Aging Countries Look to Vietnam to Fill Nursing Gap

    08 October, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    Japan and Germany have the world's oldest populations, but neither country has enough trained health care workers to meet the needs of older adults. So, they are turning to Vietnam for help.

    This month, 100 young Vietnamese are going to Germany as part of a project to train what are called geriatric nurses to work in the European country. The trainees recently completed a six-month language and culture class in Hanoi, they will spend the next two years in an occupational training program. If the trainees pass the final exam, they will be able to work in Germany as geriatric nurses for another 3 years.

    Germany is facing a crisis as low birth rates combine with a growing population of citizens who are living longer. About 20 percent of the population is over the age of 65, and that percentage is expected to continue rising.

    This is a problem Japan also faces. Later this year, 150 Vietnamese candidates will go to Japan for two years of training at the country's hospitals, after that they are expected to take the national nursing exam.

    Japan already trains nurses from the Philippines and Indonesia, but the health care system has been criticized for being too restrictive. All candidates must take the same exam, but it is very difficult for foreign applicants because few can speak the Japanese language.

    Yoko Tsuruya is the first secretary at the Japan's embassy in Hanoi. She says foreign nationals are given some help to complete the test, like being given more time to answer questions. To improve training, the government plans to combine language classes with real-life experience on the job.

    Even with an aging population, many Japanese are opposed to foreigners working in some industries. Critics say foreign labor could lead to higher unemployment, but there is little opposition to foreign nurses.

    In Vietnam, the situation is very different. 60 percent of the population was born after the Vietnam war ended in 1975. There is not enough jobs for everyone who wants one. Most children are expected to care for their aging parents when they get old.

    Huong Thi Thi - the nurse trainee, thinks that in the future, Vietnam will need more hospitals for its elderly, but she adds, learning the skills overseas can help the Vietnamese develop this area for themselves.

    And that's the Health Report from VOA Learning English. go to our website to leave comments on our stories and to find more stories for people learning American English. I'm Milagros Ardin.