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    Posted by arudou debito on March 2nd, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  Finally, we have a voice from a person in the know about what’s going on with NJ being brought over to Japan on special visas to work in Japan’s health care industry.  According to the report below, the trilateral (as in Japan-Philippines-Indonesia) EPA nurse program is everything I expected, and more.  People being ill-trained, unsupported in a hostile workplace, financially strapped and exploited, having unreasonable expectations (particularly regarding language study) heaped upon them, and then tested with hurdles so high they’ll not qualify to stay.  And thus the Revolving-Door Work-Study Program cycle once again is complete, with NJ overwhelmingly unable to live in Japan under these conditions.  Leach off their work for a year or three, then send them home.  ‘Cos we don’t need to invest in anyone but real Japanese, not potential immigrants, no matter how much they want to stay here.  Too bad.  But it’s within character of the GOJ policymakers.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////
    From: info@ambjp.net
    Subject: EPA Foreign Nurses and Caregivers Working in Japan Urgently Need Help
    Date: January 31, 2010

    To: debito@debito.org
    Cc: emilyhomma@yahoo.com

    Hi Debito-san,

    My friend Emily Homma and myself are trying to reach out to the English speaking press in Japan, so that the message below reaches as many people as possible.  We hope that you will be able to help us spreading the word.

    Thanks a lot,

    Annerose Matsushita in Fukushima For Emily Homma in Saitama

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

    Here is what I wrote in the following blog (I am AFWJ.org’s webmaster):

    http://afwjnews.blogspot.com/2010/01/members-assisting-other-foreigners-in.h tml

    Emily Homma lives in Saitama (Kanto) and has been assisting Filipino nurses and caregivers who came to Japan under the Economic Partnership Agreement of Japan (EPA). She helped them with Japanese language support, clothing donations (Japan is much colder than The Philippines) and others.

    You may have heard of this program through local news. Having seen with her own eyes the situation from the nurses’ side, Emily wishes to let people in Japan and overseas know their truth and their feelings.

    You can read here what Emily wrote:

    “EPA Foreign Nurses and Caregivers Working in Japan Urgently Need Help

    The Economic Partnership Agreement of Japan (EPA) with other countries, especially with the Philippines (JPEPA), has placed many Filipino nurses and caregivers working in Japan in a miserable situation where they are subjected to unfair labor practices, extreme pressure to study kanji, and poor salaries.

    When they arrived in Japan in May 2009, the Filipino nurses and caregivers were glad to be finally given the opportunity to serve Japanese society as hospital workers. However, after only six months of Nihongo study and three months of hospital work in hospital, the Filipino nurses along with their Indonesian counterparts have been suffering from various hardships not only from unfair work policies, low salaries, and local workers’ rejection but also from strong pressure to master medical-nursing kanji and the Japan nursing system. It is a system that, unfortunately for the foreign workers, only those with high level-Grade 12 Japanese training or nursing graduates could understand.

    Specifically, the Filipino nurses find themselves in the following extremely frustrating situations that leave them no choice but contemplate leaving Japan soon:

    1. Japan puts the Filipino nurses and caregivers in a cheap labor trap, requiring them to pass the Licensure examinations within three years although they are given only six months of formal Basic Nihongo study and occasional group reviews. The Japanese government and the Japan Nurses Association (JNA) insist that foreign nurses take the examination in Japanese without furigana phonetic guides for the kanji characters. Yet, the nurses are required to pass the licensure examination to get promoted to fulltime nurse positions and acquire the privilege to bring their dependents to Japan. Considering that medical kanji is extremely difficult even to their Nihongo teachers in Japan, this highly restrictive stance of the government and the JNA not only reflects a serious barrier to foreign nurses from getting integrated into the local workforce but also a clear intent to use or exploit the foreign nurses for three years on a temporary basis just like any expendable commodity.

    2. The salary and benefits for these foreign workers—a gross total of only 120,000-200,000 yen—are not enough to sustain a decent and respectable life in Japan. With majority of the health workers receiving only a net pay of about 60,000 yen after deductions, they have to resort to extraordinary remedies just to meet all of their living expenses in Japan: house rent, electricity, gas supply, Internet connection, cellular phone bills, and transport expenses. This puts them on a starvation situation and makes them unable to send a substantial amount of money to their respective dependents in their homelands. Indeed, some hospital administrators in Japan make local Japanese health workers work on a 7.5-hours-per-day basis to make them remain part-timers receiving an hourly rate of only 900 yen, but applying the same policy to foreign workers with no relatives in Japan to help them meet the cost of living utterly abuses the foreign health workers’ rights, disrespects their experience and profession, and degrades their worth as health workers. For this reason, the Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services (JICWELS) must be prevailed upon to choose only hospitals that can afford to offer good wage packages when hiring foreign health workers.

    3. Foreign nurses in Japan are subjected to undue comparison and unfair competition with local workers, fostering great insecurity on the former. There are strong indications that the presence of foreign workers in Japan hospitals is perceived as a threat to local workers’ employment status or hopes for salary improvement. This breeds disrespect and scorn towards the foreign workers and fosters an unfriendly atmosphere in many work settings. As a result, the foreign nurses are finding it extremely difficult to cope with their new environment, making it a big question if they could really fit in and be accepted as workers in Japan under an atmosphere of mutual understanding and cooperation.

    4. Japan’s nursing system, being far different from those of the homelands of the foreign nurses working in Japan, makes it extremely difficult for the foreign nurses to adjust and cope. The experience and education of foreign nurses working in Japanare comparable and largely attuned to the culture and job expectations of Western countries. They are therefore finding it difficult to adjust to the kind of assistant nurse work and nursing aide tasks expected from them in Japan. Compounding the problem is that it was not made clear to them before hiring what specific job functions they are expected to perform, a situation made worse by the language gap and the inadequacy of the foreign workers in understanding Nihongo. Thus, even if some of the foreign nurses have already attained a certain level of Nihongo, there is a crying need for Japanese-language nursing books, training materials, and exam reviewers to be translated into English and explained in English.

    5. There is no existing training program or orientation for foreign nurses on the Japan nursing system before they assume their jobs. Due to the absence of this training or orientation, foreign nurses are frequently reprimanded and ridiculed by their local workmates when they are unable to perform according to the Japanese system. For their part, hospital administrators just rely on the suggestions and complaints aired by the foreign workers, and many of those suggestions and complaints are simply ignored. There is clearly a need for immersion and retraining of foreign nurses so they can meet the work and performance standards of the hospitals of their host country.

