JPEPA HIGHLIGHTS GOV’T INSENSITIVITY TO NURSES

Apologists for the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) continue to claim that the treaty’s ratification will mean more employment and foreign remittances for Filipinos. But according to independent research group IBON, JPEPA highlights the Philippine government’s insensitivity to nurses and caregivers.

IBON research head Sonny Africa says that government is trying to portray that the JPEPA is a clear-cut benefit for a few hundred of the country’s health professionals. “In reality government is using them as fodder to cover up for its severe failure in generating jobs for Filipinos,” he said.

The Japanese government is facing the challenge of dealing with its aging population, and it is now state policy to reduce the costs of nursing and caregiving, said Africa . This situation has resulted in low wages and poor working conditions that even Japanese health professionals find intolerable.

The average annual income of nurses in Japan was just US$40,000 in 2004 compared for instance to US$54,000 in the United States . Caregivers’ annual income in Japan is much lower at US$25,200 for females and US$40,000 for males.

In May 2007, a survey conducted by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry found that 40% of Japanese nursing care license holders have turned down work in the industry because of low wages and poor working conditions. An earlier survey in 2006 found that 70% of Japanese nurses feel that they could quit their jobs at anytime due to chronic fatigue and professional disappointment.

The JPEPA and other similar deals lets Japan hire nurses and caregivers, for instance, from the Philippines and Indonesia , even more cheaply. After 6 months of language training, applicants can already have on-the-job training for up to 3-4 years while they try to pass the relevant national exams. Although they are already working during this time they will be receiving pay only as non-licensed workers or trainees or candidates– or as nurse’s aides and caregiver’s assistants. This goes far to cheapening the cost of Japan ’s health care, but at the clear expense of Filipino and other trained health professionals, said Africa .

“Using the so-called gains for nurses and caregivers to make acceptable a patently unequal deal like the JPEPA only shows an uncaring government that treats its labor force as mere commodities for export,” he said

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