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2019.05.08

【Aging, safety net and fiscal crisis in Japan】No.184: There's an excess of physical therapists and occupational therapists

In this column series, Yukihiro Matsuyama, Research Director at CIGS introduces the latest information about aging, safety net and fiscal crisis in Japan with data of international comparison.

In April 2019, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare released an estimate of the number of physical therapists and occupational therapists needed in the future. A physical therapist is a specialist who supports basic physical recovery, so that a patient can perform the movements needed in daily life, such as turning over, getting up, standing up, and walking. An occupational therapist is a specialist who supports rehabilitation through daily activities, such as bathing and eating, and creative tasks, such as handicrafts and recreation. Both of them need to clear the national examination to become qualified.


In response to the growing demand for physical therapists and occupational therapists, the number of universities and vocational schools that set up departments for acquiring the national qualification surged. As a result, as of 2015, the number of capacities at educational institutions is 20,914--13,629 for physical therapists and 7,285 for occupational therapists. As shown in Table 1, their total number more than tripled from 52,818 in 2002 to 162,428 in 2014. The average annual increase for the period between 2011 and 2014 is 11,150. This is less than the enrollment capacity at educational institutions because some fail the national examination and some leave the job.


The increase in the number of therapists by more than 10,000 a year suggests that their total number exceeds 200,000 as of 2018. On the other hand, according to Ministry's estimates, the required number as of 2018 is at the most 178,692 (Table 2). This means that therapists are already in excess in 2018. The Ministry warns that the total number of physical therapists and occupational therapists will be 1.5 times the required number by 2040 if the current oversupply continues.


Table 1 Number of physical therapists and occupational therapists

184-table1.png

Source: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare


Table 2 Estimated required number of physical therapists and occupational therapists

184-table2.png

Source: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare


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