    6. The Japanese work ethics and work attitudes differ greatly from those of foreign nurses. To foreign workers, rushing and scurrying at work reflects inefficiency and unpreparedness, but to the Japanese, to do this shows one’s dedication and excellent performance. For the leaders of local workers, bullying and humiliating a trainee nurse is part of the training, and the trainee nurse is expected to endure this abuse without complaining. But foreign nurses, having been trained in a work culture where respect and professionalism are a must among workmates especially in the presence of patients, often are constrained to express their concerns and suggestions against such bullying and humiliation. However, their doing so is often perceived as en expression of distrust towards the prerogatives of the hospital management, so even the mild criticisms expressed by foreign workers could easily backfire on them.

    7. There is hardly any room for advancement or career development for foreign nurses in Japan. In the absence of any program by the Japanese government and its health services sector, the career and promotion opportunities of foreign nurses and other workers are seriously stifled in Japan. Even if they work in Japan for a long time, there is very little hope for them to rise above the position of nursing aides performing the tasks of caregivers and domestic helpers. Indeed, in a country where even the local workforce is deprived of advancement opportunities, the native Japanese workers often tell the foreign nurses: “You are not needed here. You’d better work in countries where you could communicate in English.” It is clear that when the opportunity arises, these foreign nurses would rather leave Japan and work in countries where they are more likely to realize their dreams of growth and professional advancement.

    8. There being no labor attaches to represent them in Japan, the foreign nurses are left to fend off for themselves and to fight for their rights on their own. As a general rule, JICWELS always takes the side of oppressive hospitals when foreign nurses complain against questionable employment terms and practices. Its stock answer is often that “they didn’t have any precedent of previous case experiences” and that “everything the hospital says is final.” Consequently, no transfer ever takes place when a nurse requests for placement to a better and fairer hospital. The foreign workers, already burnt out at work, therefore often drive themselves to exhaustion in fighting for their own rights in hospitals with an uncaring administration or management.

    Considering these very serious problems besetting Filipino nurses and other health workers in Japan, it is respectfully proposed that the JICWELS and the Philippines, particularly the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), should immediately and carefully examine the flaws in the hiring and deployment of the first batch of Filipino nurses and other workers to Japan. This needs to be done before the second batch is allowed to come to Japanin May 2010. Both Japan and the Philippines must sit down together in a spirit of amity and cooperation to forcefully and meaningfully address the working conditions of Filipino nurses and other health professionals in Japan, an increasing number of whom have been suffering from extremely low pay and inadequate benefits, work displacement, mental stress, and utter frustration in their jobs.

    Action must be taken now before it is too late.

    Sincerely yours, Emily Homma, Saitama, Japan”
    ends
    ///////////////////////////////////////////////

    UPDATE FEBRUARY 28, 2010

    From:  Emily Homma
    Hello Debito,

    Thank you so much for considering the article/letter on the nurses and caregivers’ plight for your next debito.org topic. The nurses have been looking forward for that chance to be heard through your column.

    They had their first try of the nursing exam given in Japanese last February 21, but they could hardly understand the kanji characters, not even the directions. They still sat for the exam of course, but just guessed on the answers, for the questions were extremely hard for their low Elementary Nihongo level (comparable to grade 4 pupil’s) . From about 80 JPEPA nurses that took the exam, only two of them who had straight four months of fulltime review (without work) under a doctor mentor could say that they could read many of the kanji characters, but do not understand the meaning of the questions. The group is hoping that, at least two of their batch members (of 90) would pass this year’s exam.

    Majority are thinking of staying here in Japan just within the length of the three-year period, for they do not expect to pass the licensure exam if given in Japanese with full kanji without phonetic symbols. This would mean, Japan does not only give these foreign workers difficulties in life and career, but wastes its own resources and tax money training these people in their Nihongo and provide dormitory accommodation (for six months) only to find them leave from May this year (when the group is expected to renew their one-year visas) until the end of the three-year period to pass the exam. Japan has to review the program in order for these Filipino and Indonesian health workers possibly pass the exam, gain better lives, and so that their income level reaches regular local nurses’ pay. Meantime, all of them must be granted a fulltime status and a uniform 160,000 yen pay (not 120,000 gross, with just 60,000 yen net…which is exactly my brother’s net pay this February) so that they would not worry where to get their food sustenance while enduring life here.

    There are a lot more issues related to these problems…they were mentioned in my previous letter. Please ask me any other things you want clarified, or contact my brother, the JPEPA nurse leader for other comments (Joseph Benosa) at jcbpogiben AT yahoo DOT com.

    Thank you Debito and Annerose for helping us.

    Sincerely,
    Emily Homma
    Instructor/Teacher Trainor/Civic Volunteer
    emilyhomma AT yahoo DOT com
    ENDS

    34 Responses to “Emily Homma on Filipina nurses in Japan being abused by GOJ EPA visa program”

    1. Another John Says:

      While it is important to create awareness of these serious, horrible gaps within Japan, notifying the responsible agencies in the Philippines and Indonesia may help, too. Governments there have a hand in this, too, right? Why not raise awareness in those countries, too, and have their agencies say to Japan, “We’re suspending the agreement and we will not be giving you any more of our people until you (Japan) can insure fair, proper and appropriate treatment and be accountable for their well-being.”?

      Has that not been done at first? The Economic Partnership Agreement of Japan (EPA) implies that someone somewhere in the reciprocal governments had to play a part in this, too – it wasn’t just a one-sided deal, right? Did nobody in the Philippines or Indonesia do their homework?

    2. Steve von Maas Says:

      I have encountered some very surprising illegal abuses of Filipina nurses in the United States. I can only imagine how bad it must be in Japan.

      – Substantiation, please.

    3. Trevor Says:

      Some news links on the issue…

      1. From Indonesia, the Antara news article about the drop in nursing positions in Japan:

      http://www.antara.co.id/en/news/1266478480/job-offers-for-indonesian-nurses-drop-by-60-pct-in-japan

      They source Kyodo as saying the drop in positions is due to money and an increase in Japanese applying for the positions. The comment about the national kanji test is

      “But some point out that the medical terms and Chinese characters used in Japan present great obstacles for such foreign trainees to overcome.”

