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  • Kyodo: “Foreign caregiver program faces tightening”: Death knell of program as J media finds ways to blame the gaijin?

    Posted by arudou debito on September 8th, 2012

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    Hi Blog.  Now let’s get back to some of Debito.org’s roasting chestnuts.  Let’s have a look at what’s becoming of Japan’s latest “revolving door” labor visa regime scam (after the “Trainees”, the “Nikkei Returnees”, and the “Points System”):  the “foreign caregivers“, which has ground to a halt due to the (otherwise fully-qualified) NJ health professionals themselves realizing that the systematic barriers were creating an exploitative regime.  So now according to Kyodo News it looks like it’s being scaled back.  But not without kicking someone in the ribs first.  As submitter JDG notes:

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    The foreign caregiver program was launched because there was a realization that the looming shortage of caregivers to meet Japan’s aging population had already arrived. However, as you have documented, from it’s inception it has been riddled with unrealistic expectations, low pay, harsh conditions, few incentives, and subject to some strange accounting.

    Well, here is the logical conclusion:  foreign caregivers are ‘gaijin criminals taking advantage of the system’. Rather than examining what is wrong with the system, the (of course) natural response by officials is to make the program even tougher to live with for caregivers. Only a Kyoto University Prof. seems to have any sense about him. I would say that this development will mark the end (in real terms) of the program. Of course, it’s all the NJ’s fault…

    =============================

    Read on.  Arudou Debito

    /////////////////////////////////////////////

    Foreign caregiver program faces tightening
    Kyodo News, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012
    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120804f1.html

    The program to enable Filipino and Indonesian care workers to work in Japan under free-trade agreements is at crossroads four years after its launch as Tokyo wavers over whether to tighten requirements for candidates in light of unexpected incidents that have run counter to the plan.

    In the latest case, a 37-year-old Indonesian candidate was arrested and deported for working illegally at an auto parts plant in Aichi Prefecture instead of at the nursing home in Okinawa to which she had been assigned, apparently because she had difficulty mastering the Japanese language.

    This came amid heightened public scrutiny of the program after it was reported that a number of candidate care workers had quit and returned to their home countries despite passing the qualification exam. They had been expected to work in Japan.

    “Work at the special nursing home for the elderly was tough,” the Indonesian caretaker was quoted as saying when questioned by immigration officers in Nagoya after her arrest.

    The woman came to Japan under the program in August 2010. After undergoing training, she began working at a special nursing home in Okinawa along with four other candidates in December of that year.

    Last December she briefly returned to Indonesia, saying she wanted to spend Christmas and New Year’s in her home country.

    She later re-entered Japan, but did not return to her workplace in Okinawa. Instead, she started working at the auto parts plant in Aichi in March.

    “We had no problem with her working attitude, although it seems she was troubled by the fact that she was lagging behind other candidates in terms of learning Japanese,” a staff member at the nursing home said. “I wish she would have come to us for consultation.”

    Caregivers who come to Japan under the program are allowed to stay in Japan for a maximum of four years until they pass the national exam. Before this summer, it was easy for them to apply for re-entry permits prior to making short trips to their home countries or for other travel outside of Japan.

    Under the new immigration control system that came into effect in July, foreigners working in the country are now allowed to exit and return within a year without obtaining re-entry permits.

    “A blind spot in the system has been taken advantage of,” a government official said on condition of anonymity. “Illegal employment absolutely came out of the blue.”

    Similarly, an immigration official in charge lamented that when an application for a re-entry permit is submitted, it is “impossible” to detect whether the applicant is going to engage in activities beyond the scope permitted under the applicant’s visa status.

    To remedy the situation, the government is considering revising the program’s prerequisites for entry into Japan, including requiring candidates to have a certain level of Japanese language skill. On the other hand, some are concerned that making the rules too stringent will go against the original aim of opening doors to foreign caregivers.

    Commenting on the issue, Wako Asato, a special associate professor at the graduate school of Kyoto University, criticized the government for failing to come up with a consistent policy as it sits on the fence between those supportive of the program and others wary of it.

    “How should Japan welcome and make good use of talented care workers from abroad? If the government does not present a clear stance on this, I believe we’ll be seeing more candidates giving up halfway or quitting to return home even after passing the exam,” the expert on migration said.

