Further reading: Indonesian “care givers” and those pesky qualifying exams: a means to maintain “revolving door” NJ job market?


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Hi Blog.  Here are a few articles that have sat in my “Drafts” section for months, waiting for the right time to be posted on Debito.org (it happens sometimes, sorry).  Their point is that we have plenty of voices saying that the NJ nurses brought under the special visa program ought to be given a bit more of a break when it comes to language training (again, these people are qualified nurses — it’s only a language barrier), and yet the GOJ intransigently says that these people don’t deserve one — they should pass the same exam that only about 50% of native Japanese speakers pass anyway.  Can’t you at least simplify the language and add furigana?  Noooo, that would be unfair!  As if it’s not unfair already.

I understand the argument that in emergency situations, people should be able to be communicated with without error, but surely there’s some grey in there.  My belief, as I said yesterday and numerous times before, is that this is just taking advantage of fear to mask the program’s true intention, of  keeping NJ on a short-term revolving door visa program so they don’t come here to stay permanently.  These articles below are further evidence I believe of the subterfuge.  Sorry to have taken so long to get to them.  One-two punch for this week.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo


Survey: 70% want special exams for Indonesian trainees


About 70 percent of medical and welfare facilities with Indonesian nurse and caregiver trainees believe the national qualification exams should include some special treatment for those lacking fluency in Japanese, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.

Thirty-seven percent of the hospitals and nursing-care facilities said furigana pronunciations for kanji should be added in the exam questions, the most commonly chosen request, while nearly 33 percent said the trainees should be allowed to take the exams in their native language or in English.

Fifty-nine percent said they were “satisfied” or “relatively satisfied” with the specialized job skills of the trainees, but less than 20 percent of those surveyed believe the trainees would be able to pass the exams.

Those who pass their exams are allowed to stay on in Japan, while those who fail must return to Indonesia when their stays expire.

An official at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare dismissed suggestions that special considerations be made, saying that both Japan and Indonesia agreed that the trainees would “attain the required qualifications in line with Japanese law under the (economic partnership) agreement.

“We have no intention of lowering the standards of the exams,” the official said.

The survey was conducted between late September and early October and involved 47 hospitals and 53 nursing-care facilities. Valid responses were obtained from 86 of them.

The first group of 208 Indonesian trainees came to Japan in summer 2008. After receiving basic training, they have been working as novices at hospitals and nursing-care facilities. Nurse trainees have three chances to take the national exam during their maximum three-year stay in Japan.

Caregiver trainees have only one shot at passing their exam during their four-year stay because they are required to have three years of job experience.

Many of the trainees are either qualified to practice in Indonesia or have undergone training there. The difficulty in learning Japanese has been cited as their biggest obstacle in passing the national exams.

Thirty hospitals and 41 nursing-care facilities sought some kind of change to the exams, including eased language standards.

Fifty-eight percent said they hoped the government would extend the permitted stay period to give trainees more opportunities to take the exam.

The most commonly cited reason for seeking a change concerning Japanese language in the exams was that it was difficult for trainees to understand complicated kanji and technical terms used to describe common symptoms, such as bedsores and a patient’s posture.

Thirteen respondents, including nine hospitals, said they did not think any special treatment should be given to the trainees, citing the need to maintain fairness or prevent accidents.

Regarding Japanese language proficiency, 56 percent of the respondents said they were either “dissatisfied” or “relatively dissatisfied” with the trainees’ abilities, while 45 percent said the trainees lacked ample time to study the language.

They also cited a lack of staff members capable of teaching the Japanese language.(IHT/Asahi: November 3,2009)


国家試験、言葉の壁訴え 外国人看護師ら受け入れ施設(1/2ページ)








看護・介護現場へのインドネシア人受け入れ 昨夏、第1陣の208人が来日し、研修を積んだ後、全国の病院と介護施設で働き始めた。それぞれ一定の専門知識を持つが、日本では無資格のため、看護師候補者は上限3年、介護福祉士候補者は同4年の滞在期間内に国家試験を受験。合格すれば引き続き滞在できるが、不合格だと帰国しなければならない。看護師試験が期間内に受験機会が3度あるのに対し、3年の実務経験が必要な介護福祉士試験は1度だけ。今年2月の看護師国家試験では82人が挑戦し、合格者はゼロだった。


国家試験見直しへ議論 外相、外国人看護師研修生問題で
朝日新聞 2009年11月21日22時0分





Indonesia to supply 500 more caregivers
Japan Times/Kyodo News/Bernama Nov 25, 2009


Japan will accept up to 500 health care workers from Indonesia in the fiscal year that starts next April 1 under an economic partnership agreement, the health ministry said Tuesday.

