Japan has taken quite a toll from the pandemic, like the rest of the world. It has tested the country’s healthcare to the extreme. From the bed capacity in hospitals to the healthcare personnel, it showed how unprepared the island country was. And as many reports and studies have stated, the lack of labor in every field in Japan is critical and problematic. Recent statements say that Japan needs to get more than a million healthcare workers by 2040!
Healthcare workers who complained of being burned out amid the peak of the pandemic’s global impact have left the industry and aren’t getting replaced by newcomers due to the dire conditions they are required to endure, such as lengthy hours, stress-inducing tasks as well as low wages and the possibility of contracting the disease.
The main issue is the declining birth rate and the lower number of young people working simultaneously; improvements in healthcare and medicine mean that the Japanese live longer than ever before.
According to official data, Japan’s population is expected to be 110.9 million by 2040, a 12.7 percent decline from 2020. An increase in health-related services demand is anticipated as early as 2025. A mere 15 years later, the second wave of people crossing 75, health services in the country will need 10.7 million employees.
Based on birth rates and other variables, the report indicates that just 9.74 million people are available to work, a deficit of 960,000 people, Asahi newspaper announced on 19 October.
The declining Yen has also made the health service in Japan less lucrative for foreigners wanting to practice in Japan. A small number of health professionals and nurses who hail from the Philippines or Indonesia are working in Japan. Still, a language barrier has proven to be an obstacle. There are nurses and doctors from other countries who have decided to move on to countries like the United States for better pay against the declining Yen.
Government also considers securing enough health workers for its population is one of the most important agendas on government’s eyesight. As years go on, Japan is expected to see a further decline in child births and increment in life expectancy. This will leave a larger gap in the working population.
South China Morning Post interviewed Yoko Tsukamoto, a professor in the University Of Hokkaido. She states that the university has also seen a drop in the number of students that want to pursue medical career. The dropout rate has supposedly increased by as far as 20% among the first year students.
Of the other fields available to students, medical field is the least that provides a decent work-life balance. Even though Japan is notorious for having employees overwork and also has seen deaths due to stress from overwork, the pandemic has extremely tired its health workers with continuous emergencies and overwork.
The government could make visa process for those who want to practice medicine in Japan comparatively easier, while providing further incentives and benefits. It is crucial that Japan takes this lack of manpower extremely seriously as the number of elderlies keep increasing. Japan has recently spent a lot for intervention of the decline in yen. Similar to that, budget in health sector could also see some improvements. Qualified foreign health workers are a rare gem for Japan in these dire times.
The government is trying different campaigns such as providing incentives to those who decide to move into neighborhood that consists primarily of elderlies, trying their best to advocate parents to have multiple children, and so on. Still, its hard to say that these methods have been effective.