by Winnie and Kie, July 2021
Strolling down the wide avenues in Japan’s foremost business district of Otemachi and Marunouchi, it is certainly difficult to make it to the end of the block without seeing a company name or logo you recognized. These companies, often multinational conglomerates, have tens of thousands of graduates each year vying for a coveted spot at their office. Often, the mere mention a company’s name can carry an unprecedented amount of prestige and social admiration, making it understandable why stakes are high, and how competition can be tough.
Beyond the façade of fast-walking men and women in suits and the glinting windows of beautiful high-rise buildings, stand thousands upon thousands of smaller enterprises, whose presence is far less prominent, but certainly no less important. You may have heard that SMEs are the backbone of the economy, and this statement proves true in every sense. In Asia, SMEs make up a whopping 98% of all enterprises, and in Japan alone, over 3.8 million individual SMEs form 99.7% of the total number of companies within the country.
Owing to the sheer volume in numbers of SMEs, it is also no surprise that most job opportunities in the country come from these smaller enterprises. According to a survey conducted in 2016 by Japan’s Statistics Bureau, over 33 million people, or roughly 70% of the total working population currently work at an SME. With such figures, it is therefore crucial that the health and growth of Japanese SMEs are well kept so that the country’s economic stability can be maintained. This proves especially true in recent decades, with Japan’s aging and declining population resulting in a decrease in both consumers and workforce.
Japan’s aging population problem calls for a solution. In recent years, we see Japan welcoming an increasing number of foreigners, a large majority of them students in Japanese schools or universities where an education in Japanese lends them an upper hand in the job market. As a hub for international companies, there is no doubt that those who are bilingual are in high demand, most of whom are either foreigners or to a slightly lesser extent, Japanese nationals who have spent time abroad. It is therefore no surprise that more and more foreigners come to Japan seeking better experiences and job opportunities. Adding to this, companies have also adapted to become increasingly foreigner-friendly, with foreigner-targeted career fairs being organized throughout the year, and more and more companies each year are expressing desire to hire foreigners.
According to Nikkei Asia, the Japanese government will dispatch experts to small and midsized businesses across the country to help companies retain skilled foreign talents. For example, the Japan External Trade Organization has been providing consultants. Known as Jetro, the state-backed group has already compiled instructional material for businesses based on the opinions of experts and those with similar hands-on business experiences. Japanese small businesses nationwide are coping with aging business managers, along with labor shortage. The companies are looking for talents that could develop products for the next generation and direct offshore expansion. The government plans to resolve the demand by supporting the intake of foreign talents.