The quota breaks down to 200 nurses and 300 nursing aides. The government has informed Indonesia of the decision, officials said.

In 2008 and 2009, Japan set the quota at 1,000 health care workers and accepted 570 from Indonesia — 277 nurses and 293 caregivers.

Japan International Corp. of Welfare Services, an affiliate of the health ministry, will seek out hospitals and nursing care facilities from across Japan willing to accept the Indonesian health care workers, the officials said.

Japan has accepted Filipino nurses and caregivers from the Philippines under a similar agreement.

While working they study for Japanese-language and medical tests to become licensed nurses and care givers.

Four of the Indonesian health care workers who entered Japan last year have returned home because of unexpected working conditions, climate or personal reasons.

The Japan Times: Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009

8 comments on “Further reading: Indonesian “care givers” and those pesky qualifying exams: a means to maintain “revolving door” NJ job market?

  • Yes I think you are obviously correct in your suspicions that the exam is just imposed as a means of ensuring a revolving-door workforce. Even while “failing” in their Japanese exams, these people are clearly doing useful work and their replacements are hardly likely to be better. While I can understand that language may be a barrier to taking highly responsible positions, one obvious solution would be to allow them to stay at the same grade and re-take the exam a reasonable number of times.

  • More fodder- process (disqualify from long-term productive role buy deliberately setting barriers to success prohibitively high while extracting an enormous amount of labor and care out of them for bargain basement prices) – eject- recruit new cycle.

  • To be fair, I can see why being proficient in the language is so important for a nurse or caregiver. What puzzles me is the sheer inability (or is it unwillingness?) of Japanese officials to admit just how big a hurdle the language barrier can be. Surely, putting hiragana above difficult kanji or extending the examination time for NJ attendees wouldn’t amount to such a dramatic “lowering of standards”?

  • With all due respect to Rachel,

    Evidence (here and personally for many of us) show the Government _promotes_ the idea that language is not only a barrier, but a differentiator of NJ at a fundamental level (one of many). Meanwhile, the evidence in this case surely points to the Government designing the program to result in eventual failure as a result of an engineered language barrier. Remember, these are smart people, with complex medical training, whose learning ability is necessarily above average.

    So then Furigana or extended deadlines (or even a supplied or personal medical kanji dictionary) would seem counterproductive to the real purpose, no? And with a very strong covering excuse that you don’t want illiterates giving you care too… great, win-win! I mean lose… or something like that.

  • Thank you for clarifying, Jeff. However, this begs another question… if the government do go out of their way to engineer such a strong obstacle, then why bring in the trainees in the first place? Or is it one of those “look at us, we’re open to foreigners but they just don’t have what it takes” artifices?

    — Er, once again: Cheap, recyclable labor with minimal migrational impact on Japanese society?

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    News Every had a segment last night on one of the three nurses who passed the exam.
    The segment itself was lacking in substance – no looking at the exams themselves, for example. On the bright side, there was little patronizing (they used “difficult medical jargon” instead of “difficult words”, or the even worse “difficult Japanese”), and no mention of getting used to Japanese food etc.
    The segment still managed to portray the nurse in question as a “dekasegiya”, and failed to point out that working in Saudi Arabia probably gave her an edge in adapting to foreign work environments. Or indeed that her 13 years experience as a nurse helped free up time so that she could study Japanese language until midnight.
    And, of course, the older member of the crew got to make a comment about how obviously her hospital has supported her.

  • Japan eases exams for Filipino nurses
    Manila Bulletin, July 7, 2010, 12:39pm

    TOKYO – The Japanese government is open to easing the national examinations for foreign nurses to accommodate more Filipino nurses.

