I saw a news report on the BBC’s website the other day about the challenges Japan faces as its population ages. All Western democracies are getting older, but Japan is a bit of a special case due to its low birthrate, high longevity and lack of meaningful migration from the outside. One area of the economy that’s starting to feel the pinch is health care, and Japan needs about 40,000 more nurses annually than are currently available. If this were to happen in the U.S. or Europe, it wouldn’t be that difficult to bring in workers from countries like the Philippines, but in the case of Japan all health care workers would require a nursing license…and the ability to read kanji characters perfectly. Japan is starting to face the question of how to attract health care workers — occasionally you’ll see news reports that a group of 30 nurses arrived from Indonesia, although the fact that it’s a rare enough event to warrant national news coverage speaks volumes — but so far it’s slow going. Maybe they can create a special category of nurse that can provide care to patients in areas that don’t require reading kanji perfectly? Either that, or cute moe robot nurses to take care of us.
Among other problems, Japan is facing a shortage of nurses, especially the moe kind.