The Land of the Rising Sun is slowly opening its doors to foreign labor, and Indonesia stands to benefit but high standards are a barrier to remaining there.
Yusuke Kawamura, a senior counselor at the Daiwa Institute of Research and economics professor at Nagasaki University, told the Jakarta Globe that Japan must be more open to foreign workers given its aging population. With fewer productive workers, he said last week, the country faces serious demographic problems.
“Since 2009, Japan has had a shortfall of 1.5 million workers,” said Kusumo Martoredjo, chairman of the Indonesia-Japan Economic Committee.
Despite the desperate need for foreign labor, navigating Japanese bureaucracy is not easy. Of the 200 Indonesian trainee nurses who have entered Japan over the past three years, only two have passed the exams to qualify as professionals in that country.
The biggest obstacle to finding a permanent position in Japan, industry experts say, is language.
“Evidently, both trainee nurses who passed the exam had studied Japanese literature in Indonesia before going to Japan,” said Nawawi, a researcher at the Research Center for Population of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).
Those who did not pass have an opportunity to try again before the end of their internship in August.
“Unfortunately, there is still a lack of infrastructure in accepting nurses from Indonesia. We still have conservative people in Japan, typically in conventional towns and local areas,” Kawamura said.
The total number of Indonesian workers heading for Japan has increased dramatically from 3,500 per year in the 1990s to more than 6,000 in 2008.
Indonesia currently ranks fourth among countries that ship labor to Japan. In recent years, it had slipped behind Vietnam and the Philippines, but China, with 54,000 trainees in Japan, has by far the most.
Indonesia began sending 600 caregivers for the elderly and 200 nurses to Japan in 2008, a year after the countries signed an Economic Partnership Agreement in Jakarta.
After the initial training — three years for nurses and four years for caregivers — they are allowed to continue working in Japan but must first pass the professional standard exams.