      2. From Japan, the Japan Times article about the drop in nurses coming from Indonesia:

      http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100218f4.html

      Rather tepid. The only comment about the language test required to become a full time nurse is (and like above, is the last sentence of the article) that it is “considered rigorous”.

      3. From the Phillipines, this is an older article dated in 2008, but talks about the conditions of nurses in Japan.

      http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/pinoy-migration/10/11/08/%E2%80%98jpepa-lowers-labor-standards-pinoy-nurses-caregivers%E2%80%99

      Commentary on how the conditions for nurses from the Philippines were used as trade bait.

      Further reading about general Indonesian/Japanese relations in regards to the EPA agreement:

      http://www.antara.co.id/en/news/1265521572/ri-trying-to-attract-more-japanese-investors-after-global-crisis

      General report on Japanese / Indonesian investment trends due to the IJEPA

      http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/02/17/ri-deals-with-japan-%E2%80%98more-comfortably-with-china-us%E2%80%99.html

      General background talking about Indonesia’s comfort level with Japan vs with China, as well as Japan’s comfort level with Indonesia vs with America. It might be interesting to see how the practical experiences of nurses affects the mindsets postulated in the article.

      – Thanks for the links. Note that the rather tepid JT article is actually from Kyodo News again.

    4. David Chart Says:

      The Japanese news magazine Foresight (which, unfortunately, is ceasing publication this April after twenty years) has been running a series on foreign workers in Japan for a couple of years, covering the kenshusei system, as well as these nurses. As far as I can tell from those reports, everything above is true, but there are a couple of other points worth mentioning.

      The program requires hospitals to pay the foreign nurses the same as Japanese nurses. It’s not a source of cheap labour. The hospitals are not permitted to interview the foreign nurses at any point; they get to see application forms, but JICWELS decides which nurses go where. The Japanese education, which the hospitals have to subsidise, is, as mentioned, grossly inadequate. Most of the nurses don’t have enough Japanese to work independently, which is hardly surprising after six months. There is no requirement for applicants to have any Japanese, and the initial training is provided, at great expense, in Japan. The journalist interviewed some of the Indonesian applicants before they came, and they were asking questions like “are there many mosques in Japan?”. As for the exam they have to take, only half the Japanese people who take it pass, so it’s pretty much inevitable that the foreigners will all be sent home after three years.

      The hospitals know this, so the take-up by hospitals has been far lower than expected; I think less than half the quota of nurses have come over. The government agencies are thus really unlikely to risk alienating the few hospitals that are participating, because it would be really embarrassing if they had no-one.

      Basically, the system has been really badly designed. There has been some talk, at a high level (government minister, IIRC), of changing the requirement for them to stay on, on the grounds that it has been set too high, but nothing has come of that yet, and there doesn’t even seem to have been any talk of changing the training system. It’s a disaster, and it’s not just the foreign nurses and care assistants who think so; the hospitals and care homes generally seem to agree.

    5. Jerry Says:

      Let’s look at this point by point. And by “you” I am referring to all Filipino nurses.

      1. You are given 3 years to study the kanji and (presumably) work with them on a day to day basis. In your workplace do the kanji have a furigana phonetic guides? If not then you need to be able to take the test in the language you will use in your day to day work environment. And is the test you have to pass any different than that of your Japanese counterparts?

      2. Was this not made clear before you came? Is there some surprise? Was there dishonesty on anyones part?

      3. What do you expect? You are there to take their jobs (especially since you are willing to work for less than they are), and they get the honor of helping you with any kanji you don’t understand. This should come as no surprise.

      4. I’m curious, is the expectation placed on you any different than your Japanese counterparts? And why should the books be translated into a language that is different than the one you have to use on a day to day basis? Nothing personal but if you can’t read the language you are working in (particularly in a health related field) I certainly don’t want you working on me…

      5. I agree with you, if there is none there needs to be some form of orientation for foreign workers.

      6. So you are complaining that you are being treated the same as your Japanese counterparts? And this is somehow discrimination?

      7. So, there is a lack of advancement for both Japanese and foreign nurses – and since you are competing with the home grown nurses for the few promotion spots available you are surprised that they see you as unwelcome competition? Again you are making the point that you are being treated exactly the same as a Japanese…

      8. I don’t know the rules of the program concerning transfers but your complaints don’t seem to be that you are being discriminated against but that you are being treated exactly the same as a Japanese would be in the equivalent position.

      While there might be a workers rights issue here (for all nurses) you, by your own admissions, are being treated exactly the same way as a Japanese person would be.

      Being treated the same way is not discrimination, it is exactly what we should all expect (no matter how poorly that might be)…

    6. David Chart Says:

      Jerry: The problem with this program is not discrimination, at least not primarily. (There’s probably some of that.) The main problem is that it has been very badly designed, and does not provide foreign workers with a fighting chance of working productively in Japan and then getting to stay here. I agree with you that they should be required to pass the exam under the same conditions as Japanese people, but the system should be designed to give them a realistic chance of doing so. As it stands, it does not.

      Not everything that causes problems for foreigners is racism or discrimination, and by the same token that fact that something is not discriminatory does not automatically mean that itisn’t problematic.

    7. Norik Says:

      I re-posted the story on another human rights related site.

    8. Owen Says:

      Im on both sides of the fence with this one. I have worked with Filipinos in Japan before. To send money back to the Philipines is a priority, and many Japanese know this. They know there isnt going to be a long term commitment to Japan, and that most of the workers are here to send funds back home. I will agree with the running around scurry hurry thing though. japanese are really into that, even though it amounts to nothing.

      – Ah yes, the “they are only here to earn money” anti-NJ nastiness. I don’t see how remittances are any indication of less commitment. And they can do what they like with their money (within the law). Should we, say, be critical of Japanese nurses if they want to buy Vuitton with their low funds in their free time?

    9. jim Says:

      this program is good for only the GOJ, because it provides exactly what they want cheap labor and a revolving door that hits the trainees in the ass after 3 years then its sayonara from the GOJ. its perfect for the GOJ so why then on earth would they want to change anything? they are the ones that created these abuses.

