TOKYO (Kyodo)–Three nurses — two Indonesian and one Filipino — cleared Japanese-language barriers and passed Japan’s national nursing exam conducted in February, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday.
They are among 257 people who are in Japan under free trade agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines. The successful applicants will be allowed to stay in Japan for a long time.
The three were the first successful applicants to pass Japan’s nursing qualification exam among hundreds of foreign nurses in the country under free trade accords.
The two Indonesians, who have been in Japan since 2008, are working at a hospital in Sanjo, Niigata Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan coast.
The Filipino nurse has been working at a hospital in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, after arriving in Japan in 2009.
Japan, a rapidly aging society, began accepting foreign nurses and caregivers in 2008 due to domestic labor shortages in medical and nursing service fields.
Foreign nurses are required to return to their home countries if they fail to pass Japan’s nurse qualifying exam within three years. Caregivers also need to clear Japan’s qualifying exam within four years.
None of the foreign nurses passed last year’s national exams held in February 2009 as ”kanji” characters and technical terms used in the exam are thought to pose a big hurdle for foreign nurses.
In talks with Indonesian and Philippine government officials in January, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada promised to consider addressing the language barriers for foreign nurses.
The health ministry is currently studying using simpler terms in the exam and helping foreign nurses study the Japanese language, ministry officials said.
In the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years through March 2010, Japan accepted 570 health care workers from Indonesia — 277 nurses and 293 caregivers.