With a dwindling population, Japan’s struggled to fill job roles on all fronts. The situation has been especially acute in nursing homes. However, one clever facility in Aichi Prefecture found a way to attract fresh – and bulky – new talent.
A dwindling workforce
As many regular readers know, Japan continues to grapple with a steadily falling population. Sadly, the situation isn’t improving. New numbers released this past week show that the number of births per woman in Japan has fallen for the sixth year in a row down to 1.30. That’s its fourth-lowest level ever. And the number of overall births fell to a historically low 811,604.
Different industries in Japan have tried to deal with this in clever ways. Some business leaders have pressured the government to relax immigration restrictions and allow more foreigners in. Other businesses have tried to technologize their way out of it. We wrote a while back, for example, about the airline that equipped baggage handlers with powered body suits. The idea was to allow people of any age and physical ability to carry out the otherwise demanding work of lifting heavy luggage.
The dwindling birth rate also means that Japan’s population is aging rapidly. While that means fewer people to work, it also means there are more senior citizens who need long-term care. And Japan’s health care centers say they’re already feeling the pinch. Over 65% of facilities surveyed said they feel short-staffed. If current trends continue, by 2040, Japan will have 690,000 nursing home workers than it needs to care for its aging population.
The Macho Nursing Home
At least one nursing home director has found a clever way to buck the trend.
In 2018, the director of NOIE TSUSHIMA in Tsushima city decided to reach out to a different audience to find caregivers: weightlifters. The result? Today, the facility is host to five nurses who are also shredded as heck. At least one of them has even won awards at national bodybuilding competitions.
FNN News interviewed one of the staff, Yamanaka Yuuji, a 24-year-old who’s been lifting since college. Yamanaka says his training has enabled him to be a good caregiver to the elderly: “If you don’t have a strong core, you can’t move people around.” After work, Yamanaka heads to a gym that’s subsidized as part of his employee benefits to keep himself in top shape – and to prep for powerlifting tournaments.
Yamanaka said he never had any intention of going into nursing. He originally thought of becoming a personal trainer. But the pandemic made that increasingly difficult. When he heard from a teacher that a facility in Tsushima was looking for “macho nurses”, he shirked. His preconception of nursing was that it was a dirty, underpaid job. Since working there, however, he’s discovered “there’s a lot more to the job.”
Nurses who know the human body
The idea is the brainchild of Niwa Yuusuke, who is responsible for 19 nursing care facilities spread across three prefectures. Niwa says he’s been wrestling with the issue of how to attract talent for years. In one instance, a call for nurses netted only two applications.
That’s when Niwa decided to reach out to the younger generation. He put out calls to create “Japan’s best macho nursing company.” Interest spiked and applications flooded in.
Niwa says there are multiple benefits to having bodybuilders as nurses. One of the most compelling is that his staff are very familiar with their own limitations and with the proper way to move their bodies. “They know the dynamics of the human body and train every day. Since they’re so skilled, they don’t injure themselves.”
Niwa also says the built-out nurses give the residents “peace of mind. They feel they can leave themselves to their care.”
Time will tell whether Niwa’s clever model catches on across Japan. But by all appearances, he’s hit on something big (pun absolutely intended).
 21年の出生率1.30 少子化対策見劣り、最低に迫る 6年連続低下. Nikkei Shinbun
 介護業界はなぜ人手不足に？人手不足の原因と改善策を解説！Kenkou Net
「力あるから安心感」“マッチョだらけ”の介護施設 業界に旋風起こす…実業団設立で人材続々【愛知発】. FNN