社説:外国人介護士 春、さらに門戸を開け

2012-03-31 00:27:18 | 英字新聞



(Mainichi Japan) March 30, 2012
Editorial: Japan must be more humble toward foreign care workers
社説:外国人介護士 春、さらに門戸を開け

Thirty six applicants passed the first care worker exam held for foreign care workers under Japan's Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with Indonesia and the Philippines. While the passing rate, at 37.9 percent, was higher than the 11.3 percent passing rate of Indonesian and Filipino nurses applying for Japanese nursing qualifications under the same agreements earlier this year, the number is still far from ideal.

Accommodations to the applicants appear to have been made recently in the exams, including the use of furigana superscripts and the additional notation of English translations of disease names. The questions themselves seem to have become more of a practical nature. But still, technical words in Japanese appear frequently, and sentences can be difficult to decipher.

The half-hearted nature of the exam modifications is evident in the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's review of vocabulary. Expressions have been altered, but they are kept at a halfway point between "technical" and "simple," when "simple" would do just fine. Care workers deal with elderly people whose judgment and communication skills have become impaired. It is important that care workers get information across to their clients in easy-to-understand ways, and to intuit thoughts that clients may have trouble expressing clearly. How can a national exam that is meant to assess whether an applicant is qualified for this job, not employ clear enough language itself?

The health ministry defends its language choices in the exam, citing "the need of care takers to use the language in carrying out duties in cooperation with doctors and nurses," and "the undermining of academic foundations or confusion in the field" as its reasons. To the ministry, does making changes to the medical field itself not occur as a viable option?

Easily-understood language is necessary for patients and third parties to check on the quality of their treatment and ensure transparency. Such methods of communication can also be of use in securing informed consent. In addition, ministry officials must understand the boredom felt by students taking classes at colleges specializing in social welfare, where memorization of abstract knowledge is stressed, even while the knowledge and skills necessary in the field remain in constant flux. What sort of "academic foundations" are so important that they must be protected even if it means sucking the motivation out of students who could be future care givers?

Foreign candidates go through three years of practical training at care facilities in Japan before they are allowed to take the national qualification exam. Because their stay in Japan is limited to four years, in effect, foreign candidates only have one shot at the exam. Meanwhile, even without national certification, Japanese nationals are able to work at care facilities as official employees. Foreign candidates in training, however, are not considered "employees," which means that care facilities cannot receive government subsidies to cover their salaries.

Because of this, the number of foreign candidates has been dropping every year. The care sector is suffering a major labor shortage, many Japanese are being forced to leave their jobs to take care of aging family members, and there seems to be no end to the tragedy of elderly people facing death alone. Our already aging society is coming upon an even bleaker reality.

The health ministry says the care worker certification program is a "special case with regards to the economic partnership agreement, and not a solution to the labor shortage," and is not quite in step with other government ministries and agencies. This contrasts greatly with full-fledged efforts by South Korea and Taiwan to acquire foreign care workers. The care worker candidates who come to Japan are professionals. They have all attained university or other advanced degrees, as well as certification as care workers, in their home countries. We must be more humble and adopt the attitude there is much we can learn from them -- not the other way around.

毎日新聞 2012年3月30日 2時31分


社説:核安保サミット 日本の存在感がない

2012-03-30 03:51:29 | 英字新聞

(Mainichi Japan) March 28, 2012
Editorial: Japan must take more active role in nuclear security
社説:核安保サミット 日本の存在感がない

Japan barely left an impression at the Nuclear Security Summit held in Seoul on March 26 and 27. This is despite a major debate on the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, as well as a lively exchange about North Korea's plans to launch a "satellite."

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda arrived in Seoul on the night of the 26th and left less than 24 hours later. Perhaps distracted by the consumption tax issue back in Japan, he merely engaged in short "meetings" with other heads of state, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao. In contrast, Obama arrived in Seoul on the 25th, met with his South Korean, Chinese and Russian counterparts, visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and called on the North Korean administration to practice restraint.

