Foreign Hires, Offshoring Part of Japan's Response to Engineering Drought

Ann All

A shrinking number of engineering graduates from American universities presents "the greatest single threat to American prosperity," says Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, co-author of a Competitiveness Index produced by the national Council on Competitiveness. I cited Porter's comments in a blog about how America appears to be lagging countries like India and China in modifying academic curricula to produce enough grads to fill the growing number of tech job slots.


Yet America appears to be ahead of Japan. According to The New York Times, that country is in the midst of an engineering drought that is leading Japanese companies to adopt heretofore uncommon strategies of recruiting foreign workers and establishing R&D operations in countries like Vietnam and China. Fujitsu, for instance, hires about 30 foreigners a year, mostly other Asians who have degrees from Japanese universities and are thus prepared to adapt to Japan's insular corporate culture.


Japan is fighting a longstanding image of unfriendliness to foreign workers. Some staffing companies see this as an opportunity and are recruiting Chinese and South Korean engineers, training them in Japanese language and customs, and then sending them to work in Japan to work at temporary jobs. The country's labor ministry has established the Asian Talent Fund, a program that spends $30 million a year to lure students from other Asian countries to Japan with training and internships. Says the deputy director of the ministry's human resource policy division:

If these students do well, they can change Japanese attitudes drastically.

To attract a shrinking number of native job candidates, Japanese companies are offering higher entry-level salaries, speedy promotions and even "career coaches," according to the Times. Such incentives are necessary because Japanese students now have job expectations akin to their Western counterparts, says the SVP in charge of human resources at Nissan.


Observers fault increasingly Western attitudes for the shortage, noting that a generation of Japanese students that have known nothing but affluence are typically more interested in pursuing careers in more "glamorous" fields like finance, health care or creative arts. To appeal to those students, some companies are creating ad campaigns such as one for the steel industry featuring a long-haired guitarist declaring that "Metal rocks!" Some universities and companies in the U.S. and the UK are adopting similar tactics, as I wrote back in September.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 23, 2008 12:35 PM Bobo Bobo  says:
When will the world wake up and learn that articles like the NYT article on "worker shortages" in Japan are nothing but paid-for PR.Now that America has rightly closed its doors to non-performing immigrants, India, China, and other countries are seeking to force their workers into Japan because Japan has wealth and technology. It is a historical fact that India's NASSCOM lobby paid for "worker shortage" stories in U.S. media in 1998. And look at the economic disaster that has caused the U.S.The Japanese are not stupid. They won't buy into this garbage. They are closed and unfriendly to foreign workers because they know the truth about them: that they largely want in in order to take from the Japanese.No one believes these lies anymore so you communists in the media might as well give up. The American people have closed the doors and I can guarantee you the Japanese people will keep theirs closed too.Japan does not need foreign workers. Just ask Toyota, Honda, Sony, etc. which all DOMINATE their markets with 100% NATIVE workers. Reply
May 23, 2008 12:59 PM Tensai Tensai  says:
As a long time resident of Japan with experience in manufacturing, I can unequivocally state that Bobo (ironically a Japanese slang term referring to a sex organ) is completely off the mark. Japanese manufacturing (including the companies "Bobo" notes) relies heavily on imported labour and has done so for years. Reply
May 23, 2008 3:33 PM Conor Conor  says:
Howard Stringer, CEO of Sony, is English. Reply
May 31, 2008 1:29 PM Anne B. Anne B.  says:
I've been reading a lot of articles about engineering shortages in Japan lately. Is there a perception that the salaries for engineers are not as generous as they used to be? How do salaries for engineers compare to other career fields? Are the salaries keeping up with their rate of inflation? Reply
Sep 16, 2008 11:51 AM Melanie Melanie  says:
Sorry guys, but I think you are naive. Japan residents bring all those decrees on themselves - I should a manager pay such slots to engineers that like to get some amounts. Japan won't change the world, just the Chinese people, because they can lead the economy with millions of smart brains !!1 Reply
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Jan 9, 2009 7:59 PM cleopatra slots cleopatra slots  says:
They are closed and unfriendly to foreign workers because they know the truth about them... Reply

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