    Ryuji Satomi, director of the Economic Partnership Agreement Office Employment Security Bureau, said the Japanese government recognizes the difficulties foreign health care workers need to hurdle in order to pass the Japanese National Nursing Examinationn administered under the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) scheme.

    Satomi assured that the government has come up with new assistance measures this year to help potential Filipino licensed nurses succeed in the test, particularly in the area of Japanese language training where the requirement to learn Nihongo is perceived to be a huge stumbling block to foreign health workers.

    It has been noted that difficulties in Nihongo rather than proficiency in skills and competence caused the poor performance of Filipino nurses in the recent national examination for nurses.

    In the February 2010 examinations, only one Filipino among 257 applicants was able to pass the test. Aside from the Philippines, Japan is also looking to Indonesia for qualified nurses.

    “We are working on making the exams workable for the candidates. We are currently working on improving the test not only for the foreign (health) workers but also for Japanese (nursing) students as well,” Satomi told ASEAN participants of the 31st NSK-CAJ fellowship program in Japan.

    According to Satomi, Japanese candidates are finding the test difficult as well.

    “The Kanji (Japanese writing) and technical terms are difficult even for the Japanese candidate. We’re open to making (the test) more understandable and accessible,” he said.

    Satomi said the Japanese government recognizes the need to alleviate its manpower shortage in the health care industry as its population continues to decline and age. Currently, they have nurses who have potential but do not have the qualifications.

    But despite the difficulties, he believes the scheme under the EPA could still work after thorough negotiations with the Philippine government.

    “From the operational perspective, (I know) we can make minor amendments,” he said further indicating that this could include replacing technical terms in the test with familiar or easier language.

    Part of the assistance measures offered by the government for 2010 is the introduction of e-learning systems that would enable self-learning for candidates in their home country and grants for Japanese language training in accepting facilities.

    Satomi said they realized that the six months language training is not enough though both Indonesia and the Philippines acknowledge the need to learn the language.

    Under the JPEPA, nurses are required to undergo Japanese language training programs to be able to pass the examinations and to enable them to communicate effectively with colleagues.

    “(Working in a medical facility) requires teamwork. You have to communicate effectively with patients, doctors and other hospital staff,” he pointed out.

    He said the measure also provides periodic group training and or mock exams for the candidates to assess one’s acquisition level.

    — Thanks for posting this, but sorry, this is not news yet. Just saying “the Japanese government is open to it” doesn’t necessarily mean they will do it. When they do it, it’ll be fodder for Debito.org

  • Sorry that this is serious necromancy, but there is an update on the Indonesian Nurse issue.

    More nurses, caregivers arrive from Indonesia under agreement
    Kyodo News

    About 110 Indonesian nurses and caregivers arrived in Japan on Saturday, seeking to pass the national qualification exam for jobs under the bilateral free-trade agreement.

    Japan, a rapidly aging society, began accepting nurses and caregivers in 2008 from Indonesia and the Philippines, with which Japan struck a similar FTA, as national exam applicants.

    About 70 Indonesian caregivers arrived at Narita airport and headed for training facilities in Yokohama. Some 40 Indonesian nurses arrived at Central Japan International Airport near Nagoya and moved to training facilities in Toyoda, Aichi Prefecture.

    For about two months before coming to Japan, they participated in training sessions for the Japanese language and lifestyle. They will start taking classes at the Japanese facilities Monday, seeking to pass the national exam while working at nursing-care facilities.

    With their arrival, more than 1,000 nurses and caregivers from Indonesia and the Philippines have come to Japan as applicants to the health care program under the free-trade accords.

    Three nurses — two Indonesian and one Filipino — passed Japan’s national nursing qualification exam conducted last February, becoming the first successful applicants under the program.

    As of July, 33 had given up trying to pass the qualifying exam and returned home.

    Kanji and technical terms used in the exam are thought to pose a considerable hurdle for such foreign applicants.

    Under the program, foreign nurses are required to return to their home countries if they fail to pass Japan’s nursing qualifying exam within three years. Caregivers also need to clear Japan’s qualifying exam within four years.

    In the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years through next March, Japan accepted 570 health care workers from Indonesia — 277 nurses and 293 caregivers — as applicants to the program.


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