Hi Blog. Here’s a good article (with excellent commentary from the place I first read it, at Mutantfrog; link here) on the hurdles even people that qualify as “skilled labor”. Japan doesn’t want unskilled (tanjun roudousha), yet imported over a million factory workers over the past two decades (and is now even bribing them to go home). Now here it is making it more difficult for people who have a skill to qualify to stay.
What does the GOJ want? Easy. Revolving-door cheap foreign labor, which won’t stay and get expensive or start demanding its own rights. Unfortunately, that’s not how immigration works, even though with its aging society, immigration is what Japan needs. We’ve said this umpteen times before, but lemme just repeat it for the noobs, sorry. What the GOJ wants and what it needs are working against each other. Its unforgiving and inflexible policies such as these that are hurting Japan’s future. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
POINT OF VIEW/ Atsushi Takahara: Foreign nursing trainees face unfair hurdles
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2009/5/13
Courtesy of Mutantfrog, with excellent commentary
At hospitals and nursing homes for the elderly across the nation, 208 Indonesians have commenced work. They are trainees who came to Japan hoping to become nurses and certified care workers under the economic partnership agreement (EPA) signed between Japan and Indonesia. Having finished a six-month Japanese-language study program, they started working in January and February. All of them are qualified to work as nurses in their home country and many of them have a lot of nursing experience. But most of those I met expressed anxiety and frustration.
This is because of the system that requires them to pass Japanese state exams within specified periods. If they fail, they must return to their home country. Would-be nurses have three chances to sit for the exams in three years of their stay. Conditions are tougher for aspiring care workers. Since foreign trainees are required to have actual working experience in Japan for at least three years before they can take the exam, they only have a single chance to pass in four years.
The language barrier weighs heavily on them. In particular, learning kanji characters is very difficult. For example, they must struggle with such technical terms as jokuso (bedsores) and senkotsubu (sacral region) that are difficult to read and understand, even for the average Japanese. Holding a Japanese-Indonesian dictionary, one trainee lamented: “I feel as though my head is about to burst.”
Hospitals and nursing homes that accepted the trainees hoping they can serve as a new source of labor are also supporting them on a trial-and-error basis. Some of the facilities have the trainees write diaries in Japanese and correct them while others encourage them to speak in Japanese about what they did and saw during the day at the end of their shift. One hospital required the trainees to study hard for two hours every day using mock state exams and kanji tests. It reminded me of a cram school.
All the Japanese government did to help was to provide them with six-month Japanese-language training. After that, it practically left almost everything, including the contents of on-the-job training and preparations for state exams, to the hospitals and nursing homes that accepted them. Accepting facilities are disappointed by the wide gap between their expectations and the reality of using trainees to cover a labor shortage.
Under the comprehensive EPA, Japan accepts the trainees from Indonesia in exchange for the economic benefits, including abolition or reduction of tariffs on its exports of cars and electronic equipment. The government stands by the traditional policy of refusing to accept unskilled foreign laborers. Therefore, the government’s stance is that the acceptance of nursing trainees this time is a form of personnel exchange and is not meant as a measure to address a labor shortage. The government’s cold attitude seems to be a reflection of such a position.
In Indonesia, showing anger in public is considered disgraceful. When I studied in Indonesia, I came in contact with such Indonesian national traits. I had the impression that while Indonesians tend to be kind and amicable, even when they are inwardly unhappy, many of them keep their discontent bottled up.
Having sent young members of their workforce to Japan, the people of Indonesia are closely watching whether they can adequately reap the benefits of their investment. If the trainees go home feeling angry with Japan’s “cold policy” and such a reputation spreads, it could cause a deterioration in Indonesian public sentiment toward Japan.
The United States and countries in Europe and the Middle East are adopting policies to complement their shortage of labor in nursing and nursing care with workers from Asian countries. They are providing such incentives as granting them permanent resident status in a bid to secure competent personnel.
An operator of a facility I met during a reporting assignment told me: “Unless Japan accepts foreign workers, the nation’s welfare system is destined to eventually fail.” The fact is that Japan is lagging far behind other countries in this regard.
The first thing Japan should do to encourage highly motivated, competent trainees to stay on is to lower the hurdles that stand in their way and make their stay more comfortable.
Specifically, I urge the government to extend the period of stay and give them more chances to pass the required exams that would allow them to qualify as nurses and care workers. It should also embark on providing more detailed care and take advantage of the opportunity as a test case to advance harmonious coexistence with foreign workers.
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The author is a staff writer at the News Center of The Asahi Shimbun Fukuoka Office.(IHT/Asahi: May 13,2009)