IV-16. “Transformation of the Awareness and Practice of Care in Japan During the Global Spread of COVID-19: A Focus on Foreign Nurses and Care Workers ” (R2 FY2020)

  • Project Leader : Ohno Shun (Seisen University, Department of Global Citizenship Studies)
  • Collaborators : Mario Lopez (Kyoto University, Center for Southeast Asia Studies)
  • : Ogawa Reiko (Chiba University, Graduate School of Social Sciences Center for Relational Studies on Global Crises)
  • : Hirano Yuko (Nagasaki University, Institute of Biomedical Sciences)
  • : Asato Wako (Kyoto University, Graduate School of Letters)
  • : Murakumo Kazumi (University of Tsukuba, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences)

Outline of Research

During the global spread of COVID-19, a number of cluster infections occured at nursing care facilities and hospitals across Japan. A few of these currently employ foreign nurse and care workers, particularly from Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

This study focuses on the tranformation of their care work given the impacts of COVID-19, examining their concerns toward viral infection and how they feel about working abroad. It investigates the employment trends of migrant nurses and care workers in Japan since the spread of COVID-19 has negatively affected the management of care facilities and hospitals. It also examines the different care practices and working circumstances that exist between Japanese and foreign staff based at nursing facilities and hospitals.

The research team will collect related data, documents, and other communication data and conduct interviews through online and other methods.


This study will focus on elderly-care and nursing workers from South-east Asia who are placed at the frontline of Japan’s medical and nursing care services, which were described as being “on the verge of collapse” by the Japanese mass media during the pandemic. Since this global crisis began to affect Japan in February 2020 to date, no studies discuss migrant nursing and elderly-care workers residing in Japan in relation to social changes caused by the spread of COVID-19. Thus, this research will be a pioneer study in this field.

The Japanese government has been demanding that people avoid closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings (the three “c”), and practice social distancing. However, these practices are difficult to implement in elderly-care and nursing settings. Migrant workers and their Japanese coworkers both face serious dilemmas in their daily nursing and care practices.

This study aims to examine the transformation of care work for migrant workers under the “New Normal” that is developing. In the care sector, qualified migrant workers are critical to provide medical care, as a majority of them possess a nursing educational background. Furthermore, cultural and religious backgrounds may be reflected in their care practices, especially during the crisis. This research will examine these issues. The outcome of this research will be vital to care work in Japan in general and collaborative work between Japanese and foreign coworkers in particular, since there has been a pattern of mutual misunderstandings and differences in care perspectives.

This study focuses on countries that currently send care workers and nurses to Japan, mainly including Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, and China. It will pay attention to the differences in the care practices and mindsets of care workers and nurses by nationality, gender, and generation.

All members of our team have rich experience in conducting research on migrant care and nursing workers in Japan and abroad. Thus, we will be able to produce meaningful outcomes that can contribute not only to academic discussions but also to deepening understanding within the care sector and widening knowledge among the general public. This study is expected to develop into a more comprehensive study involving questionnaire surveys for a broader range of stakeholders.

Research outcomes will be published in some academic journals, and present findings at a CSEAS seminar or other academic events held in Japan and abroad. The research ultimately aims to contribute to widening peoples’ knowledge regarding migrant care workers’ social contribution and their problems through academic events as well as the mass media. Research outcomes will be shared with collaborators abroad to strengthen future collaborative research.

A Filipina certified care worker wearing a facemask anytime in her workplace
(Photo taken at a long-term care health facility in Fukuoka Prefecture by her coworker in late May 2020

Care and managerial staff responding to our research members’ interview (Photo taken at a care facility in the Eastern part of Japan by Shun Ohno in early July 2020)