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Skill Workers

Seeking foreign workers

Abe’s government, in power for more than six years, has tried various measures — including tax breaks and other incentives — to boost capital investment and research and development, Inada said. It is also trying to improve opportunities for women and older workers.

“Nevertheless, the shortage of workers remains acute,” she said, adding the administration has taken “active steps” to bring in workers from overseas through a new law passed by parliament last year, that could see 350,000 new foreign laborers over the next five years.

Tomomi Inada, a key advisor to Japanese Prime Minister; CNBC March 27, 2019

Top 10 Industries

with the Biggest Labor Shortages in Japan

Japan’s workforce is in desperate need of growth. Any Google search of Japan will bring up the problem sprouting up all across the island nation: The ever withering number of workers. The Japanese government is sowing the seeds necessary to solve this issue by attempting to bring in over 300,000 foreign workers with the new No. 1 type visa over the next five years.

For those considering work in Japan, there’s a clear opportunity to transition into a fruitful new career in the industries being hit the hardest by the labor shortage. Below is a countdown of the top 10 industries in Japan in need of workers as of April 2019, using statistics from Teikoku Databank.




10. The Automobile Industry

The number of available workers for the automobile industry is dirt low. Even Toyota, one of the biggest automobile manufacturers in the world, is struggling to find workers. When trying to recruit through a temp agency, they were told there were no workers to be found. Toyota has started to branch out with new policies in an attempt to keep their skilled workers, including the ability to relocate as needed. This is quite unusual in a country where it’s normal for people to have to quit their jobs in order to relocate if their spouse gets transferred to a new location


9. Retail

Those working in the Retail industry suffer from long hours, low salaries, few holidays, and an overabundance of temporary workers. The situation is so dire that it has become the target of a recent law aimed at improving working conditions in an effort to turn a new leaf and stimulate growth. 

Of the top ten industries lacking temporary or part-time workers, the retail industry holds four positions, including furniture stores, and pharmacies. As workers are in such high demand, young people can afford to plant their feet and say no to a job where they will likely to be overworked and underpaid. Consequently, fewer and fewer youths are choosing part-time work at places like convenience stores, supermarkets, and electronics stores.


8. Broadcasting

Nearly 80% of broadcasting companies were short of workers in 2017. People with experience in this industry say the number one reason people quit is simply because the job is tough. Long hours are the norm, and salaries rarely meet people’s expectations. Another reason may be that in an era overgrown with websites like YouTube and Netflix, “TV” isn’t the first thought in the minds of people who want to get into media anymore.  


7. Restaurant Industry

Jobs here might look attractive at first, as places will advertise “no experience required.” However, there is an enormous learning curve. On top of that, there’s both a lack of clear directions from superious, and a fair amount of training, some restaurants requiring as much as three months worth. As this has caused a negative image of restaurant work to take root, fewer and fewer Japanese people are taking the jobs, allowing foreign residents to fill in the gap.


6. Rental and Leasing

This might be an unexpected one, but there is a shortage of people applying to be property managers. In 2016, over 60% were over the age of 60, and the number continues to climb. 

This industry suffers from what Japan calls the 3Ks (kitsui, kitanai, kiken), but what we can call 3D: difficult, dirty, and dangerous. For many in Japan, taking care of cleaning and overall repairs whilst trying to weed out problem clients is not an appealing position.


5. Construction

There were 4,550,000 construction workers during their peak in 1988. By 2011, that number had decreased to 3,310,000, and the number continues to decrease. Some in Japan speculate this is because young people have simply lost interest in the job, for the same 3D reasons as above.

However, recently there may be another issue turning the shortage even more drastic. 

In just one year, the 2020 Olympics will be held in Tokyo. For this event, waterways, slalom courses, archery fields, and many more permanent venues are being installed in Japan, not to mention the new stadium. Recent allegations of worker abuse and other horror stories heard through the grapevine, including one report by the Building and Wood Workers' International and Zenkensoren entitled "The Dark Side of the 2020 Summer Olympics" are also soiling the industry's overall image.


4. Security

With the 2020 Olympics coming, people worry there won’t be enough security staff available. Over 90% of Japan’s private security companies are experiencing shortages. Nearly 80% of them said this stemmed from low wages. Like many of the other jobs on this list, the amount of hours is another issue. In 2018, the average number of hours a month for someone in this industry was 196, compared to the average of 177 of other industries

3. Drivers

With online services putting down roots in every major city, it’s easy to imagine an increase in demand for truck drivers. It’s hard to watch YouTube without seeing at least one commercial for UberEats, Rakuten, and Amazon. Some suggest that a road traffic law passed in 2007 is to blame, as it gave stricter requirements for driving trucks over a certain weight class. The difficulty in acquiring the proper licenses could also account for the steady decline. 

Taxi drivers are also in high demand as need increases with record amounts of tourists swarming Japan. 


2. Agriculture

In Japan right now, 70% of farmers are aged 65 and older.

Analysts believe the difficulty in getting started in this industry

could be one of the reasons less young people are going into

the trade. New farmers are buried in expenses. Rice farms

may have to put down as much as 690,000 yen before they

can even begin to try and make a profit.

1. Information Technology

Finally, we’ve hit rock bottom. As the IT industry continues to blossom in our technology-forward world, the well of available workers continues to dry out. Statistics say by 2030, Japan could have a shortage of as many as 790000 people in this industry. The demand is ever increasing and technologies ever changing, requiring more training. 

With the heavy lean towards cloud-based services, a job shortage could easily be attributed to increased demand; but Japan has a few more issues causing a lack of new workers. Japan does not have a lot of independent contractors in the IT world. The current business model has salaries of entry level engineers decreasing as middle-level positions increase. With long hours, difficult work, and low salaries, it’s no wonder many young Japanese people are giving these jobs a wide berth.




Japan’s Future

In such a dire situation, Japan is relying on foreign workers to fill in the gaps, but the country also rests in the hands of new graduates. So what jobs will they pick from the bunch? A recent survey suggests these 10 industries can look forward to new workers soon:

  • Medicine & cosmetics

  • Foodstuffs and Fisheries

  • Chemical Manufacturing

  • Surveying and Consulting 

  • IT and Internet Services 

  • Electronics

  • General Trading Company

  • Banking

  • Software Development

  • Real Estate, Construction 

There is some overlap between jobs in need and jobs sought after by graduates, and various industries are attempting to fix the issues that turned people away, with increased salaries and new policies, says one article by the Nikkei Asian Review. However, the labor shortage cannot fix itself because of their continuously aging population. This is an ample opportunity for people overseas with a budding interest in Japan to start fresh, and help Japan bloom anew.

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