The number of foreign nursing students in Japan is still relatively low, standing at 257 in 2016, but nevertheless represents a sevenfold increase since 2011, when there were just 34.
“The situation, in which the nursing care industry will have to rely on foreign nationals, will remain unchanged in the years to come”
The government hopes the regulatory change, allowing foreign students to apply for residence status to stay and work in Japan immediately after qualifying, will boost the number still further.
Japan’s ageing population means qualified caregivers are in high demand as the shrinking labour market won’t be able to support services needed by the elderly.
The Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry predicts Japan will need around 2.53 million care workers in 2025, when all of its baby boomers will be over 75, but projects a deficit of 377,000 workers if current labour market trends continue.
In November 2016, an amendment to the Immigration Control Act and a new law, the Technical Training Act, were passed into law, creating a new category of residence status for foreign caregivers.
To apply, foreign nationals must have a nursing licence from an accredited Japanese institution. Initially, they will not be required to sit an exam, but the government has said it will establish a national exam system in 2022.
Until now, the only way foreign nursing students were allowed to stay and work in Japan has been through bilateral economic partnership agreements with just three countries.
Under these agreements, foreign care workers from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam have been able to gain residence only after gaining three years’ work experience as well as a nursing certification.
The change in residence requirements will open jobs up to other foreign nationals as well as abolish the requirement for graduates to accumulate significant work experience before they can apply for residence.
“The situation, in which the nursing care industry will have to rely on foreign nationals, will remain unchanged in the years to come,” Yohei Yamamoto, principal of Kansai College of Social Welfare in Osaka, told Kyodo news agency.
The regulatory change was passed into law in November 2016 and will come into full force within one year of that date.