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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 April 1 - 7  > Progress of ‘socialization of care’ at snail’s pace under 20 years of public nursing-care insurance program
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2020 April 1 - 7 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Progress of ‘socialization of care’ at snail’s pace under 20 years of public nursing-care insurance program

April 2, 2020

April 1 marked the 20th anniversary of the launch of the public nursing-care insurance program which was introduced with the aim of the “socialization of care”. Successive governments, however, have been imposing heavier financial burdens on users and reducing available services, which increased people’s anxieties about entering old age.

Under successive governments mainly led by the Liberal Democratic Party, state remuneration paid for nursing care continued to decrease, which has made it difficult for service providers to make ends meet as well as to give a pay raise to their workers. The number of care service providers going bankrupt in 2019 topped the 100 mark for four years in a row and stood at 111, a tie for the all-time high, according to the private credit research agency Tokyo Shoko Research.

The growing demand for special nursing-care homes has continued to outpace supply. As of April 2019, around 326,000 elderly people in Japan were on waiting lists for admission to these facilities.

As low wages and heavy workloads of nursing-care workers remain unsolved, labor shortages in this industry is becoming serious. The Welfare Ministry estimates that in 2025, demand for nursing-care workers will exceed supply by 340,000 workers. Shortage of workers is forcing some newly-built nursing homes for the elderly to remain closed and is pushed many existing facilities to accept fewer residents than their capacity.

Increases in service fees for users prevent low-income seniors from using care services, which means that they need to be looked after by their family members. In recent years, 90,000-110,000 workers quit their jobs in order to take care of their elderly family members. The Abe government promised to take measures so that no worker will have to give up their careers because of the need for nursing-care. However, this has turned out to be an empty promise.

The outbreak of the new coronavirus has delivered a heavy blow to the nursing-care industry. Many fear that the industry will collapse if unable to receive government support.

The need now is to stop undermining the public nursing-care insurance program and to improve the program so that all people can receive necessary care services.

Past related article:
> Nearly 70% of nursing-care providers face labor shortage [August 17, 2019]
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