March 27, 2016

How Can Japan Leverage from its Strengths?

It has been written enough about Japan’s appeal to international students. It is true that there has been an increase in the number of foreign studies in Japan in recent years, according to Japan Student Service Organization-JASSO (URL). Nevertheless, from the OECD’s statistics, it follows that Japan does not do well on international comparison on this arena. (URL)

Low salaries and slow pace of promotions; language barrier; inflexibility and slow decision making in the workplace; and even xenophobia have been pointed as causes. Some deal of the above seems to be true; and there are some unfortunate facts to back them up: the recent Japanese Supreme Court’s decision to exclude foreigners from some Social Welfare schemes; the rejection, according to a Yomiuri Newspaper poll, cited in the media (URL), of the idea of welcoming more foreigners; to name a few.

It is not only about salary

Although many promising students or recent graduates place salary as the most important priority for their decisions to stay or leave – and some nearby countries are said to be offering more – it is not only about salary. The majority of students, fresh graduates or fully-fledge professionals, alike, who are interviewed in Active Connector, care about career growth and being assigned meaningful tasks.

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Foreigners and Japan can work together on a win-win basis

According to the Manpower Group, Japan has been first in the ranking of countries that faces difficulties in filling job openings. The so called human capital mismatch does not seem to explain the whole story. Human resource scarcity is really on the rise. After all, according to recent official statistics, Japan has shrunk his population in 1 million recently. And no matter how much funds are bumped into this sector, robots cannot entirely (at least not in the short to medium run) replace the human touch and creativity. More people are needed, and everybody knows from where.

Consequently, going beyond just attracting tourists, the following are some suggestions from which Japan can leverage to increase his appeal to more talented human capital from overseas.

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Japan’s position in the ranking of Economic Complexity

The EC Index, elaborated by Harvard University under the lead of Venezuelan-born professor Ricardo Hausmann, measures a society’s productive knowledgeIt is true that many countries have been catching up, and some are Asian neighbors. There are many culprits for this slowing down in Japan, and aging is said to be dragging the economy by the hour. Precisely, that is the point: foreigners can play a role towards revitalizing Japan. After all, there is a saying that everybody (and every country) needs a fresh (re) start! Japan has many leverages for increasing his appeal to foreign workers. And although some people might say “the world knows what Japan has”; it would not hurt to remind them. The Japanese business sector can do a lot by trusting foreigners more. It is about allowing also more non-Japanese talent to play an active part in this knowledge society. Will Japan fully put its heart into attracting more talent from overseas? asset. A better position in the ranking is marked by a country’s ability to produce a greater array of more complex products and trade them worldwide. (URL)

I stumbled upon this concept when, some years ago, I was trying to understand the widespread accusation of Japan not being a creative and innovative nation. My eyes were telling me a different story every time I visited places, entered stores and so on. How, then, such as country (no creative) can be producing so many interesting stuff? I wondered. I came to understand that we tend to judge people and countries by their first “cover”.

When it comes to just measuring innovation or creativity, other countries are said to be doing better than Japan, according to other metrics. Nonetheless, if a country tops the Economic Complexity Index, it deserves to be scrutinized more in depth.

In any case, I see this as a powerful tool for foreign talent attraction.

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Patent applications

This is closely related to the above. Japan, together with the US, has always been leader in the number of patent applications due to the heavy R&D investment by the public and private sector. These days, the Japanese news announced the invention of a technique to erase printed papers, without using water, for reuse. What a wonderful invention in a century of urgent calls for sustainable usage of resources!

There is indeed such an array of creations in Japan, that it should be a paradise destination for inventive minds from around the world.

Being a frontrunner in some of the global trends that are transforming our planet

Nanotech, Robotics, etc. For nanotech, for instance, we can see this revolution happening just less than one hour from Tokyo, in the Science City of Tsukuba, in the National Institute of Material Science – NIMS.

It is true that many countries have been catching up, and some are Asian neighbors. There are many culprits for this slowing down in Japan, and aging is said to be dragging the economy by the hour.

Precisely, that is the point: foreigners can play a role towards revitalizing Japan. After all, there is a saying that everybody (and every country) needs a fresh (re) start!

Japan has many leverages for increasing his appeal to foreign workers. And although some people might say “the world knows what Japan has”; it would not hurt to remind them.

The Japanese business sector can do a lot by trusting foreigners more. It is about allowing also more non-Japanese talent to play an active part in this knowledge society.

Will Japan fully put its heart into attracting more talent from overseas?

 

About the AuthorSebastian-Heradia

Sebastian Heradia Career Consultant at Active Connector Inc.
Born and raised in Peru. After successful years of career as a lawyer in Peru, he came to Japan with MEXT scholarship to study at Osaka University. He took Master program in Public Policy. He realized his passion in his development as well as human capital. He is now working as a specialist in guiding people to maximize everyone’s talent/passion in his/her career choice.