    10. Jeffrey Says:

      I have always had a bad feeling about this program because I think it is quite obvious that a large part of Japanese society is not ready to accept, adapt to, and become dependent upon foreign immigrants even if the need to do so is growing at a substantial rate. The same issue applies to foreign students studying in Japan and who wish to seek permananent employment here — few corporations actually actively hire foreign university students — hence, in many cases, the only hope for them to get a job is to go through the same extensive application process that other Japanese students do, but then such obstacles arise as having to pass difficult kanji tests and employers automatically preferring to hire Japanese workers rather than foreigners due to various perceived risk factors.

      Also, don’t get me started on how many Japanese patients might react to being treated by a foreign nurse in a Japanese hospital. I have asked around and the overwhelming response by many Japanese people, most notably from the elderly, is that they would seek out other healthcare institutions if a non-Japanese nurse was assigned to them.

    11. Jerry Says:

      David,

      Please note that there was a good chance that it was likely a workers rights issue (for all nurses).

      The focus of this complaint, however, is that they are being treated poorly because they are Filipinos when clearly they are not. They are being treated no more poorly than their Japanese counterparts (although they all seem to be being treated poorly).

      As for the poor design of the system – it might be difficult but obviously, since they are complaining that there are no long term prospects for advancement, it is not impossible. I have no problem with setting the bar very high for people in the health care profession – I want to know the person who has my or my families life in their hands is the very best.

      Jerry

      – Being treated equally poorly (even if true) is hardly a defense. It’s herikutusu.

    12. M-J Says:

      Jerry,

      Point #1: The furigana argument is due to the amount of language training made available to these workers (only 6 months) but the knowledge of kanji and medical vocabulary required to pass the exam. Ask a random Japanese to explain any type of medical terminology and you will receive a blank stare. Recently, after a killer set of deadlifts at the gym, I made the mistake of saying 上腕二頭筋と小腰筋が超痛いさ~. I had to rephrase with 腕 and ケツ. If 30+ year old native speakers and university grads can’t handle that level, then how are foreign nurses expected to go from almost-none to superior vocabulary skills with no extra training in the language?

      Point #2: It is obvious that the administration is doing its best to ensure the minimum expenditure of funds on these workers. They are not being treated as trainees and potential assets for long-term growth, but as expendable cheap labour. It is my prediction (and firm conviction) that there will be revelations of abuses of Sour Strawberries proportion by the time their training period is over.

      Point #3: So let’s hate the hell out of those dirty job stealing pieces of Filipino crap until they go home disheartened and defeated. 大和魂?

      Point #4: Japan knew full well the language ability of these nurses. Wow, so you think that these nurses shouldn’t have access to translated training materials and manuals to learn from (materials entirely relevant to passing their exams)? That’s harsh. Plus, there is some accountability for their success – or lack of: “The 134 Japanese institutions and facilities that applied through the Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services, a semi-governmental organization, have agreed to provide free skills training to the 280 Filipino health workers.”[1]

      Point #5: Agreed.

      Point #6 and #7 are obvious cases of workplace harassment so no further explanation needed.

      Point #8: No. They lack a liaison to explain/defend basic workplace rights. WTF?

      [1]http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/280-filipino-nurses-caregivers-to-start-skills-training-in-japan

    13. Doug Says:

      Debito – I apologize in advance for my rant….but this one really struck a nerve – and Debito-san you know I am a business owner so I am a capitilist at heart…..I just happen to know exploitation when I see it…and this case is as clear as day. I also through many years have learned to spot a jerk as well.

      How does one respond to the likes of Jerry. Shall I say this post is directed at “you” and when I say “you” I mean Jerry? “You” ought to lighten up on these ladies and get off the “your” high horse “you” rode in on.

      So what is it that “you” do in Japan that makes “you” capable of making such an insensitive and arrogant criticism of these women. Do “you” do work here that is so noble and above what the nurses are doing that “you” can make such a statement? What do “you” do in Japan? “You” probably make more money than these women and “you” probably do not do work that has nearly as much value to society as these women do. I know I certainly do not. “You” must be a very very important person doing great work for the betterment of society.

      I have never heard of Emily Homma and have no idea where she is coming from but I do plan to pass this on to 4 women living near me that are in this situation. I have personally heard their stories. They were part of the group that came in Man 2009. They all came to support their families and all were not given the straight deal before coming to Japan. These women have a very high level of integrity, are highly educated, and are making sacrifices not to earn money so they can personally enrich themselves, but to selflessly support their families back home. These women are the first to admit that The Phillipines has many problems but they also realize they are basically powerless to do anything about it and therefore are doing what is necessary to feed their kids, help their families, and try to make life better for their next generation.

      I do not know if it is discrimination, exploitation, or just an overall crummy situaion but someone making a post like number, saying this is directed at “YOU”, the filipina nurses, needs to be called down onto the mat….that dog just don’t hunt!

      In defense of the nurses

      ITEM 1 – yes they are given 3 years to study the kanji and (presumably) work with them on a day to day basis, while working 8 very very intense hours a day performing work that requires a very high level of mental and physical effort and caring for those that are extremely ill and often near death. Before the day starts having to prepare your food get to the train station and often take up to a 1 hour one way train ride to their place of work and then do the same to return home. My friends usually leave their small apartment at 630am and return home at 8pm. Before leaving they need to prepare food for the day and then when returning feed themselves and try to relax. Of course in the remaining time they should be able to master Kanji. I have been here over 10 years, worked with engineering related Japanese daily for the whole time, but I am nowhere near mastery or the level needed to pass a technical exam. These women are often given the most “kitsui” tasks (as are other foreign workers in industry).

      ITEM 2 – No it was not made clear to many of these women when they were in the Phillipines. Most of them feel that they have been deceived by people in Japan and in the Phillipines as well. At least 2 of the 4 friends I am mentioning above will leave Japan before 3 years. They are not breaking a contract by doing this and are not obligated to stay. All of the 4 I know are sending money back home to support thier families and were given inflated figures as to how much they would be able to save or send back prior to coming.

