Non-working nurses in Japan: estimated size and its age-cohort characteristics

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Aims and objectives

This paper aims to forecast the total number of non-working nursing staff in Japan both overall and in terms of separate age groups for assistant nurses and fully qualified nurses. This also examines policy implications of those forecasts.


Although the existence of around 550,000 of non-working nursing staff has been announced, the actual number of non-working nurses is not so clear that we might make errors in making policy to meet nurse workforce demand and supply in Japan.

Design and method

Estimations by integrating various data on the quantitative characteristics of non-working nursing staff were carried out. Considering the length and the type of education or training in referred four nursing positions; registered nurses, assistant nurses, public health nurses and midwives, we first estimated the number of students who completed a full course. And then multiplying by the ratio for gender and age classifications at the time of entry into courses, the number of those who obtained licenses was estimated.


The number of non-working nurses was estimated at 100,000 higher than those in 2005 by government. Looking at age group, it is also possible to see a strong reflection of an employment pattern that follows the life cycle of female workers. Further analysis of life cycle effects and cohort effects proved the effect of life cycles even when subtracting the differences between the working behaviours of different generations.


Our findings strongly suggest the need to provide an urgent policy that workplace conditions can be created in which a balance between work and family is achievable. Moreover, to empower clinical activity, we also believe there is an urgent need to reexamine the overall career vision for assistant nurses including in terms of compensation.

Relevance to clinical practice

Our findings strongly suggests that consideration for work-life balance of nursing staff; particularly, female staff is all the more important to provide a stable quality care.

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