Caregiver trainee program coming up short, but options on table also daunting

By Tomohiro Osaki/
Filipino caregiver Mary Grace Subardiaga gently wipes the runny nose of an elderly woman with dementia as she tries to feed her lunch at a Tokyo nursing home. The octogenarian patient responds with a tantrum. Unperturbed, Subardiaga moves a spoonful of curry to her mouth and tells her to chew well.

“It tastes good,” the woman says, her tantrum dissipating, before flashing a smile.

“Caregiving is such a difficult job. It not only requires skills, but you need to be passionate about it,” said Subardiaga, 26. “Seeing the elderly smile makes me truly happy.”

Subardiaga is one of the foreign caregivers who came to Japan last year under Japan’s economic partnership agreement with the Philippines, helping alleviate the labor shortage in the nursing care industry.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry estimates the nursing care industry will face a shortage of about 300,000 caregivers by 2025, but the EPA framework, which targets qualified nurses from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, is not enough to resolve the shortage.


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