      ITEM 3 – They are not here to “take anyone’s jobs”. There is an ENORMOUS shortage of qualified nurses (and physicians) in Japan and this shortage is expected to grow exponentially over the next 10 years due to the graying population. This is the reason Japan started this program! The filipina nurses are paid much less than their Japanese counterparts…because this is the way the GOJ wants the situation. The Japanese Government knows their system is bankrupt and are looking for ways to cut costs. Expoiting cheap labor is often a great way to accomplish this. No one that I know thinks the Japanese nurses should be “honored” by teaching them Kanji. “You” say that the filipina nurses are “willing to work for less than they are”. “You” are damned straight right they are…and if “you” were in the same situation as these nurses and had kids to feed and families to take care of would “you” not do the same? This is NOT the fault of the nurses but that of the system that exploits them.

      ITEM 4 – The expectation is different. The Japanese counterparts grew up in Japan, went to Japanese school, and learned kanji since around the age of 5 or 6. The nurses coming from overseas (beckoned by a country – Japan – that did not properly prepare itself for a situation everyone knew was coming) are expected to master kanji to a level to pass an exam in 3 years. “You” say if they cannot read books in the language you are working in “you” do not want them working on “you”….an amazing statement. Have you read most of the international medical journals recently? Almost all are in English (right or wrong this is just a fact). Maybe you should be worried about health practitioners that cannot understand the international language of the field they work in, which limits their access to the latest research. Most of these women that have come to Japan have 4 year degrees and have a higher level of education (just not in the local language in Japan) than their Japanese counterparts. Once again I am not saying knowing English makes one smarter, just allows them access to more information.

      ITEM 5 – Well at least there is one point of agreement

      ITEM 6 – They are “bullied” and “humiliated” and so are the Japanese trainees. This is correct. However the Japanese trainees do not have the added burden of being discriminated against because of their race. I am lucky…I am a white dude…I would hate to be from the Phillipines living here. Most of my friends from the Phillipines living in Japan have a very rough go. So that part of the equation is not the “same”. My friends are subjected to added “humiliation” and are ridiculed for making simple mistakes in a language that all of them, in spite of their schedules and difficult lives, are doing their best to learn. Yes they are complaining about this but don’t “you” think that it might help their Japanese counterpart trainees if bullying and humiliation is removed from the training program?

      ITEM 7 – There is a lack of advancement for both Japanese and foreign nurses. However with increased demand there will be advancement opportunities for Japanese nurses gradually over the next decade, while the filipina sukettos (I do not use the term as derogatory to the filipinas…but as a statement of fact) are here to help solve a problem, not advance in the society. Contrary to what the article above says all of the filipinas I know in this situation are fully aware of this and are not interested in advancement in Japan because they know it will never happen.

      ITEM 8 – Hey “YOU”…uh…I mean Jerry….did you read the first part of Emily Homma’s post? It states, “There being no labor attaches to represent them in Japan, the foreign nurses are left to fend off for themselves and to fight for their rights on their own. As a general rule, JICWELS always takes the side of oppressive hospitals when foreign nurses complain against questionable employment terms and practices.” This is CLEARLY a different situation than the local Japanese nurses are in and has been articulated to me.

      To ANY FILIPINA NURSE (or caregiver) here in Japan reading this….You have my HIGHEST LEVEL of respect for unselfishly coming here to Japan to support your families. I know your only personal benefit is to help the families (kids, brothers, sisters, parents) you love and you personally gain nothing materially from your efforts…and your efforts are often done in discriminatory and unappreciative situations. I am not sure I am personally capable of making the same sacrafices you are. All I can say is God Bless you and the work you do.

      To Emily Homma….good for you for taking on this case!!!! Go for it!!

      To …well…uh…”you”…Jerry….Come on man!!! Lighten up!!! Try to put yourselves in these ladies situations and see how you fare….you probably have no idea where these gals come from or the situations they are in. Sure attack Ms. Homma if you…but saying your post is directed at “YOU” these filipina ladies….give me a friggin break! Look at the big picture and direct your “YOU” towards those that really need a kick in the ass….the GOJ, the folks exploiting these women!!!

      Man I hate filling the board with negativity…but wow!!!

    14. Kevin Says:

      Hear hear Doug! and to anyone else who defended the plight of these exploited workers!

      My major was Japanese, and after four years of academic study my Japanese has become pretty good. I can even read kanji that most Japanese don`t know… but I cannot read medical kanji. When a Japanese national goes to college for a medical degree they spend a lot of that time just studying medical kanji. Japanese nationals have a problem passing the nursing exam because of the kanji and to saying you should have studied harder to the foreigners who failed the test, while only having basic level Japanese, is silly.

      Anytime exploitation of foreign workers in Japan appears in the media it really gets me mad. People will say the same criticism against foreign workers in America, but at least there is anti-discrimination laws in America. Foreign workers everywhere are always accused of taking jobs of nationals… but in truth they typically do the jobs that no one else wants to do, and this is certainly true in Japan. Viva foreign workers everywhere!

      I work in education sector, while it might not be as bad as the clearly exploited foreign nurses, we are definitely exploited as well. The JET is a good program, but expensive to maintain, many school boards have been replacing the JET with cheaper companies. These companies operate as dispatch companies (haken gaishya). Because there is always an ample supply of foreigners coming into Japan these companies feel that they do not need to give raises to the workers despite how many years that may pass. If you want higher raise they don`t care, but through there inaction you will leave and they can then replace you with someone who they can pay the same or cheaper. If you complain about something enough instead of fixing the problem they will simply replace you with a different foreigner. Dispatch teacher companies operate with the idea in mind of always using cheap labor from incoming foreigners rather than maintaining quality teachers that have worked here for several years. The Japanese education system is riddled with these foreigner dispatch companies.

      This country has a mind set that foreign workers come, work for a while, and return home after a few years. This idea that foreigners do not live permanently in Japan is all too rampant.
      And this xenophobic ideal is maintained by exploitative practices to foreigners, and thus reinforcing this ridiculous mentality. For everyone who is fighting against these abusive practices, thank you and keep on fighting!

    15. Sapporo77 Says:

      Thanks Doug for saving me a lot of time. Points well put.
      It is obvious that the fault lies in the design of the program and not with the participants themselves.

    16. holmes Says:

      I think the last few posts have been a bit hard on Jerry. He is offering a reality check, not making an attack on Filipinas already here and working hard. He raised a few unpopular points, but they need to be raised. Awareness of the poor conditions Filipinos will experience on arriving in Japan needs to be raised in the Philippines itself, before younger people all flock here, naively thinking the streets are paved with gold, thinking they will be able to send back sizeable remittances to the parents and families who are expecting their financial support. This is also in large part the fault of the Philippine government, in cahoots with the GOJ in exporting labor without thinking through the implications.

