IV-7. “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 ” (R2-3 FY2020-2021)

  • Project Leader : Ohno Shun (Seisen University, Faculty of Arts)
  • Collaborators : 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)
  • : Mario Lopez (Kyoto University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies)
  • : Murakumo Kazumi (University of Tsukuba, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences)

Outline of Research

Amid the global spread of COVID-19, cluster infections have occurred at nursing care facilities and hospitals across Japan. A number of these institutions currently employ foreign nurses and care workers, particularly from Southeast Asian countries.

This study focuses on the transformation of the care practices and attitudes of nursing and care migrants brought about by the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which have resulted in changes to their daily work and lives. Through online and face-to-face interviews, this research investigates their positions and roles in both the medical and welfare fields and examines the transformation of relationships between migrant and Japanese co-workers in these fields.

Japan’s nursing care sector, facing an ever-increasing shortage of labor, had tended to be more dependent on foreign human resources before the pandemic. However, the crisis has restricted the international movement of migrant workers, and led to a deterioration in the management of medical and elderly-care institutions. This research investigates changes in the employment regime of migrant nurses and care workers under these circumstances.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government and numerous employers in Japan have been demanding that people avoid closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings (“the three Cs”), and practice social distancing. However, these practices are difficult to implement in elderly-care and nursing settings. Both migrant and Japanese co-workers face serious dilemmas in their daily nursing and care practices. How do human relations between these co-workers change during severe working circumstances? Through onsite and online interviews and group discussions, this research examines such dilemmas as well as the changes occurring in care practices and the relationships between migrant and Japanese co-workers.

Qualified migrant care workers coming to Japan under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) are critical in providing safe care for elderly clients, as a majority possess a nursing educational background. Their contributions during the pandemic will be examined in some elderly-care facilities.

This research also examines if care and nursing migrants’ religious backgrounds may be an important factor in shaping their attitudes, especially in hospitals and elderly-care facilities where some patients were seriously ill or even died due to COVID-19 related infections.

The outcome of the above-mentioned research will be vital to care work in Japan in general and collaborative work between Japanese and foreign co-workers in particular, since a pattern of mutual misunderstandings and perception gaps has been observed in their workplaces.

This study focuses on countries that currently send care workers and nurses to Japan, primarily Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, and China. It pays attention to differences in care practices and examines the mindsets of care workers and nurses by nationality and gender during the pandemic.

All team members have rich experience in conducting research on migrant care and nursing workers in Japan and abroad, and have formed strong connections in the nursing and care sectors. We will develop our studies by utilizing such connections fully during the research period.

Research results will be presented at academic meetings in Japan and abroad, published in some academic journals, and disseminated to the medical and care industries to help raise awareness of the contributions of foreign nursing and care workers in Japan’s medical and welfare fields and the problems that they face. Research outcomes will also be shared with collaborators abroad to strengthen future collaborative research.

Research members interviewing migrant care staff at an elderly-care facility in Kyushu

Flier for an online seminar for research members to discuss with Indonesian nursing and care staff