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The aging population of Japan has been on a constant rise increasing the demand for a capable and qualified welfare workforce. With demands growing continuously, there has also been a boost of competent educational institutions that train the workforce providing wide-ranging opportunities to pursue caregiving studies in Japan.
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Caregiving is an all-encompassing term that pertains to the provision of care to people who are in need of care, especially those who are in the vulnerable sector, such as elderly, infants, and people who suffer from physical or mental illness. They are the individuals who play the role of giving various kinds of support to these people. Caregivers can be the immediate family, but there are professional caregivers who are licensed by a particular regulatory board to provide such services. Professional caregivers are commonly linked with healthcare sectors; they are usually tasked to give assistance to patients who are in the recovery stage of their treatment. Also, professional caregivers play a role within the aged care sector through working in aged care institutions.
Over the past decade, Japan’s aged population has been on a constant rise. It is projected that by 2025, 20 million of the country’s population will be aged 75 and above. This aging population will have a definite impact on the economy of the country and will even transcend its effects on global dynamics as well. This assertion is grounded upon the initiatives taken by the government. The need for caregivers in the near future made the government commit itself to attract more foreign workers that would respond to the shrinking working population. Aside from its recruitment of workers to major industries, the country invested as well towards the caregiving sector: the expected sector that would take care of the aging population.
While there are many methods for foreign nationals to get into the Japanese caregiving sector for work including the EPA route (for the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia), the Caregiver visa, Specified Skilled worker visa or Technical Intern Training visa route, one can also start by studying to become a caregiver in Japan. The country will not only help workers to come into the country but also support students pursuing caregiving education, which would not be limited to Japanese students but extended to international students as well.
※ Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, "2025 年に向けた介護人材の確保", p.1
As a highly specialized work, professional caregiving should undergo a series of lectures, training, and certification to obtain career qualifications. Caregiving education in Japan ensures this as well. The training is being offered at various levels of education. Students can acquire it as early as high school. With vocational high schools around the country, the curriculum is fitted with certain training modules for students who intend to take it. Training programs are also offered in colleges and universities. On this level, education and training are duly provided by certified care worker training facilities.
There are numbers of a caregiver training facility in Japan that provides care training. Primarily, the duration of a caregiving course is two years. Throughout the course, the student is taught of various knowledge and skills related to the practice. This includes fundamental knowledge about the profession, the specifics of care provision, communication skills, and other care training that specializes in different cohorts. After the two-year training course, the student may opt to take the National Caregiver Certification Examination to be a certified care worker.
The caregiving education program, regardless of institution or facility, is taught entirely in Japanese. This means that non-Japanese speaking students should study the Japanese language first. Some institutions have made their caregiving programs offered with a combination of Japanese language courses, but some do not. To acquire holistic language training, international students may enroll in a language school that can offer either a short-term 240-hour training or a 2-year Japanese language course. Afterward, students must take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. It is expected that students of caregiving must pass at least JLPT N2 or higher.
For international students who want to pursue caregiving studies in Japan, there are minimum eligibility requirements. These requirements are designed to ensure that applicants must have adequate qualifications for the career. These will also provide the applicants a competence for adapting to the progressive transition from being a student to a certified care worker. Here are the requirements:
Must be of foreign nationality
Must be over the age of 18 upon application
Must complete secondary level education or the equivalent of 12 years education or;
Must be a college graduate from the origin country
Must be willing to pursue studies in the related field
Must be proficient with the Japanese language (passed JLPT N2 or above) or;
Must be willing to take Japanese language courses as a preparatory level for caregiver education
Student Visa and Certificate of Eligibility
On this level, the applicant will have a student status since the main purpose of it is to apply for a caregiving school in Japan. However, upon completion of further studies, the student or applicant may opt to continue his or her career in Japan and work as a caregiver. This could push through provided that the student was able to pass the National Caregiver Certification Examination. When the applicant passes such an examination, he or she can change visa status from a student to a working visa. The certification provides 5-year working eligibility within the caregiving sector of the country.
Considering that the most crucial requirement for foreign caregivers in Japan is language proficiency, trainees and students must be able to comply with it sufficiently. With this, the Japanese government offers financial aid for international students who are studying caregiving studies in Japan. The government allotted approximately 235,000 yen per student to provide stipends for qualified EPA candidates enrolled in various caregiver education facilities including Japanese language schools in the country. While the approximate budget per student for EPA’s Japanese medical care training maintenance assistance is within 95,000 yen per student per year.
※ Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, "外国人介護人材の受入れについて," p.115
For scholarship opportunities, various organizations, including MATE Japanese Institute, Houei Enterprise Inc. and Social Welfare Corporation, and The Japan Association of Training Institutions for Certified Care Workers, offer loan-based scholarship programs. These study now pay later scholarship programs to work under a memorandum of agreement with the Japanese government that provides assistance for caregiving students in their caregiving studies on the premise that students will pay back through working with the institutions afterward. This could be advantageous because after completing the course, students are guaranteed an employment opportunity within the country and of course, a working visa.
Pursuing caregiving studies in Japan have a huge upside. Students are provided with extensive knowledge and grounded experience with the field. This ensures that as they achieve a certain level of certification or qualification as a care worker, their background established accordingly. Aside from this, they also secure an employment career within the country’s care sector, which is also promising. With an aging population, opportunities related to the field will never run out!
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