      I d like to raise a couple of other points.
      Is this exploitive, low paid scheme dreamt up by the GOJ and a certain Filipino senator who wants to export cheap labor? To quote the article from 2008 link posted by Trevor,
      “If this was a race to the bottom, if this was an auction of Filipino nurses to the lowest bidder, then Sen. Roxas is right. Is this what he wants? Sen. Roxas has shown an utter incapacity to sympathize with the plight of Filipino health workers, especially nurses and caregivers,” said Dr. Rivera. On Wednesday, the Philippines Senate ratified JPEPA, which will allow, among others, nurses and caregivers to work in Japan after getting language training.
      Secondly, why Japan? English is the second language of The Philippines, so why not go to Europe or North America as many already do?
      Either train them properly in Japanese, or hire other foreigners who already read Kanji, i.e. Chinese nurses. This is already happening:
      http://www.bilaterals.org/article.php3?id_article=12140&lang=en
      However, as we know from “Sour Strawberries”, there have already been complaints about abuses of Chinese workers in Japan.

      Imaginary quote:
      GOJ official “The Chinese are complaining, as usual.I know,lets switch to Filipinas!Their government still wants to send them here!”

      I suppose the Philippine Senate actively lobbying the Japanese government to take more Filipinos wouldn’t have anything to do with it? The GOJ has a tradition of importing and exploiting Filipinos, President Arroyo said she wanted to export less entertainers and more nurses and IT workers, but it doesn’t change the cultural and linguistic challenges that they will face; with little support from the GOJ, and with little thought by their own government of the daily implications for Filipinas in Japan.

      – I think there’s also the image in Japan of Filipinas being docile and malleable, while Chinese are seen as in some way fierce, unpredictable, and conniving (I’ve seem propaganda of a Chinese invasion associated with the voting rights bill, for example). So it’s probably politically easier to bring over Filipinas (and Indonesians) than it would be Chinese.

    17. Oliver Says:

      I am not an expert on the nurse examination, but it looking at the Japanese Wikipedia article on nurses (看護士 kangoshi), there are two categories of nurses working in Japan: a nurse (kangoshi) and a semi-nurse or quasi-nurse (准看護士 jun-kangoshi). As of 2006, there are 812,000 kangoshi and 382,000 jun-kangoshi in Japan.

      http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%9C%8B%E8%AD%B7%E5%A9%A6

      The jun-kangoshi must obviously pass an exam on a prefectural level, which seems to be easier than the national exam for kangoshi. So why is everybody insisting that the foreign nurses take the national exam, instead of one of the prefectural ones for jun-kagoshi?

    18. Alex Says:

      I have a theory that this whole caregiver and nurse system for foreign workers was intentionally designed to fail. It is designed to fail prospective candidates from getting a realistic chance at becoming full-time nurses and caregivers. These candidates should be lauded for their effort. But, this program is really a set up. How can anyone find the time and the energy to work full-time in a hospital or nursing home; study and pass a professional exam before 3 years are up; deal with cultural issues and social stigma; and do all of this in a language that they only had 6 months of training in?

      It doesn’t really benefit the hospitals much either since their investment in time and money on these candidates will unlikely pay off if the odds are stacked against these candidates passing the exam. It also doesn’t benefit the public as a whole since all they are getting is a steady stream of unhappy, underpaid, and under-trained health care workers.

      Whoever put this program together is still coming from a frame of mind where migrants are just disposable labor. Whoever they are have no idea whatsoever in properly managing human resources. And, this kind of fundamental premise is hardly the kind of thinking Japan can afford to have towards migrants. It’s wasting Japanese taxpayer’s money, it is wasting the time of hopeful migrants and their trainers, and it is wasting the goodwill of other prospective migrants towards Japan.

      Instead of treating migrant labor as disposable, policy makers should approach migrants as investments. If Japan wants more quality health care workers, it should be willing to give the time and investment in training for these foreign workers so they can do the jobs expected of them. Of course, if Japan isn’t interested in quality health care workers at all and just want cheap disposable foreign workers, then they have just the “right” program in place.

      – Now you’re really getting it.

    19. TJJ Says:

      Alex,

      Those are my feelings exactly. That’s what I think is going on. Actually, it should be obvious to anyone knows a thing or two about Japan.

      The Philippine nursing association even issued a warning against their nurses going to Japan and declined to support the program from the beginning.

      The reasons given were that they would never be able to be treated as equals, that their experience in the Philippines would be completely disregarded and they would have to start at entry level positions even if they had many years experience nursing, and better qualifications than their superiors in Japan.

      This was obviously an informed opinion gleaned from experiences of nurses travelling to Japan even before the program started.

      Debito, I once posted a link to the public statement made by the Philippine nurses association (I think that’s their name) in a similar thread dealing with this foreign nurses issue when it was first being discussed. Do you still have the link? I would be much obliged if you could re-post it here.

      – PHILIPPINE NURSES ASSOCIATION – 9.10.2007
      POSITION STATEMENT ON THE JPEPA (Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement
      Link
      http://www.pna-ph.org/navig.asp?notice_id=131&notice_type=1

    20. Arin Says:

      Hi Alex,

      If you would run for the next Japan Prime Minister, I sure would vote for you (^.^)

      and…

      SHAME on “you” Jerry

      Back to the topic:
      I bought a book from Amazon.co.jp called 日本語でケアナビ (Wordbook for CARE WORKERS). I use this book to prepare myself, since I am working in the nursing field and I too am planning to go and work in Japan as a Nurse. And yes, I too am a Filipino. Even after 4 years of Japanese study, I still have a very hard time trying to get through N2. I showed the book to many Japanese and many of them could not read the “Medical” Kanjis. If the majority of the Japanese nationals taking the test can not pass the Nursing exam, then how are foreign nurses going to pass the test in just 3 years of basic Japanese. Let us be more realistic. It is impossible and ridicules.

      Sorry Debito, but Jerry deserves his medicine for making such harsh comments.

    21. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Question regarding the focus on the difficulty of kanji: are they really that much harder to master than the Latin and Greek roots that you need to learn in order to understand English medical terminology?

