The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Japan and the Philippines was completed in 2006. This agreement allowed the two countries to exchange a total of 12,000 caregivers in the next two years.
However, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimates that 500,000 caregivers will be needed by 2016 because of the aging population in Japan. Under the circumstances, many ex-Filipino hostesses, currently living in Japan as wives of Japanese husbands, are being drawn to the nursing care business. These ex-hostesses speak and understand Japanese well, because they’ve lived in Japan for over 20 years, and they have valid visas as wives of Japanese.
A spokesperson for Japan Nursing Care Center Corp says 17 of 22 students at its nursing qualification level 2 courses are Filipinos. Since the level 2 qualification doesn’t require writing exams, but only 132-hour practical training, it is easier for them to obtain a license even if they are not good at writing and reading Japanese.
More than 1,000 Filipinos have graduated from Tokyo Caregiver Academy which has offered caregiver courses to Filipinos since 2005. In 2006, the Licensed Filipino Caregivers Association in Japan (LFCAJ) was established with about 2,000 qualified caregivers.
“My husband doesn’t want me to work as a hostess anymore. I can work as a hostess only when I’m young. I have actually been interested in the caregiver job for awhile,” says a 24-year-old Filipino woman living in Chiba Prefecture.
A caregiver’s job is actually better than a hostess or factory job in which the majority of Filipinos in Japan are involved. While hostess and factory jobs offer low salaries, caregivers can earn more than 1,000 yen per hour. They say that they can make use of their communication skills in Japanese, which they learned as hostesses.
To Filipinos, who grow up in the traditional family system, the situation of the Japanese aging population seems strange. Many Filipino caregivers say, “Why don’t families take care of the elderly in Japan?” The Filipinos are good at taking care of the elderly and know how to communicate with them.
A man in his 60s who lives in a nursing home says, “Filipino caregivers are better than Japanese. They speak better Japanese than Japanese people.” Another man in his 70s also says, “It is much better to be taken care of by them than living alone at home. Are they Filipinos? I don’t care. I just appreciate the fact that someone takes care of me.”
One insider at a nursing home says, “Even if they can speak Japanese, foreigners cannot take care of old people. They can’t tell them stories and sing songs together.” Some Japanese people say Filipinos are stealing job opportunities in Japan. Whatever the complaints may be, the government cannot deny the fact that more caregivers are necessary. (Translated by Taro Fujimoto)