In late June, foreign carers in Taiwan came mainly from Indonesia (191,942) and Vietnam (28,040). Together with workers from the Philippines and Thailand, foreign social welfare workers totaled 251,842. In other words, at least one-third of all households with a long-term care need relied on foreign workers.
However, foreign news agencies have reported that Japan has imported 3,000 migrant workers from Vietnam to provide care services and that it plans to import 10,000 by summer 2020, according to an agreement between the Japanese government agency promoting health and medical care, which is led by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the Vietnamese government.
Japan is also to import migrant workers from Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos. This could mean that the number of Vietnamese workers coming to Taiwan will decrease and it might also have an effect on the number of Indonesian migrant workers coming to Taiwan.
As a result of the diminishing Japanese labor force, Japan’s hospitality, agricultural and construction industries are feeling the pinch from the shrinking availability of personnel. In addition, Tokyo is to host the Olympic Games in 2020, which means that the need for personnel will increase further.
The Japanese government is therefore drawing up a new system to allow industries in dire need of labor to hire more foreigners. Due to past restrictive immigration policies, Japan has only allowed an extremely small number of so-called nontechnical foreign workers.
However, for economic reasons and in view of its aging population, the Japanese government in June announced a five-year program with new residency and work qualifications to attract 500,000 workers for the construction, agricultural, hospitality, care and shipbuilding sectors, all of which have experienced severe shortages of personnel.
The 10,000 Vietnamese care workers are only one-50th of that number, which means that Japan will have to expand its search for migrant workers to other countries.
According to the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, there was a shortage of 40,000 workers in the care sector in 2015, which means that even with an influx of 10,000 foreign carers, there will still be a shortage of 30,000 workers.
Japan must expand its labor force by 550,000 workers before 2025, and it is estimated that by 2035, the shortage of care workers will have increased to 790,000. The Japanese government has already raised pay and benefits to attract more Japanese to the care sector, but having failed to fill the shortage, it is planning to attract about 10,000 migrant workers.
The Long-term Care Services Program 2.0 that Taiwan has been developing also suffers from a shortage of care workers, but the related policies are spread over the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Education, and there is a lack of cross-ministerial policy planning.
Looking at how things are being done in Japan and considering Taiwan’s approach, it is clear that if the government continues to fail to sufficiently emphasize overall policy planning for care workers, there will be a crowding-out effect once Japan’s policies are put in place or the principle of comparative advantage kicks in.
This is certain to affect the Taiwanese households that have been employing 250,000 foreign migrant workers, and it will also impact families that want to hire new foreign carers. It is clear that this will put pressure on the long-term care program.
George Yi is an expert on dementia care and a long-term care policy researcher.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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