Don't let Japanese be 'nontariff barrier'
Sending foreign nationals back to their home countries immediately if they fail to pass this nation's nursing certification test can only be considered as an excessively rule-obsessed approach.
About 420 Indonesians and Filipinos--all of whom arrived in Japan to obtain nursing licenses in this country under economic partnership agreements--are set to take our nurse licensing exam in late February.
They are all licensed nurses in their own countries. If they want to work as nurses in Japan, however, they must pass the government-sanctioned examination during their three-year stay here.
No foreign nurse passed the test in 2009, the first year they took the exam. In the second year, only three nurses passed the exam, meaning the proportion of successful non-Japanese applicants stood around the 1 percent range. This figure is in stark contrast to the success rate of about 90 percent among Japanese applicants.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has at last taken action to rectify the situation. The move comes in response to accusations that Indonesian and Philippine applicants for the test have been greatly handicapped by their difficulties in understanding the Japanese language--particularly kanji--used in the exam.
Last summer, the ministry put together a plan to improve the method for setting questions in the national test. Corrective steps included writing both the Japanese name of a disease and its corresponding English name, as well as placing kana alongside difficult kanji.
However, it was concluded that the use of kana readings would not cover technical terms in medical and nursing care. The ministry also decided not to replace technical terms with easier-to-understand language--for instance, describing "jokuso" (decubitus ulcer) as "tokozure" (bedsore) and "gyogai" (supine position) as "aomuke" (lying on one's back).
The ministry's seemingly halfhearted approach apparently was a nod to the Japan Nursing Association's negative stance toward greatly revising the method of examination. The association has been alarmed by an anticipated reduction in employment opportunities for Japanese nurses due to a possible increase in the number of foreign nurses in this country under the EPA pacts.
This state of affairs is sure to prevent a sharp rise in the percentage of successful non-Japanese applicants for the test. We believe the method for setting questions must be further improved.
Examinees for the upcoming test include about 90 Indonesians and Filipinos sitting the annual exam for the third time. If they fail to pass, they will have to return home.
We find it unreasonable that the government should order these nurses to leave Japan if they fail to take their "final chances"--without examining whether measures adopted to correct the method of examination are sufficient. The length of their permitted stay in Japan should be extended so they could sit the national test next year and beyond.
Ties could be affected
The system for accepting Indonesians and Filipinos under the EPA programs also covers those hoping to be licensed as providers of nursing care for elderly and disabled people in this country. They are permitted to stay in Japan for four years during which they must acquire three years of work experience at relevant facilities before taking this country's nursing care licensing exam. This means they have only one chance to take the annual test.
We think the length of their stay also needs to be extended to give them several opportunities to take the test.
Nevertheless, reconsidering the method of examination and extending the permitted duration of stay are mere stopgap measures.
Indonesia and the Philippines may feel the extremely low success rate of their applicants for the nurse certification exam symbolizes what many see as Japan's self-centeredness. To them, Japan may appear to be using its own language in the exam as a "nontariff barrier" to the employment of foreign nurses and others, despite selling a large volume of products to their countries under the economic partnership agreements.
The status quo could develop into diplomatic disputes with Indonesia and the Philippines.
We hope Prime Minister Naoto Kan will take the initiative in considering ways to fundamentally correct the situation.
Failure to do so would disgrace his avowed effort to "reopen the nation in the Heisei era."
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 9, 2011)