Nov 7 2017 As a foreigner, what makes Japan a good places to build my career?

Many people with internatioanl backgrounds are drawn to Japan for various reasons – the culture, food, environment and safety. To each to his/her own, the country is a great place to live and can be a fantastic place to build your career but it depends on what you value in your work life!

  • Big picture trends
  • Getting down to the details of what companies offer in Japan
  • The future of Japan’s economy is looking more and more open


We know Japan doesn’t have the best press coverage when it comes to working life. There is the language barrier and even if you master the language, it can only be used in Japan. There is a lot of ‘reading the air’ and cultural nuances that are difficult to understand. Amongst other OECD countries, Japan also has one of the highest rates of overtime. As a team that has worked or have come from abroad, we get it.
That said, just as every country has its downsides, many foreigners who move to Japan consider the positive aspects to be worth it – in addition to this, there’s good reason to expect better things for the future of working life in Japan.

This article breaks down some of the main reasons our members, team and perhaps even you might see Japan as a great company to build one’s career.

Big picture factors

For many people coming from an international background Japan has a myriad of positive aspects that make it a great place to live and work (e.g. safety, cooperative spirit, stability etc.) but for the sake of conciseness, here are some important ones:
– Positive economic outlook: Although economic growth has plateaued over the last decade, specialists have we cannot say that the days of economic slowdown are over, but many specialists see Japan as being unlikely to suffer recessions and stagnation in the foreseeable future.
– Shrinking marketing (extreme aging society together with low birth rate):
It is written everywhere; Japan needs to expand to more overseas markets to secure profits that will keep on diminishing from a shrinking market. This is a good opportunity for foreign talent with better knowledge of the local market.
– Safety: According to a survey of 500 foreigners in Japan, co-conducted by Active Connector in 2016, one of the most important reasons foreigners choose Japan is safety. Although Japan is not without any dangers, we are very lucky to be relatively safe from violent unrest.
– Environment: Japan once was also a developing country that faced severe environmental problems related to air and water pollution that caused a lot of damage. It took time and effort, but community efforts and public policies have helped shape the pleasant environment that we now enjoy.

What companies can specifically offer international employees

Every country will have different policies around labor law, in Japan there are certain provisions an employee is guaranteed that is often seen as a plus by international employees.
– Insurance coverage*: You might not like having a percentage being discounted, from your salary every month however given the soaring medical costs in many other countries, in the event of any medical incident it really pays off. Within public policy circles, universal coverage is seen as a core foundation to Japan the Japanese more egalitarian societies. Those who are familiar with the Gini index can verify this.
– Transportation coverage: in the majority of cases, companies cover transportation expenses either fully or to a significant proportion. In the majority of cases, companies outside of Japan will often ask employees to bear the transportation cost in full.
– Job Security: While this not guaranteed by labor law, the existing regulations make it less likely for companies to fire or make workers redundant. The contractual agreement between a company and employee is deeply respected by both parties in Japan – so much so that it is often seen as a paternalistic one where a company is compelled to ‘takes care’ of its employee from graduation right into retirement.

* This is a personal experience. Thanks to the universal insurance coverage in Japan, I was saved from paying ¥ 1 million yen when one of my kids was hospitalized for 10 days. We left relieved paying less than 6 thousand yens.

A promising future

Of course, no one has the power to fully foresee what will happen in some years ahead, and no one can guarantee a rosy future. Nonetheless, there are good signs of a Japan entering a new phase to recover its vitality, and, hopefully, towards one that celebrates and embraces greater inclusivity and diversity in society and the economy.
– Japan is aware of the need to foster a more welcoming environment to foreigners. Better policies and a growing populous of actively English/international languages across workspaces and in certain government and private services are expected to increase the number of talented people from abroad to settle more comfortably.
– Japan is also working to improve working environments. Not only is it trying to integrate more women into the labor force, but, in general, it is pushing for reforms to encourage a better work-life balance. Some have decided to switch to flights to encourage employees to leave home in time, others have implemented a Premium Friday where employees leave work earlier on Fridays to start the weekend earlier.

There are several good reasons for considering Japan as a home country. There is a good outlook and concrete policies are on the way to make Japan recover its vitality and strengthen its global competitiveness.

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