This year 2009, Japan will recruit Filipino nurses and caregivers for training and employment under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). This was disclosed by Labor Secretary Marianito D. Roque in a recently announced statement.
As reported in this blog last year, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Japan International Corp. of Welfare Services (JICWELS) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) providing for the recruitment of Filipino nurses and caregivers to Japan under the Framework for the Movement of Natural Persons of JPEPA, which came into force Dec.11 last year.
There have been strong oppositions to JPEPA by some local groups including the Philippine Nurses Association as they believed that this agreement between the Philippines and Japan is disadvantageous to Filipino nurses. Other sectors that are against JPEPA are afraid that this agreement can become the “template” to exploit other Filipino professionals in exchange for good economic relations with Japan.
In defense, Mr. Roque said the MoU provides for the roles and responsibilities of the two parties and the working conditions for the nurses and caregivers that would ensure their welfare and protection. He said the hiring program would initially recruit 200 nurses and 300 caregivers whom the POEA would endorse to JICWELS.
Mr. Roque said the Pinoy nurses and caregivers will have a fully transparent employment contract and that they will receive the same salaries as that of Japanese counterparts based on similar tasks and qualifications.
Part of the agreement is to train the Filipino nurses primarily on language prior to actual deployment to Japanese hospitals working under the supervision of a Japanese “kangoshi” who will conduct familiarization activities on culture and the Japanese system. While under training, the candidates will receive allowance of not less than ¥40,000 or more than P21,000 per month. Airfare to Japan will be shouldered by employers or the Japanese government.
Registered nurses with at least three years experience are qualified to apply for training and employment in Japan. Qualified Filipino nurses and candidates can apply with the POEA or through the agency’s Web site www.eregister.poea.gov.ph.
Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement or JPEPA has been ratified by the Senate last week in spite of the many opposition and disgusto about it since it started in the lower house plenary. JPEPA boasts to help the ailing economic relationship with Japan heal its wounds.
Senators approving the treaty believed JPEPA needs to be ratified, otherwise, Japanese foreign direct investment and earnings from Philippine exports to Japan may go to other Southeast Asian countries where Japan has economic partnership agreements.
But why is there a lot of opposition to this so-called economic treaty?
Concerned groups and oppositors have expressed their concerns on the treaty even before this came to the Senate for debate. The contention is that it is unconstitutional since it violates the protectionist provisions in the Constitution. And the group that will be affected are Filipino nurses who wants to work in Japan.
The detractors believed that this same treaty will also become a “template” for other developed countries to exploit our OFWs particularly Pinoy nurses in exchange for economic and trade exchanges. And you know that we reported earlier that even the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) supports the call to junk the JPEPA during the legislative deliberation.
The impact is debilitating for most of our ordinary countrymen seeking healthcare-related jobs in Japan. For nurses, they will first work and get paid as trainees while preparing for the nursing licensure exam in the Japanese language. If they fail to pass the exam within a three-year period, they will have to return to the Philippines.
The treaty compromises Filipino nurses’ labor standards, job security, migrant and labor rights, benefits and wages, and other protection for healthcare workers and caregivers. Many believe that the trade agreement’s provision on labor services would compromise Filipino health workers and put them in a very vulnerable position.
16 Philippine senators voted in favor of the Treaty which is described to be as “onerous trade agreement.” Only four senators voted against the JPEPA.
The Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) does not support a proposal to legislate a Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) course in the Philippines simply because it will not only threaten the oversupplierd nursing profession here in the country but also the market abroad, according to Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, PNA president.
In her speech as a guest speaker in a University recently, she said that legitimizing the LPN course in the country would make it compete with the Bachelor’s degree of the Nursing course, thereby posing a threat to the entire nursing profession.
She believed that this is demoralizing the nursing profession and would limit job opportunities of Filipino nurses. Paquiz also stressed that nursing practice should never be cut short like what the institutions offering LPN course are doing.
Being the president, Paquiz is fighting for the dignity of nurses. She even pushed for the salary increase of nurses especially those employed in the government. She cited that Republic Act 9173 or the Nursing Act of 2002 dictates that nurses employed by the government deserves a Salary Grade 15 which is equivalent to a monthly pay of P16,000.
With many jobless nurses now in the Philippines, the question roams about “who will take care of improving the hiring and job opportunities of Filipino Nurses abroad?”. Is it solely the responsibility of the Philippine government to the Pinoy nurses as it is to the Filipino people? Or is it something that local educational system and the Filipino families have to take care of?
We have read a lot from the news that a lot of recruiters now are scrambling to take advantage of this oversupply of nurses situation in the Philippines. Some recruiters promised to solve the situation by opening up new trainings, hiring and job opportunities abroad through them. With this, we should be worried that illegal recruiters may begin to proliferate in the nursing profession.
More often than not, the governance of a profession is to blame in this situation. Many believed that the nursing profession is in a crisis right now and it needs government intervention. If you look deeply into the root cause of the problem, the local nursing supply and demand has something to do with it as well.
First and foremost, nursing schools should stop accepting more nursing students into the pipeline or at least control the entrants. CHED has to have a hand on this. Maybe PNA should support it as well. CHED should make an assessment of the oversupply nationwide and put a halt for more production of nurses. If the government is not winning the frontlines for nursing demands abroad (like the US, UK and Canada), then we should take care of the local scene.
Second, parents should start diverting their kids to other courses. Nursing is not as lucrative as before. Parents have to guide their kids to the right careers or profession that fits them. Career decisions should not be about money anymore.
And third, if you are a student in nursing or planning to be one someday, be doubly sure you want to be in this field or profession. If you are someone who, like many, had been forced or swayed to be in this profession against their will, then think again and decide what is best for yourself. Talk to your parents and arrange for a shift in career.
With oversupply of nurses and no demand, no one will surely make money. In the family that nurtures a student to become a nurse someday, disappointments and frustration will surface later. Without job opportunities for your the new nurse in the family, you end up losing anyway. There are other more lucrative professions and careers (like in IT) that have not been tapped still by many Filipino students.
Hopefully, the hiring and job opportunities for Pinoy nurses will improve in the near term. The Philippine government should be more agressive in building ties and relations to potential employers abroad. If not, then we, the kith and kins of Filipino nurses, should urge the government to do something drastic and immediate. And we should do our part as well in solving this employment crisis.