Nov 7 2017 Japan labor shortage and job opportunities for foreigners

There better Japanese language ability you have, the better chances (common sense), but there are also opportunities with lesser language barrier. IT professionals the king in this Japanese labor shortage dilemma

  • The shrinking Japanese workforce is opening opportunities for foreign talent.
  • Japanese language is still pervasive but a more multicolor scenario is developing in Japan.
  • There is a bunch of in-demand skills (with Japanese and no Japanese) worth paying attention to for securing a good job in Japan.


Around 70% of the Japanese workforce are aged 55 to 64. This data, together with those such as the very low birth rate (below replacement rate) in Japan can offer you a great behind the scenes of the worsening workforce shortage. It’s been written enough about all these, so, this time we will focus on the skills most in demand, signaling those for foreign talent aiming at landing a job in Japan.
We do not mean to offer a comprehensive list, but it will be fair to say that the ones included are mentioned most frequently (by companies, HR sector, and others) as being hard to find.

Nor do we expect to depict an only pinky scenario, a kind of extreme open season for hiring, as the reality, for foreign talent, is multicolor.
As a starting point, the very following is a list of some facts that can help better understand labor market or possibilities for foreigners in Japan:
– Still, having a good Japanese level is a requirement for many jobs… BUT:
– There are also jobs with no or less strict Japanese requirement, mostly in IT, but not exclusively.
– For those openings with the bilingualism-attached requirement (meaning fluent Japanese), since it is very unlikely that the labor shortage will not be solved in the short term, these can be taken as a challenge once we have decided to work in Japan.
– Again, given the worsening labor shortage, companies are already looking beyond direct experience and considering the potential for the role (e.g. relevant transferable skills, good analytical abilities, etc.).
– Even if, overall, certain positions require high Japanese level, in the end, there are also other determinants for some companies to take non-Japanese speaking candidates. One of the most representative examples is the number of foreign workers in the company and&or number of Japanese employees who have good command in English.

Let’s see this hot skills that are pre-ticket for finding a job in Japan.

IT professionals the king

There is such an IT boom that it is hard to foresee any cooling down. This is reflected in the growing number of openings for IT professionals. And there are a bunch of programming languages, such as Python, Java, Ruby, C++, in very high esteem.

– Mobile application engineering.
– Data science (e.g. big data)
– Security-related IT engineering (cybersecurity)
– Cloud computing.
– IoT.
– Web development.
– Server engineering
– IT infrastructure-related project management
– AI.
– IT skills with a combination of manufacturing experience (cloud/data expertise)
IT technical support engineering.

There is also room for non-IT foreign talent

– In finance, product&control evaluation expertise.
– In commerce, (bilingual) financial analyst, and M&A specialists.
– In general affairs, experienced (bilingual) office managers.
– Some specific sectors are also in extreme need of: in energy and infrastructure, of civil engineers; in the solar industry, of various organizational roles); in chemical, of R&D and risk specialists.
– Almost cross-sectoral: sales and marketing for medical, pharmaceutical, consumer, retail hospitality, digital online (SEO experts), IT software, IT infrastructure and service [although in sales and marketing very high Japanese command is common, but with exceptions].
– (Bilingual) business analyst and project managers

The challenging ones, but with great demand prospects

Coming back to the beginning, if you have already made up your mind to give a long shot stay in Japan, and you happen to have one of the below professions, you can challenge yourself. The associated hurdles with these types of positions are basically the licensing (so lawyers can also be included here, but lawyers – unless IP experts or M&A experts – are not so in very high demand) and the Japanese requirement.
– Medical doctors
– Financial planners

There is a great demand for IT professionals and those are even finding the Japanese requirement being relaxed, but there are also other skills in great demand. Still, the language is an obstacle, but there are also various factors that can ease the entering of foreign talent into Japanese companies.

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