This is not to say that a long visit is always better than a short one. However, one cannot help but have serious doubts about whether Noda was able to communicate Japan's concern over the threat North Korea poses with its nuclear program and missiles, and its renewed determination to implement anti-nuclear terrorism measures based on lessons from the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The summit in Seoul was the second nuclear security meeting; the first took place in Washington D.C. in 2010. With over 50 countries and regions represented, its goal is to prevent nuclear substances from falling into the hands of terrorist organizations, and to protect nuclear power facilities from terrorist attacks. The disaster at the Fukushima plant, in which power was completely lost due to a massive quake and tsunami, was deemed a situation that could be caused by a terrorist attack, and added to the conference's list of major discussion topics.

In a speech addressed to the conference participants, Noda stated the importance of anticipating the unanticipated, and vowed that Japan would reinforce power supply systems at nuclear plants and protection against radiation; conduct joint drills among police, the Ground Self-Defense Force, the Japan Coast Guard and the Maritime Self-Defense Force; and strengthen measures against cyberattacks. And yet, the impression remained that his speech lacked depth.

There's a theory that the kidnappings of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents were conducted in preparation for attacks on Japanese nuclear power plants. The chance of Japanese nuclear plants being attacked by North Korean missiles, or of Japanese nuclear plants near the Sea of Japan -- and therefore close to North Korea -- being commandeered by North Korea must be anticipated and prepared for. North Korea is a threat not only for its nuclear program and missiles, but as a possible instigator of nuclear terrorism.

The Seoul Communique delivered at the closing ceremony of the nuclear summit stated that nuclear terrorism was "one of the most challenging threats to international security" and that in light of the Fukushima disaster, "sustained efforts are required" to ensure nuclear safety. The promotion of "nuclear forensics," used to determine the origin of nuclear materials, is another significant move mentioned in the statement.

For many Japanese, nuclear terrorism may feel like something that does not concern them. However, regardless of the cause, we have experienced the horrific outcome of a nuclear power facility that has become uncontrollable. It is our responsibility to share our experience with the international community, and to draw on it in preventing nuclear terrorism. The world is seeking Japan's active participation in preventing nuclear terrorism and establishing East Asian security.

毎日新聞 2012年3月28日 2時32分


社説:ODA白書 国民理解深める努力を

2012-03-29 00:36:44 | 英字新聞

(Mainichi Japan) March 27, 2012
Editorial: Japan has duty to help other nations through ODA
社説:ODA白書 国民理解深める努力を

One point of note in the recently completed Ministry of Foreign Affairs whitepaper on Japan's overseas Official Development Assistance (ODA) programs is how many of the nations that came to this country's assistance after the March 2011 disasters did so expressing thanks for those ODA efforts. The report highlights once more how important ODA is, that it is in fact one of the pillars of Japanese foreign policy. However, we must make sure that the Japanese people know this as well.

Analysis of the links between last year's natural disasters and Japan's ODA programs comes at the very beginning of the whitepaper -- entitled "ODA and Japan's bonds with the world" -- which states that other nations are "strongly calling on Japan to overcome the Great East Japan Earthquake and make active international contributions starting with continuing ODA programs."

Japan's ODA heyday came in the 1990s, when it was spending more than 1 trillion yen per year on foreign development programs -- the highest of any country in the world at the time. Since then, however, budget crunches have seen that amount decline, and Japan is now fifth in the world in ODA spending behind the United States, Britain, Germany and France. The proposed ODA budget for fiscal 2012 stands at 561.2 billion yen, and while Japan's spending drops, other nations are upping their program budgets. In 2010, Britain increased its ODA outlays by 20 percent, while Germany and France are also spending more.

Japan's total spending on ODA programs is just 0.2 percent of gross national income (GNI), ranking it 20th among the 23 nations with major foreign assistance programs, which spend an average of 0.32 percent of GNI on ODA efforts. Meanwhile the current cellar-dweller, South Korea, plans to boost its ODA budget to 0.25 percent of GNI by 2015, meaning it could soon overtake Japan. With China also boosting foreign aid, especially to African nations, Japan's presence on the international ODA stage is getting slowly weaker.