    According to Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services, the program’s intermediate coordinator agency based in Tokyo, a total of 1,562 care workers and nurses have come to Japan under the program. Of them, five became unaccounted for and authorities have not been able to confirm if they left the country.
    ENDS

    13 Responses to “Kyodo: “Foreign caregiver program faces tightening”: Death knell of program as J media finds ways to blame the gaijin?”

    1. Johnny Says:

      I somehow knew it would come to this. Japan being ‘let down’ by ungrateful workers from overseas.

    2. sendaiben Says:

      I like how she found it more attractive (and presumably, lucrative) to work in a factory than in her original workplace. Could there be a more damning indictment of conditions?

    3. Chris Dunn Says:

      I feel sorry for the elderly. Knowing that there are not enough Japanese people willing to look after them must be depressing. Care giving for a year should be compulsory for Japanese much the same as National Service is in some countries. The Japanese government wants NJ with a high level of Japanese proficiency, willing to work for peanuts, suffer who knows what discrimination on the job, work long hours, be away from their country, families and friends and to work exclusively in care giving. How bloody disrespectful.

    4. Charles Says:

      “Under the new immigration control system that came into effect in July, foreigners working in the country are now allowed to exit and return within a year without obtaining re-entry permits.

      “A blind spot in the system has been taken advantage of,” a government official said on condition of anonymity. “Illegal employment absolutely came out of the blue.”

      Similarly, an immigration official in charge lamented that when an application for a re-entry permit is submitted, it is “impossible” to detect whether the applicant is going to engage in activities beyond the scope permitted under the applicant’s visa status.”

      Can someone PLEASE enlighten me as to how the abolishment of reentry permits is related to illegal employment? Seriously?

      Okay, so this Indonesian left Japan, went back to Indonesia to visit her family, came back to Japan, and started an illegal job. The article is saying this is a “blind spot in the system” and talks about reentry permit laws. Ummm, WHY? How is what she did any different from simply staying in Japan and finding illegal employment without going back to Indonesia? In other words, how is the reentry permit thing relevant in any way?

      How is the trip back to Indonesia, or the reentry permit laws, relevant in any way to illegal employment?

      Let’s say that John robs a bank and steals $1,000,000. And that morning, he bought a pack of cigarettes. Clearly a “blind spot in the system” allowed him to rob a bank! Cigarettes should be banned! Yeah, that logic makes just about as much sense as this article.

      @Chris Dunn

      That’s not a bad idea. Other countries draft young people for the military, riot police, even teachers (China requires at least some young college graduates to teach for two years after graduation). Perhaps if Japan isn’t satisfied with the quality of nurses from Indonesia or the Philippines, they should simply draft Japanese people to do the job.

    5. Flyjin Says:

      So they are angry because she changed jobs? So they were hoping for an indentured servant tied to one job by one visa? Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that in Japan you owned your visa, not the company or organization that sponsored you, i.e. you are free to quit and go work somewhere else once you got your visa, or doesnt this apply to caregivers- in which case why the hell not?

      Well, we know why- because they are desperate for caregivers but the conditions are poor.

      I like this bit too; “a number of candidate care workers had quit and returned to their home countries despite passing the qualification exam. They had been expected to work in Japan.”

      Good for them on passing- but maybe they didnt want to be taken for granted? As I have said before, what is with this mafia attitude in Japan; you cannot leave, you MUST stay here and work for us!? It really does make one just pack bags and fly out.

      But this is could bethe start of something ominous: “Similarly, an immigration official in charge lamented that when an application for a re-entry permit is submitted, it is “impossible” to detect whether the applicant is going to engage in activities beyond the scope permitted under the applicant’s visa status.”

      Of course it is impossible. Lets say I work in Communist China as a teacher, but I also moonlight as a nightclub singer, in the larger cities no one bats an eyelid. On the other hand in Seoul the police have deputized concierges and station workers to report on foreigners who look like they might be repeatedly visiting an apartment building to teach (illegal) private English lessons- incredible but true.

