Spring Hiring: How Global Trends Will Affect The Japanese Job Market This Year

Spring Hiring: How Global Trends Will Affect The Japanese Job Market This Year

As Japan and the rest of the world gradually inches out of the pandemic that has dominated life and business for more than a year, for many, a new start in spring 2021 will be more welcome than ever. Many of the shifts being seen in the global job market will make their presence felt in Japan to some extent or another, but there will also be distinctive local trends and characteristics, along with variances between sectors.     

Olympic equality fallout

The MeToo and, more recently, Black Lives Matter movements have shone a spotlight on equality, and many in the recruitment industry in the US and Europe see diversity as a driving trend this year. Japan is clearly a laggard in the diversity stakes, and the recent furores around the Olympics seem to drive that point home. However, counterintuitive as it may sound, Yoshio Mori’s ‘women talk too much’ and Hiroshi Sasaki’s ‘Olympig’ fiasco could have a positive impact.

“This kind of thinking used to be completely normal in Japan. The fact that it was associated with the Olympics showed how far Japan is from global standards,” said a female business owner in Tokyo,  “These scandals should make people realise that and actually improve things.” 

Domestic flavours

One of the major differences between Japan and the major economies of Europe and the Americas is the unemployment rates. A combination of Japan’s structural labour shortage, relatively light lockdowns and strong government support has kept joblessness down. In January, unemployment in Japan stood at 2.9%, compared to 7.3% in the EU and 6.3% in the US.    

This has flipped the landscape in territories with higher unemployment from a job-seekers market to an employers’ market, with some positions attracting hundreds or even thousands of applications. 

In Japan meanwhile, job losses have been concentrated in sectors such as hospitality, hitting young and part-time workers hard, but leaving the shortages in many high-skilled fields unchanged.  

Tech talent travails

One of the trends that the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated is digital transformation, along with system modernisation of legacy infrastructure. 

“For large enterprise companies the need to shift to the ‘new normal’ and ‘paperless society’ in Japan, while at the same time maintaining or increasing their IT security, are some of the main concerns,” said Larry Fry, manager of IT Services recruiting at Slate. 

“Another concern related to IT in Japan is the lack of qualified human resources. Many companies have a very hard time finding the talent to implement the projects or products they need in order to stay competitive. Whether it be technology or language, it is a continual challenge to retain and hire talented and skilled employees,” added Fry, who believes companies will need creative solutions to these problems, which won’t be solved overnight. 

Winds of change

The disruption to the global economy caused by the pandemic raised awareness of the dangers of climate change and gave extra impetus to decarbonisation initiatives. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in October pledged Japan would be carbon neutral by 2050, following similar commitments from the EU and the Biden administration in the US. 

One part of the solution will be wind power, something still chronically underused in Japan. Despite its nearly 30,000km coastline, Japan doesn’t have a single viable wind offshore project in operation. But that is set to change.    

“The Japanese government has set a goal to increase renewable’s share of the energy mix to 24% by 2030, and wind will be a big portion of this,” noted Mark Takano, the head of Energy practice at Slate. “Since wind is a new market, most companies are flexible in terms of hiring talent from outside the industry and considering a wide range of candidates. Many big names multinationals are still in their ‘start-up’ phase and this is a great chance to grow into a senior role in a short period of time.”

“The wind sector is booming and is generating jobs across the industry, from manufacturers and developers to contractors and suppliers,” added Takano. 

A picture of health

“Some Pharmaceutical companies have accumulated a large amount of data on research, clinical development, sales, etc., but this data is still not being fully leveraged,” commented Yoshinobu Kubota, Slate’s Healthcare & Life Sciences senior consultant. “This is because the pharmaceutical industry is lagging behind other industries in terms of applying digital transformation in all processes.”

Pharma firms are currently recruiting more DX and data science specialists, including from outside the industry, a trend set to continue, according to Kubota. 

Meanwhile, the digital transformation wave is also beginning to sweep through the medical device industry, where companies are rushing to improve their digital marketing systems and organisational structures, according to Healthcare & Life Sciences consultant Tomoki Yoshizawa. 

“In comparison with pharmaceutical, medical device companies require less industry experience and hire candidates from related fields such as  science, chemical, automotive and manufacturing (especially electronics) industries,” said Yoshizawa. 

This spring could be the perfect moment to start thinking about a new beginning. 

By Gavin Blair, author of Zen in Japanese Culture: A Visual Journey through Art, Design, and Life.

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