurses and nursing care workers are dotted with difficult kanji. Last month, 254 foreigners took the exam for nurses, but only three passed.

Indonesian and Philippine examinees have acquired licenses and expertise as nurses and nursing care workers in their home countries. Considering that the pass rate for Japanese examinees stands at nearly 90 percent, the extremely low success rate for foreign examinees can be most probably be attributed to the kanji barrier.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is reexamining the content of national tests. The revisions include replacing difficult terms with easier ones, such as “jokuso” [褥瘡] with “tokozure” [床擦れ] to mean bedsores.

We welcome this move. But the ministry should go a step further and print kana readings alongside kanji and allow examinees to use dictionaries in their exams.