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Foreign caregivers with 'specific skills' to be included in staff-to-patient ratio

In this Feb. 3, 2005 file photo, the Central Government Building No. 5 housing the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is seen in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district. (Mainichi/Kimitaka Takeichi)

TOKYO -- The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has informally decided to count foreign caregivers with "specific skills" starting work in April in facilities' staff-to-care recipient ratio.

Such foreign staff are to be considered "work-ready" and treated equally with Japanese employees, as they must acquire nursing skills equivalent to three years of training to work under a new residency status launching in April this year. The ministry will notify local governments across Japan of the decision by the end of March.

The standard number of doctors and caregivers that must be on duty is determined under the Long-Term Care Insurance System, based on the type and scale of the facility. Payments from the insurance system to facilities for services provided are reduced if the number of staff falls short of the standard.

Foreigners who came to Japan under the technical intern trainee program or economic partnership agreements with Indonesia and Vietnam are not counted under this standard until they have worked as employees for half a year after receiving training, according to the labor ministry. Foreigners that performed well on the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) are an exception.

Meanwhile, those with specific skills -- introduced with a bill to accept more foreign workers enacted last year -- must acquire a certain level of Japanese language skill, which will be confirmed with the JLPT, in addition to nursing skills. However, the ministry will urge facilities to take supportive measures to avoid trouble between foreign caregivers and domestic care recipients, such as teaming up foreigners with Japanese employees when they begin work.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Harada, Medical & Welfare Department)

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