Workforce diversity and its effects on Japanese society

Hi everyone, this is L. from Italy. Today I would like to talk about something that basically concerns all of us: the increase end effects of foreign workers in Japan.

We probably never think about the fact that our actions, statements or the simple presence of each of us here can actually have a strong impact on the entire society in the long term. For foreigners who have been living here for a while it’s not easy to realize how much Japan has changed since they first arrived here. However, if I focus on it, I do realize few significant changes have occurred – from small things like convenience stores’ products English labels to immigration issues such as the easing of requirements for permanent residency.

As you might know, Japan is facing a huge labor shortage amid falling birthrates and an aging population. As workforce demographics shift and global markets emerge, the increase of foreign workers has become a business necessity.

According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of foreign workers has been increasing year by year. Between 2012 to 2017, foreign workers in Japan nearly doubled to 1.3 million, accounting for 2% of total workforce. The majority of foreign workers in Japan come from Asian countries, although the number of foreigners coming from different regions has been increasing as well. In the past few years, the number of workers moving from European countries exceeded the one of North America.

The Japanese Government established specific measures for attracting foreign talents and securing the diversity of human resources. More specifically, these policies include the loosening of residence permit requirements, the encouragement of foreign students seeking for a full-time employment in Japan, the facilitation of immigration procedures, the enhancement of a foreign-friendly environment, etc.

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry shows that foreign workers are mainly concerned about the Japanese working environment and structure: career path, working hours, opportunities to communicate in English inside the company, and so on. In order to attract more foreign talents, major changes in the typical domestic Japanese “kaisha” are therefore necessary. As the number of foreign workers increases, the working culture will gradually change as well.

Japan can earn tangible and intangible benefits from workplace diversity: boosting of innovation, securing of young workforce, improvement of the atmosphere inside the company, promotion of overseas business. On the other hand, however, few downside risks have to be considered, especially regarding potential troubles that might arise from lack of language skills or due to differences in culture, way of thinking and values.

Thus, open mindedness and mutual understanding are always necessary from both sides. Are you ready for this challenge? If you want to play an active role in this changing society and see the future outcomes, let us help you to build a successful career in Japan!