HA NOI — The first group of Vietnamese nurses and caregivers will go to work in Japan at the beginning of 2014 as part of the Viet Nam–Japan economic partnership agreement (EPA).
"About 30,000 nurses graduate from the country's 100 nursing schools every year, so this is a great opportunity for them to work in Japan," said Dr Tran Quang Huy of the Ministry of Health's Medical Services Administration Department.
He said Viet Nam was the third country to reach a nurse and caregiver agreement with Japan, following Indonesia and the Philippines.
Takashi Ouchi, an officer of Senjukai Social Welfare Corporation, said Japan's shortage of nurses was a serious problem because of the low birth rate, ageing society and depopulation.
He said Japan needs more than 2.5 million caregivers in the next 10 years, double the current figure. To solve this problem, Japan had made an effort to recruit qualified nurses and caregivers from other countries under EPAs.
Misako Takeuchi of Japan's Sodegaura Satsukidai Hospital said a nurse in Japan could earn a monthly salary of US$2,696.
Huy said Vietnamese nurses and caregivers would attend free Japanese lessons for about one year and then take a language test. Only those who pass the test would be allowed to come to Japan.
"Nurses will receive training during their three-year stay while working at Japanese hospitals. Caregivers will be trained for two to four years. If they pass Japan's national exams, they will be allowed to stay and work in Japan as long as they wish."
He added that even if they failed the exam and came back to Viet Nam, their experience working in Japan would still be valuable. "They will become high-quality labourers for Vietnamese hospitals and care centres."
Minh Phu, a Vietnamese nurse who has been working in Japan's Sodegaura Satsukidai Hospital for several years under a joint programme between the MoH and Japan's Asian Human Power Networks (AHP), said: "At the beginning, I had trouble communicating with patients and colleagues in the hospital due to lack of language skills and understanding of Japanese culture. This deterred me from accomplishing my tasks even though I had good professional skills."
She said language ability was crucial for candidates looking to work abroad.
Pham Duc Muc, deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Nurses Association, said the association would co-operate with AHP to build a training centre for nurses and caregivers based on Japan's criteria for the professions.
He said they would also put together questionnaires to assess nurses' and caregivers' capabilities in the style of the Japanese national examinations. — VNS