Japan aims to promote work, nursing-care balance

JAPAN - The labour ministry will promote work environments in which employees can balance work and at-home nursing care, as part of efforts to reduce the number of people who quit to care for an elderly family member, it has been learned.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to provide incentives for 100 private companies it will select nationwide so they can serve as models for creating an environment in which people can balance their working life and at-home care.

As the baby boom generation ages, the number of mid-level officials who must care for their elderly parents is expected to rapidly increase. The ministry hopes to reduce the number of people who quit by having companies provide various kinds of support.

After selecting firms from various sectors and of various sizes, the ministry will provide each one with ¥300,000 (S$3,670) and arrange for consulting companies to advise them on establishing systems in which employees can manage both their careers and nursing care.

The government will ascertain how the firms tackle the issue, and prepare summaries of effective steps to help such measures spread throughout the business world.

The number of employees providing nursing care for an elderly family member was 2.91 million in 2012, or 4.5 per cent of the people with jobs. In the year from October 2011, a total of 101,000 left their jobs to look after an elderly or sick person at home.

When baby boomers start turning 70 in several years, it is feared that the number of people who have to give up their job in order to provide nursing care will rapidly increase.

The ministry conducted research in fiscal 2013 to examine how private firms help employees balance careers and nursing care. Its presentation of the findings included specific examples such as shortening working hours to allow employees to provide nursing care, allowing people to work at home and exempting certain employees from being assigned elsewhere.

The ministry also described such efforts as holding social gatherings, seminars and interviews for employees nursing family members. It will urge the 100 selected firms to introduce such support systems.

The government plans to provide firms with a broad range of information on the issue, and compile effective measures depending on the industry.

"Employees quitting to nurse family members is a problem for an entire company. Many male employees in managerial positions have been thrown into a quandary as they face having to care for their parents," said Naoki Atsumi, an official with Toray Corporate Business Research, Inc.

"Companies should change their working environments so employees can always consult with the firms about their family problems," Atsumi said.