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Health issues amongst care workers under the Long-term Care Insurance System in East Asia

2012 Conference Presentation

(Inter)national systems JapanSouth Korea

6 September 2012

Health issues amongst care workers under the Long-term Care Insurance System in East Asia

Yoshiko Agenosono, Nihon University, Japan
Saori Kamozawa, Nihon University, Japan
An Seunghee, Nihon University


Background: In Japan and South Korea, the number of elderly needing social care is expected to grow rapidly in the near future. Historically caring for the elderly was carried out by family members, mainly women, but as more women enter the labour market and family structures change, professional care workers are increasingly playing an important role in providing social care. In order to ease the burden of elderly care, as well as promoting well-being for the elderly, it is necessary to examine different types of welfare regimes since these have implications for elderly health policies. Under these circumstances, the long-term care insurance (LTCI) system for the elderly, which began in Japan in 2000 and 2008 in Korea, has emerged as a significant policy agenda in East Asian countries, especially since there is a shortage of health care workers and turnover rates are high. In order to stabilize the elderly LTCI system and develop the quality of services, it is important to improve the health management of care workers. This research focuses on care workers’ occupational health, safety issues and comparative experiences.

Objectives: In this presentation, the following questions will be posed: (1) What actions are required to achieve sustainable social care? The focus is on physical and emotional burden within social care, set against the situation of care workers in Japan and South Korea; (2) How actions in an ageing society can contribute towards sustainable social development and health in order to promote dignified ageing and a good working environment for care workers.

Methods: (1) In the first instance, published documents and survey reports in Japan and South Korea will be examined; (2) Occupational health policies by international organisation such as WHO, ILO and European countries, especially for care workers will be investigated. (3) Questionnaires will be carried out with care providers in Japan between December 2011 and January 2012.

Provisional Results: (1) There is concern over the job separation rate and the shortage of care workers; (2) There is a high incidence of lower back pain amongst care workers, but health management is not tackling this problem systematically; (3) The right to dignified work in a safe and healthy environment is not yet being promoted.

Policy implications: (1) It is essential to establish health management in social care as professional work rather than acting as family support. (2) Promoting decent working conditions for care workers is necessary in order to support dignified ageing and provide good quality of care in the Long-term Care Insurance System.