European Interest

Japan wants skilled migrant workers

Flickr/William Bullimore
A view of the popular Shibuya ward of Tokyo, Japan.

Japan is struggling to lure more skilled immigrants like engineers, entrepreneurs, researchers, managers and professionals.

To attract global talent, Japan’s government has followed the example of countries such as Canada, and introduced a points-based immigration system. Advanced degrees, language skills, work experience and other qualifications are tallied up and a high score can help foreign workers earn permanent residency in as little as one year.

As reported by Bloomberg, the administration has taken to boasting that it has the quickest permanent residency system in the world. After that, it takes five years of residency and another year or so of paperwork to become a citizen of Japan.

There’s just one problem. Skilled workers aren’t coming.

According to the IMD World Competitiveness Center, Japan is the Asian country least appealing for foreign talent.

One reason is the language. Although Japan has plenty of English signs in streets and train stations, business and schooling are both conducted exclusively in Japanese. Also, Japanese companies are famous for making employees work long, often unproductive hours.

As for Japanese salaries, these are unattractive for talented foreign workers. Since many Japanese companies still hire workers right out of college and retain them for the rest of their careers, starting salaries tend to be quite low.

According to Bloomberg, the real reason Japan is so unappealing to skilled immigrants is just the same thing that’s at the root of so many of its other problems: an inflexible, hidebound corporate system.

The culture is changing, but not fast enough.

Explore more