As Japan ages, young Indonesians train to fill caregiver jobs

April 7, 2023 - 3:01 PM
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An elderly couple walks through red-coloured wooden torii gates at a shrine, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan December 22, 2020. (Reuters/Issei Kato)

 Speaking in Japanese and bowing, 24-year-old Siti Maesaroh offers a tray with a mug and two bowls to a fellow student pretending to be an elderly person, before asking him if he wanted chopsticks and a spoon to eat with.

The role play is an example of the type of training being offered by vocational institutions across Indonesia catering to students seeking to fill job vacancies in Japan.

“I think the reason Japan chooses us is because Indonesian youths are very capable of caring for the elderly,” said Maesaroh, who is attending the Onodera User Run school in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta.

The school, established in 2022, also offers Japanese language training for its students seeking to enroll in a Japanese government program to employ foreigners with special skills to work in sectors like care giving.

Japan is one of the world’s most rapidly ageing societies, with people who are 65 or older now accounting for 28% of the population, according to U.N. data.

Births in Japan fell to fewer than 800,000 for the first time last year, according to official data, as Japan’s working-age population shrinks.

Hiroki Sasaki, labor attache at the Japanese embassy in Jakarta, estimates only about 130,000 of the 340,000 special skilled job vacancies in Japan have been filled.

A foreign workforce, therefore, is becoming increasingly necessary, he said.

As of December 2022, there were more than 16,000 Indonesians working under Japan’s special skilled worker scheme, the second-highest number behind Vietnam.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country with some 280 million people and Kamila Mansjur, the principal of the school, said sending workers to Japan to care for the elderly benefited both countries.

“In Indonesia every year we have an increase in the population of about three million. Yet here we have our own challenge which is a lack of jobs,” she said.

—Editing by Ed Davies