Japan’s problems with Non-Japanese (Nurses)

Since I teach at a nursing college, some of my students tell me that they have discussed the topic of Non-Japanese (NJ) nurses coming into the country. I was curious about their thoughts so I asked some about their ideas. They generally answered that having NJ nurses would be a great way to alleviate some of the problems of a declining population of young people and a growing percentage of elderly. It would also be a great way for NJ nurses, who usually come from countries which don’t have such high levels of medical care, to come and learn in Japan. I’m still not buying it. For two reasons; it isn’t in the Japanese nurses’ best interests, nor is it in the NJ’s best interests.

First, it is union busting, put simply. If the motivations were alleviating demographic pressures or exchanging nursing technology for the betterment of the world, then the country would open its doors to all nurses and give them equal support for coming here. As it stands the country has made some deals with Indonesia and the Philippines, both countries with lower standards of living than Japan. Why don’t they make deals with the US or European countries? They don’t want to hire nurses that will actually expect higher wages.

Why don’t they have such programs for other professions which are experiencing shortages in qualified personnel, like physicians and lawyers? My guess is that they know that by introducing programs that open up the medical and legal professions to NJ professionals will challenge the status quo. The government is unduly influenced by powerful men in those professions and they will have nothing to do with it.

Second, it isn’t in the best interests of NJ nurses, because this country can’t get its head around how it feels about NJ anybody. Police agencies put out posters that say, “Turn in suspicious foreigners.” They stop random people on the street in Roppongi, clearly using racial profiling, and demanding urine tests. There are frequent reports of cops stopping bicycle-riding NJ’s, ostensibly so that the police can check to see if the bikes are stolen, and then grilling the riders on issues totally unrelated.

This country can’t get its story straight about why they want to import nurses, and they can’t get their feelings about NJ’s together enough to either treat them as criminals and exile them all or welcome them as fellow citizens of the world and immigrants to Japan. Of course I can’t vote either, so have no say, but I would oppose such programs.

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