Japan’s flatlining population growth has prompted its CEOs to seek out international resuscitation.
CNBC reports that “lucrative training programs” are luring more and more expatriate employees to the Land of the Rising Sun, leaving onlookers hopeful that such measures will compensate for a recent shortage of young employees. The article noted that many of these hirings are so attractive to foreigners because they are flexible and place workers in “general job roles” that eventually grow more specific after the employee is trained in a department that suits them. The author then quoted one such newly groomed employee, Toh Chen Yang of Singapore, who said, “There are better prospects in Japan for me based on my arts degree. In Japan your path is not fixed; it’s an opportunity to learn and receive training.”
This corporate foreign recruitment stems from a nearly year-old lowering of expatriate visa restrictions, which the government hoped would help counter an employee shortage in 60 percent of Japan’s firms, which was leading to soaring hiring costs and plummeting profits. These figures were released in a Reuters poll this past August, revealing a stunted expansion of restaurant and retail chains, along with spiking building costs thanks to the dearth of construction workers. But the relaxed visa requirements have since lead to a new watermark of foreigner workers arriving in Japan this past year—an increase of 9.8 percent, or 787,627. Short-staffed companies and aspiring employees have not been the only ones to benefit from the trend— the middlemen brokering these hiring have also prospered.
One such recruitment firm calls itself Fourth Valley Concierge, and its spokesperson told CNBC that “Japanese companies have started hiring worldwide (because) if they hope to enter into the increasingly globalized international business world, there is a need for global talents to stay competitive and to fuel expansion.”
While these reforms have come relatively quickly, onlookers will have to wait and see if more drastic measure are required to successfully avert an all out labor crunch. And even though more and more foreigners are taking advantage of Japan’s loosened entry policies, many of those newcomers may find their welcome to be less than warm. This is especially true after some right-wing elitists, like Ayako Sono, who infamously suggested in a recent newspaper column that Japan will indeed need to open itself even more to immigrant workers, but not without apartheid-esque separation in housing. The government distanced itself from Sono after her comments set off a vicious online backlash. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe surely hopes that such rows will not impede the influx of foreigners, with which his economic recovery is leaning heavily upon.