      What with the rise in power of Ishihara junior and the army of ojisans with time on their hands being deputized to snoop on every street corner every time a G7 summit is held in Japan, I think it is quite possible that in the future NJs` every move will be reported to make sure none of us “engage in activities outside the scope of our visas” which will certainly make Japan an even less atttractive, dull and impoverished place. Rationalization taken to ridiculous extremes.

      “Sensei, can you teach me Cantonese?- “Sorry, my visa says I am only a Mandarin instructor!”

      – Re your first paragraphs above: Part of the “Trainee” Visa scam since 1990 was tying your visa to your workplace, making job transition impossible without losing your visa. It was one way, as you note, to indenture NJ, and it has become the template for cheap and servile NJ labor without any legal labor rights (as “Trainees” etc. have not until recently qualified as “laborers” (roudousha) under the Labor Standards Law).

    6. Flyjin Says:

      @ Debito above, then I really respect and like this 37 year old Indonesian for trying it on; she pretended to go on holiday but she was in reality leaving a crap job, in the very (lol) “Japanese”way of not stating her real intention directly. Then she figured, hey, I have a working visa, I may as well use it like non trainees do, to move on and get a better job.

      Conclusion; Japan cannot even force Indonesian trainees into working as indentured servants, welcome to the 21st century where capitalism cuts both ways; it is a human aspiration to get a better job and better working conditions. Stop exploiting.

    7. dude Says:

      Mr. Arudou – Thank you for this very interesting subject.

      As will continue to happen, the older Japanese people in charge came up in the current top-down system, so they have absolutely no idea
      a)that anyone could possibly have different values than them,
      b)that their way might not be attractive to ‘lowly’ foreigners, and
      c)that people (foreigners) would quit after investing so much time and energy in something, just because of some hardship (boredom? sense of hopelessness?).

      This is why change happens so slowly in Japan. Conditions are changing much faster than the heads of companies, and government leaders …. This program, like many things Japanese, is overly complicated, top heavy, bureaucratic, and managed/supervised by Japanese people who often want the dark-skinned foreigner to know their place (at the bottom). It is my firm belief (sorry – I have no specific evidence), based on decades of interaction with Japanese people on various levels, that the majority of the caregivers just don’t like the Japanese form of micro-management, especially by people who are probably less intelligent than they are…

      Think about it:
      The participants in the caregiver program achieve a very high degree of fluency in Japanese in a very short time. I assume this means they are neither lazy nor stupid.
      They then are trained to do a monotonous job, by Japanese people who probably had few other job choices.
      They are then micro-managed, nit-picked, and scoffed at – in the way Japanese sempai train (haze?) their kohai.
      Finally realizing that they are at the bottom rung of society (Japanese and their workplace), and that they will stay at the bottom because they are NJ, even though they may be smarter than their bosses, they leave.

      Many of you who have white-collar jobs might not realize just how stressful it is to work for blue-collar Japanese people. The belittling comments don’t get easier over time.

      Of course, my comments above are just my opinion. But I think I nailed it…

      Thanks for letting me vent!

      Cheers!

    8. Charuzu Says:

      Chris Dunn #3.

      I agree with your thought. Some European countries have such national service.

      The article notes that 5 of the 1,562 care workers and nurses who have come to Japan under the program are missing.

      The fact that this raises public concern betrays the deep fear and loathing towards NJ.

      Such fear and loathing triumphs above a duty of care towards the elderly.

      I might expect that J would institute national service amongst young people with the duty to serve in the migration agency and expel foreigners.

      I suspect that such national service would be more popularly welcome than service to the elderly.

    9. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      I’m curious as to the exact nature of the Indonesian caretaker’s visa, and what employment it covered. And again, if she was in fact employed illegally in a factory, why aren’t we hearing about “factory management using illegal labour”?

    10. Welp Says:

      @9
      Because that would be addressing part of the actual problem rather than just shifting the blame onto someone who isn’t part of Team Japan and washing your hands of it.

    11. Baudrillard Says:

      @ Dude, yes you nailed it at point a). the older Japanese people in charge came up in the current top-down system, so they have absolutely no idea
      a)that anyone could possibly have different values than them,

      Similarly the article says, “Tokyo wavers over whether to tighten requirements for candidates in light of unexpected incidents that have run counter to the plan.”