      Did they focus on kanji because they’re believed to be difficult (making for an easy sound bite), or because they genuinely think they’re difficult? If the latter, then it’s the education that’s lacking. What are the teaching programs like? Do they teach the structure of kanji, or do they just throw words at people and expect them to memorize them?

      Surely many native English speakers who also speak Japanese have had the experience of being able to figure out the meaning of some kind of disease just by looking at the kanji, whereas the English name is less easily comprehended.

      I’d like to see justification for the quote “medical kanji is extremely difficult even to their Nihongo teachers in Japan” — if that’s the case, maybe it’s the teachers that are the problem and not the hardworking nurses.

      – I can vouch for the fact that I find medical and chemical terminology often easier to understand in kanji-root than in Latin- and Greek-root at times. That said, that’s because I’m a kanji nerd, and am largely self-taught over the years after a solid foundation of education (I learned how to learn in undergraduate). So I agree having a good teacher is key, and have never ever seen a program in Japan run and taught by natives that can teach kanji effectively in a short time to non-natives. I’m sure there are exceptions out there, but I doubt this nursing-training program is one of them.

    22. Bob Says:

      I understand it would be difficult to pass the exam, but with 3 years in the relevant Japanese work environment it’s not impossible. Motivated people, as all nurses in this situation surely are, who are good at languages have a decent chance, precisely because it’s a specialist vocabulary Japanese don’t know- you all start out adult life lacking these kanji, and foreign nurses start with more practical experience and knowledge. Would the program be 100 times better with more serious language education? Yes. Is it IMPOSSIBLE? Only if you buy the crap about Japanese as an impossible language to learn, only truly understood by the yamato people. Every people pass JLPT1 with less than 3 years total Japanese study, and plenty fail after 30 years since they gave up because it’s ‘impossible’.

      – Yes, but given the on-job conditions mentioned in the report, you think there’s proper backup language study and instruction given with the workhorsing?

    23. Steve von Maas Says:

      Re: 2, above [substantiation, please]

      I’m sorry, I cannot substantiate this in such a way as would draw your attention to the actual cases, as it could violate the terms of the settlements I negotiated on behalf of the Filipina nurses I represented.

      Suffice it to say, however, that much of the exploitation game is the same here, except without a kanji test: Temporary contracts conditioned on unlikely passing of board certifications, predictible demotions, much lower pay than anticipated, [series of contracts substituted for one another from recruiter at office, new one at airport just prior to departure, new one upon arrival, new one upon demotion], temporary visas tied to particular employers, intimidation by management.

      Lucky for me, my lead plaintiff had been through the entire drill before, so she had the foresight to “obtain” and photocopy her documents as she went through the process. Defendants’ counsel were shocked when they saw me spread out all of these documents in front of them. They quickly gave us everything we could think to demand.

    24. holmes Says:

      In answer to Arin, as a Filipino you may think Jerry’s comments are harsh, but they are Harsh but Fair.

      You ll soon find certain points of life in Japan harsh and unfair, and you ve already said the Kanji exam is way too hard.

      Reading some other comments in this thread makes me feel happy that so many still have such an optimistic view of human nature, like “Motivated people, as all nurses in this situation surely are, who are good at languages have a decent chance”

      Yeah, maybe. But what if they re tired out from overwork, and the general stress and bureaucracy that keeps foreigners busy in Japan?

      How easy is it to become a caregiver-as opposed to a nurse-in the Philippines? I ve heard from someone close to me who wanted to get out the Philippines quickly that it was “easy”

      I m not convinced this isnt anything more than a scheme concocted by senator Roxas, Arroyo and the GOJ to export cheap labour from the Philippines, with next to none thought given about cultural differences, linguistic differences and the financial difficulties Filipinos here with face.

    25. David in Fukuoka Says:

      I can’t see how a professional working full time in hostile conditions (I say hostile in the sense that they are in a new country and culture, but probably there is actual hostility in many cases here) could afford the time required to reasonably master the required level of written Japanese in 3 years. Maybe someone with prior exposure to Kanji could pull it off, but its pretty obvious that whoever designed the language requirements for this nursing program has no real clue how difficult Japanese is when acquired as a foreign language. 3 years of college-level study with part time nursing work? Maybe. But its not realistic while working full time.

      It stinks of every program with language requirements ever set out in Japan by Japanese bureaucrats. Totally unrealistic or purposely set impossibly high.

    26. Arin Says:

      @ (株)飛日空

      haha… and you think that this programm will last forever? Filipinos are in desperate need of money, but they are not stupid. The programm hast just begun. Let’s see how long it will last until everyone will know about this.

      It is just like everyone said: “you must be crazy enough to go work and live in Japan”

      btw, you can call me crazy :)

    27. Terri Says:

      Let’s just be honest. The system was designed from the start to exploit the Nurses from the get go. They wanted cheap labor for 3 years then send them home and get a fresh batch to abuse for the next 3 years. It’s a system the nurses will never win at or succeed in. Don’t waste anymore of your life or time. Pack up. Go home. Look for the next job. Try Europe next time. Hey Bon Jour!

    28. john26 Says:

      I am Filipino nurse..i belong to this JPEPA project.So pathetic, when you cant even fight for your rights and principles.The next big thing is just to go home.Indeed again, we are TRAPPED.WE have suffered a lot personally, professionally and financially…i guess this is the price we have to pay for just being to ecstatic hearing the word JAPAN, gave tingling to every ones ear.

      We were not informed well, not oriented well and lastly, we thought that we have the same interpretation as it is in the Philippines but shocked to find out that they have more unfair labor practice as we are experiencing it now.