Amid all this, Japanese public support for ODA spending is sliding. According to a 2011 Cabinet Office survey, public support for ODA stood at just 27 percent -- a 5 point drop from the year before. Also, the percentage of respondents who said ODA spending should stay at about current levels went from 43 in 2010 to 47 in 2011. Meanwhile, public worries over the opacity and efficiency of long-term ODA programs seem to persist. Furthermore, it's likely that now, after last year's terrible disasters, the Japanese people would prefer the nation's coin be spent on helping survivors rebuild their lives. ODA programs do indeed use up a lot of taxpayers' money, and it's perfectly natural that debate on ODA be fierce.

However, the basic foreign policy principle behind the programs -- that ODA helps build global stability, and global stability is connected to domestic stability -- is absolutely correct.

"It is the duty of Japan as one of the world's leading nations to take on the resolution of global issues," the foreign ministry whitepaper states, and so it is. It is not enough, however, to simply repeat this principle. Exactly how ODA works in Japan's interest must be explained properly to a skeptical public.

To take a couple of examples from the whitepaper, the public should know that products from the disaster areas in northeast Japan are being used in projects to help developing countries, and that ODA leads to business opportunities for Japanese firms providing, for instance, energy-saving and environmental technologies. There is also a need to think about ways to better the quality of ODA initiatives.

Japan began its ODA efforts in 1954 as a way to make war reparations, secure resources and promote peace. The aims of the programs, however, have changed in line with the times. To make sure that Japanese ODA meets the needs of this era, we call on our politicians to take the lead in deepening public debate on what forms our foreign assistance should take.

毎日新聞 2012年3月27日 2時33分



2012-03-28 05:06:28 | 英字新聞

(Mainichi Japan) March 26, 2012
Japan's postwar nuclear policy lingers

There are two types of atomic weapons. One is a uranium-kind or "Hiroshima-type" bomb and the other is a plutonium-kind or "Nagasaki-type" bomb. Iran says it is stockpiling enriched uranium for peaceful purposes but is suspected of having nuclear ambitions. Japan is also maintaining plutonium but is not suspected of going nuclear.

However, it cannot be said that Japan does not have military intentions. A policy of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes has implications for a diversion of nuclear energy for military use anytime. Nuclear energy is not unrelated to the military.

According to Akira Kurosaki, associate professor at Fukushima University who received the Suntory Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities for his 2006 book, "Nuclear Weapons and Japan-U.S. Relations," there were many materials to support the intentions of Japanese politicians and diplomats who tried to make Japan a potential nuclear power by promoting nuclear energy in the 1960s when the nation's post-World War II nuclear policy firmed up.

The prime minister at the time was Eisaku Sato (1901-1975). Sato presented four nuclear policies -- maintaining three non-nuclear principles of not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan, relying on an American nuclear deterrent, promoting the peaceful use of nuclear power and promoting nuclear disarmament.

The promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear power has a hidden intention of potentially possessing nuclear weapons.

Prime Minister Sato reacted bitterly to China's nuclear weapons test in 1964 and told then U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin Reischauer that Japan was fully capable of producing nuclear weapons with its scientific and industrial technologies. It was in 1965 that Japan's first commercial nuclear power plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, achieved criticality.

In 1969, a study team of senior Foreign Ministry officials secretly produced an internal document on always holding Japan's potential to maintain economic and technological prowess to produce nuclear weapons. It was prepared shortly before the conclusion of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which allows only the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China to possess nuclear weapons. The No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant was completed in 1970. The Mainichi Shimbun had a scoop on the Foreign Ministry in-house document in 1994.

Kurosaki says the four nuclear policies were not necessarily drawn up by Sato. He put together and rubber-stamped the policies formulated after heated debate through Japan-U.S. negotiations, bureaucrats in the Kasumigaseki district, industry and ruling and opposition party lawmakers.

Even after that, the undercurrent surrounding Japan's nuclear policy did not change. When North Korea's nuclear problems surfaced in the 1990s, calls for Japan to go nuclear emerged, but they are still minority opinions even to this day.