      Oh dear me, the unexpected. Life is like that, well REAL life. Not the postmodern, over rationalized Japan has become, a “life that holds no surprises”as Max Weber would say.

      Those pesky NJs and their unexpected aspirations; reminds me about a comment made by a robot about humans in an episode of “Futurama”- how they had a thing called “freewill”.

      Baudrillard would say that the older Japanese are clinging to the long outdated map of society and values, when in fact the majority of people are not in fact following them, but trying to get by.Japanese may pay lip (face?) service to values of “gaman”, but then still go after the attractive jobs rather than the 3K ones.

      Solution is to pay better for 3K jobs. Binmen in Britain are quite well paid and regularly strike for even better wages.

      Stop trying to exploit cheap foreign labor and they expect them not to go back to their own countries when it is no longer worth staying (going back being what they are encouraged to do by other, or even the same, sectors of J society anyway!).

    12. debito Says:

      Update on progress of “foreign caregivers” pass rate for 2013:

      Nursing exam pass rate down among foreign applicants
      Japan Today Mar. 26, 2013, courtesy of AR
      http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/nursing-exam-pass-rate-down-among-foreign-applicants

      TOKYO — The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Tuesday that out of a group of 311 Indonesians and Filipinos who were allowed to take the national nursing and care worker examinations this year, only 30 passed the test.

      According to the ministry, the 173 Indonesians and 138 Filipinos who sat for the exams this year were permitted to stay in the country for a total of four years, after being granted a one-year visa extension. Non-Japanese examinees were given 30% longer to complete the test and hiragana character readings were provided above all of the kanji on the test paper.

      Despite these concessions, the ministry says the pass rate was 9.6% this year (30 applicants—20 Indonesians and 10 Filipinos), compared to 11.3% last year, when 47 individuals passed the tests, TBS reported. However, a ministry spokesperson added that the pass rate for Japanese examinees was also lower than last year.

      Japan’s Economic Partnership Agreement is a bilateral free-trade accord that offers non-Japanese applicants the opportunity to work as nurses and caregivers in Japan, if they can overcome the language barrier during the training period. However, analysts say that although Japanese care workers at nursing care facilities are paid by local governments, facilities must pay any foreign candidates accepted as trainees from their own funds, disincentivizing the employment of non-Japanese workers.

      Japan began accepting care worker applicants from Indonesia in 2008. In the first year of the program, 104 non-Japanese passed the exams, followed by 379 in 2009. Since then, the annual total has remained below 150.

      The ministry added that a commission of inquiry has been established to determine whether examinees should be given more time to complete the tests, and whether non-Japanese trainees should be granted longer periods of stay in Japan.
      ENDS

    13. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Well, seems that the foreign care-giver program was a complete flop, and with no fanfare at all, it looks like the government has a plan to reduce the workload on (Japanese) nurses/carers by developing robots, and then leasing them to health care institutions for a monthly fee. No more need to accommodate ‘troublesome’ NJ!

      Of course, the machines will do lifting and such like, but will hardly be a replacement for trained human carers. They’d be better off spending the money to develop robots to go out and deal with the melted down cores at Fukushima. Japan; fixing the blame, not the problem.

      http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/atmoney/news/20130427-OYT1T01323.htm

      政府「10万円介護ロボ」普及へ…成長戦略の柱

       政府は、安価な新型の介護ロボット普及に乗り出す。

       要介護者が歩くのを支えたり、高齢者を抱える介護職員の負担を軽くしたりするなど、機能を絞った10万円程度のロボットの開発を促す。さらに、介護保険の対象を広げ、これらのロボットを月数百円でレンタルできるようにする。政府は、普及策を6月にまとめる成長戦略の柱と位置づけ、介護職員不足の緩和や新産業の育成につなげる方針だ。

       政府が普及を促すのは、〈1〉介護する人が高齢者らを抱え上げる時の負担を減らす〈2〉高齢者らが自分で歩くのを支える〈3〉排せつ時の支え〈4〉認知症の人を見守るシステム――の4分野のロボットだ。政府は今年度から、これらのロボットを開発する企業などに開発・研究費の半額~3分の2程度の補助金を出す。補助金総額は今年度だけで約24億円。

      (2013年4月28日11時29分 読売新聞)

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