The first group of care workers sent to Japan under the EPA for certification training arrived in the summer of 2008 and, after six months of education in the Japanese language, they are now being trained at social welfare institutions. The candidates are required to have working experience in Japan of more than three years to be qualified to take the examination. Since their stay in Japan is restricted to four years, they have only one chance to take the examination and obtain certification. If they succeed, they can be employed in Japan as welfare professionals, but if not, they are forced to leave Japan.
Nurses, on the other hand, are required to have nursing experience in their home countries and those who are qualified can take the national examination soon after they arrive in Japan. Three examinations have already been given to those candidate nurses, but the ratio of successful applicants was as low as 1.2% in 2010, slightly increasing to 4% in 2011. As a result, 60% of the candidates of the first year immediately went home.
In case of care workers, they receive the Japanese language program, but because the government of Japan limits its period to six months, they are required to work at hospitals and welfare facilities before they acquire sufficient Japanese language. As a result, the candidates have great difficulty in communicating with patients, who tend to be overwhelmingly elderly and in getting accustomed to the frequent use of jargon and abbreviations used on the job.
That is the situation where the Indonesian candidates must take the national examination on an equal footing with the Japanese examinees. And that is why we have been asking the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to use easier to understand Japanese expressions and vocabulary on the national examinations, taking into account their limitations of Japanese capability. However, it is unlikely that they will change the level of the Japanese questions in the near term.
There was no prospect of our request having any positive effects until I had a chance to meet Professor UENO Chizuko in August at the conference of the European Association for Japanese Studies in Tallinn, Estonia. She reminded me of the group Garuda Supporters (GS), an organization promoting exchanges between Indonesia and Japan, and thanks to the help of several people concerned, I was finally able to contact a person working at the secretariat of GS. GS was also active in working with other support organizations to propose a fundamental change of the EPA system itself.
In order to somehow improve the situation in time for the upcoming examination in January, 2012, three groups, GS, Kansai Indonesia Friendship Association, and our AJLE working group offering Japanese language support for these workers, decided to issue an emergency proposal concerning the national examination to certify EPA care workers and nurses.
The proposal is composed of the three requests as follows: first, kana (phonetic symbols) should be printed alongside Chinese characters on written examinations; second, the time for examination should be extended; third, the EPA candidates should be examined separately in a different room from other examinees.
That is the minimum request. This special assistance given to the non-Japanese examinees without the knowledge of Chinese characters should not be regarded as preferential treatment. We should note the gap between the regular examinees using Japanese for more than twenty years and those who are learning Japanese for less than four years while acquiring knowledge and skills about care in the fields of a foreign country.
Recently, the EPA project for educating nurses and care workers has been extended to Vietnam, and is expected to attract more candidates to come to stay in Japan for education and training. Yet if the situation in Japan as a recipient country for these health care workers stands as it does now, there will be more and more discouraged candidates.
The people of the host institutions appreciate the fact that the candidates, who tend to have been raised in extended families in Indonesia (and the Philippines as well) are very well accepted in their field because of their sincere care they provide their clients and patients. The positive effect on these health care workers by the Japanese staff has also been observed in many cases, and yet, the candidates cannot live up to the expectations of their hosts as they fail in the national exam and go home.
Obviously the EPA related examination system has many inherent faults. The system will be reexamined and things will be improved for future candidates, but something must be done immediately and continued support is required so that the existing 752 candidates for certified care workers and the 328 institutions receiving them for training can avoid unfortunate outcome despite their great efforts.
Original article by ENDO Orie
on the WAN website (November 9, 2011)
on the WAN website (November 9, 2011)
Translated and adapted from the WAN website by FUKUOKA.A.A.