In 2007, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and three other nuclear arms experts pointed out that the traditional concept of nuclear deterrence has become obsolete in the post-Cold War era. In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama drew global attention by calling for a world free of nuclear weapons, but the world has subsequently witnessed Chinese and Russian military expansion and North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons development.

I interviewed Kurosaki in his office at Fukushima University last week. High-pressure cleaning vehicles were flushing radioactive materials from the campus. A native of the city of Niigata, Kurosaki studied law at Tohoku University and served as an assistant at Rikkyo University and held other posts before assuming his current post in 2009. If atomic weapons and nuclear power are two sides of the same coin, the March 11, 2011 twin natural disasters and resultant nuclear crisis appear to have forced Japan to radically change the course of its nuclear policy.

Japan possesses 45 tons of reprocessed plutonium which could be converted to military use. That amounts to about 4,000 "Nagasaki-type" atomic bombs. Japan can reduce its reprocessed plutonium by burning it at a fast-breeder reactor or pluthermal plant (using mixed oxide of uranium-plutonium fuel), but the prospects are bleak.

One wonders whether Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda would say Japan can carry out a nuclear fuel cycle using its own technology even though he has been unable to bring the collapsed nuclear power plant under control. Is there an option left for Japan to go nuclear today?

A two-day nuclear security summit opened in Seoul on March 26 by bringing together leaders of 53 countries. There is no argument about the need for debate on ways to prevent nuclear materials from finding their way into the hands of terrorists, but I also want these leaders to discuss a policy not to produce a dangerous and excessive volume of plutonium.

(By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer)
毎日新聞 2012年3月26日 東京朝刊


香山リカのココロの万華鏡:よりそいホットライン /東京

2012-03-27 04:22:02 | 英字新聞



(Mainichi Japan) March 25, 2012
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: One place to turn to when in need of help
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:よりそいホットライン /東京

Psychiatrists' work at their consultation rooms is not limited only to providing psychological care. Recently in particular, when searching for the background of depression and insomnia there are traces of other specific problems, including violence, work and financial issues among many others. It is no secret that psychologists borrow other professionals' help.

In my consultation room, I always keep a list of help organizations, and if the case requires me to do so, I sometimes introduce my patients to such professionals. At times it feels as if my consultation room is not a place for medical treatment but more of a mediation facility.

A new great supporter has emerged for medical professionals like myself. A service called "Yorisoi Hotline," which had previously been centered in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures -- the three regions most severely affected by the March 11, 2011 disasters -- is now expanding nationwide. For the time being, until the end of March this year, it will accept calls from people on a 24-hour a day basis.

The hotline's most appealing point is that it accepts people's calls regardless of the nature of their anxieties. Lifestyle problems, domestic violence, homosexuality issues, consultations of a suicidal nature -- people are free to consult with the counselors on any issues they may need help with.

Furthermore, the hotline also provides consultations in foreign languages. Of course, people of all ages are free to call.

For people who need consultations, the availability of such a hotline is very welcome. I think that the greatest anxiety of people who need help is where to turn for assistance. Furthermore, due to the nature of their problems they often have to visit a number of different professionals, sometimes even being told things such as "this is not in the range of our expertise," suggesting that they turn to other places for assistance. For people who already have anxieties, this may only discourage them from seeking help.

Naturally, consultants at the Yorisoi Hotline are not experts on all problems, so I am not sure whether they will provide adequate advice through a one-time consultation.

However, I believe that the single fact that there is a place where people can turn to for help when they are at a loss over who to consult with about their problems gives them much strength.

At the same time, however, I worry about the people who work at the hotline. I worry that they may get sick after working on a 24-hour basis and listening to a great variety of problems. I wish that all of society will support this ground-breaking initiative.

I must be cautious not to mention the Yorisoi Hotline too much in my consultation room. But to tell the truth, I've already taught its phone number to several of my patients.

To the consultants at Yorisoi Hotline -- please excuse me for increasing your work. However, I have a lot of confidence in you!

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2012年3月20日 地方版