      It is not only our working environment which is hostile, but the lack of TRUE program and plans for us really make us believe that we are INDEED exploited.I have to tell you, what we receive now is just enough to pay our bills and just stay at home after a days tiring work.While others are contented they can save just a bit for sending money while tightening their belts,THe GOAL of passing the exams will just remain a DREAM forever for 3 years because the SPIRIT MAYBE WILLING BUT THE FLESH IS WEAK…this is just to emphasize that you cant do two things, at the same time.I believe if one of the program is like STUDYING straight for 2 -3 years…IM SURE KANJI NURSING EXAMS IS PEANUTS for Filipino nurse…Im sure because we know our capacity.BUt it is otherwise.Another thing, because we have no standard program or policies in this JPEPA program by JICWELS AND POEA …each HOSPITALS have created its own policy in study hours, others have evryday for 2-3 hours, others 1 day per week..and others mostly none.The duration of the studies usually finishes after the First Examinations-KOKKA SHIKEN…that leaves the nurses to just study by themselves.-jibbun de- for the rest of remaining years while working everyday per week.YOu have to memorize thousands of ant-like ,stick like characters while working ? LINGGUIST please explain if its possible for us to memorize kanji which is SOOOOO ALIEN to us in our lifetime.PLUS the MEDICAL kanji itself ruins the whole onyomi,-konyomi reading,thereby another kind of mental absorption is necessary.Brain reacts when the body is tired and lacks enough oxygen right?So ,do you think we have time,THE PRECIOUS TIME???????Think again please..My God!!

      If this is really a well-prepared project of the GOJ, why do their people are like, shocked, unappreciative,sending competitor-like attitude towards us? Each of us, I WILL mark my word…will have a VERBAL harrassments or are experienced now by most of us..IT WILL ALWAYS happen because BOTH have no CLEAR REASON why each of the japaneese and foreigners have to endure the SUDDEN relationship .It is a given fact that Jap nurses themselves are asking their government to raise their salaries and yet …the answer is CHEAP labor from other countries such as ours.This is clearly an exploitation on us nurses.While we do believe Japan is trying to help us …..NOW we believe we have lost the agreement…its not mutual at all but exploitatative .ITS MUCH CLEARER ON MY MIND NOW.

      Sorry,I dont intend to debate…im just fed up with people who dont undertsand what we are saying.Its easy to just say than experience really the whole thing.We have no control of whats happening on us…Its hard ..definitely hard…SO most of us will just have to create options, options …because there will be no growth.We will loose our nursing skills doing meanly jobs for three years, and YES ..WE WILL NOT BE RICH here nor save enough because ….really its not WORTH IT>> a quality kind of nursing wasted by the government and agreement which should support our welfare.Thats bad…its so bad..HAVE PITY!!

      ITS A MIStake….OK CHArGEd TO EXPERIENCE..AN UGLY EXPERIENCE ..SHAME!!

    29. john26 Says:

      Guys.thanks..sorry for being carried away.God bless you all.Emily Homma made a bold way to reprsent us.We cant do it by ourselves while working in the hospital.An advocate is what we needed because those who are supposed to, are just sitting on their swivel chairs.

      Thanks…just relieved by expressing.Life has to move on..

    30. holmes Says:

      John 26 said
      Indeed again, we are TRAPPED.WE have suffered a lot personally, professionally and financially…i guess this is the price we have to pay for just being to ecstatic hearing the word JAPAN, gave tingling to every ones ear.

      I just want to ask again, why choose Japan? I m still at a loss what it is that attracts Filipinos to come here, when they could go to an English speaking country and hopefully have an easier time, without a visa extension dependent on Kanji ability.

      Did Senator Roxas and co. actively recruit or promote the opportunity to go to Japan? Wasnt this part of the overall Japan-Philippines Free trade agreement (so they re trading in people?)which “became bogged down mainly over how many Filipino workers Japan will accept and details on the liberalization of Manila’s auto and steel sectors”

      http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20060910a2.html

      Wow, thanks GOJ. You re “accepting” nurses as a charity now? The reality is, Japan needs nurses. Treat people too badly, they ll go elsewhere.

    31. john26 Says:

      yeah….its a mistake.We thought all along that Japan, being a First world country could give us more chances professionally since they have the modern technologies and everything about advances in medical /nursing profession.But they were all hear-says after all.

      Yeah, we are going to English speaking countries, dont worry.Somehow, we have to experience real scenario before being “awaken from a severe coma”….oh yeah death if not awaken…(how morbid!!)

      – Let’s comment more seriously please about a serious topic.

    32. Terri Says:

      No one is listening. Don’t waste another minute of your life here. The moment you start learning Kanjii’s and passing the test, they will change the requirements to something else impossible.
      They just wanted to exploit you. You all are victims. Save your money. Buy a ticket, go home. Stay at your mom’s house till you find the next job. Tell your friends don’t come here. Thank me later.

      I am sure you are all great nurses and tops in your field. You will never be tops here. You will always be on the bottom 1 day away from living in a cardboard box in Shinjuku station. It’s unfortunate you fell into this hell hole.

    33. Sonia Santos Says:

      Thank you for the likes of Emily HOmma you did confirmed by fears of nurses being exploited in Japan because of the Japanese government policies on foreign nurses and workers; I am a mother of a JFC whose dauther graduated from nursing back in 2008 and up to now is having a hard time getting a hospital experience in P.I.; it was tempting to have my daughter worked in japan being offered by a local ngo and IOM to work there; I refused because this is so new and it is not even clear what their program is really offering to these nurses; with all this horror stories I am just glad my analysis is right on the money! if they do not protect the rights and if they do not give these foreign nurses the right training and the right language schools or programs for medical kanji; then they are just using them and exploiting them and wella- off to the next batch of Filipino nurses who do not have a clue on what is awaiting them; this is the fault of Philippines govt not being able to look after the welfare of filipino workers aboard who is responsible for the dollar remittances that the govt of philippines is getting. they need to educate themselves on how to export the manpower of these precious nurses and protect them. I am so glad I did not send my daughter there as a nurse to think she is half japanese; NO TO EXPORTING FILIPINO NURSES TO JAPAN UNLESS THEY PAY THEM WELL AND GIVEN THE SAME BENEFITS AND OPPORTUNITIES AS THE NATIVE japanese. MAYBE THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN BUT WHO KNOWS; THIS IS A CHANGING WORLD DO NOT BE TOO SURE THAT IN THE future MAYBE THEY WIL LOOKED FOR THOSE JFC’S WHO HAS NURSING DEGREES AND BEG FOR THEM…

    34. Jack Says:

      Dearest Emmily Homma,

      You expressed in words what I experience here everyday, your a very articulate and educated woman. Im a native speaker of English, but could not express what you did like you did. Everything you said is so true, and I admire you for being able to keep your head above the sea of Tatemae and other confusion designed to manipulate your emotions.

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