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Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012
Higher wages for nursing care
The government will increase payments awarded to nursing care services for the elderly by an average 1.2 percent beginning in fiscal 2012 (from April). These payments will go directly to entities providing the services — not to the individual care workers themselves. Still, the main purpose of the raise is to help increase the wages for such workers.
To help work out a policy in the future concerning wage levels for nursing-care workers, the government should study in detail their working conditions as well as the financial conditions of the entities providing the services, which reportedly have large cash reserves. The government should consider whether a portion of these reserves could be used to raise the wages of nursing care workers.
The level of payments awarded to nursing-care services is revised every third year. It was revised downward by 2.3 percent for fiscal 2003, and again downward by 2.4 percent for fiscal 2006. For fiscal 2009, it was revised upward by 3 percent, followed by a 1.2 percent upward revision for fiscal 2012.
The increase is due to the Democratic Party of Japan's policy of improving conditions for nursing care workers. Their average monthly wage, except overtime allowances, was ¥216,494 in fiscal 2010, about 70 percent of the average wage for all workers.
In its manifesto for the August 2009 Lower House election, which brought it to power, the DPJ proposed raising the monthly wage for a nursing worker by ¥40,000. Because of the nation's financial difficulties, the government, instead, introduced a subsidy to raise the monthly wage by ¥15,000. That subsidy will end March 31.
Therefore, the Health and Welfare Ministry decided to add 4 percent to the regular payments awarded to nursing care services if they met certain conditions and service providers agreed to use the 4 percent portion to raise the wages of their workers.
The ministry has found that 1,087 special nursing care homes for the elderly, run by social welfare corporate bodies, had cash reserves averaging ¥307.82 million at the end of fiscal 2010. Since there are some 6,000 such homes in Japan, total internal reserves are estimated to reach to more than ¥1.8 trillion.
Because the reserves include allocations for future repair and construction costs, the ministry should carry out a detailed study to find out whether these homes have enough funds to raise the wages of nursing-care workers.