TOKYO >> “You look very well. Would you like some tea?” asked a trainee working at a nursing home in Fukaya, Saitama Prefecture.
Trainees working at the Enzeru no Oka (angel’s hill) facility last month spoke to residents with a smile while helping them eat.
“People living in the home looked perplexed at first, but I now feel that they are opening up to me,” said Sri Lankan trainee Monali Tasheema, a 21-year-old who moved to Japan in September.
Four Sri Lankan and three Chinese trainees currently work at the facility.
Up to 340,000 foreigners are expected to work in Japan over the next five years, under the government’s plan to start accepting more foreign workers this month.
Foreign workers who switch their status from “technical intern trainee” to “Type 1 certificate holder,” which designates a specific skill, are expected to make up half of the total. Unlike trainees, Type 1 workers can switch jobs. Amid these changes, employers are making concerted efforts to retain their staff.
Katsumikai, the Fukaya-based social welfare corporation that operates the facility, said it had difficulty recruiting staff over the past couple of years and began hiring foreign trainees last September.
The trainees help the elderly residents bathe, eat and use the restroom, doing the same work as Japanese employees. However, they face challenges due to the language barrier and stress of being in a foreign country, and the facility holds monthly meal sessions in which Japanese staff listen to their concerns.
“We have a system where we provide care to our trainees when they have difficulties,” said Shigeki Ito, the facility’s managing director.
Enzeru no Oka plans to hire personnel with Type 1 status. Those who have completed three years of training can transition to the status without taking an examination, allowing them to work in Japan for another five years.
Competition to secure foreign trainees is intensifying among local governments and businesses that operate outside urban areas. Some have stepped up their recruitment by visiting countries with potential workers.
Masayoshi Koshio, mayor of Ayase, Kanagawa Prefecture, where many metal-processing companies and factories are based, traveled to Hanoi last November.
“If we don’t make any efforts, the foreign workers will all go to Tokyo,” Koshio said.
In Ibaraki Prefecture, the government opened an office that matches foreign workers with local companies, among other forms of assistance.
“There’ll be competition for foreign workers across the nation. We need to take action,” said Gov. Kazuhiko Oigawa.
The prefectural government will also encourage interns who have left Japan to return to the prefecture.