Buoyant Job Market
Although the Japanese economy has technically slipped back into recession in the last quarter, here in the recruiting trenches we're seeing ongoing demand for people across the board. It appears that foreign companies at least are bullish about Japan and determined to increase market share here.
Anecdotal evidence here at DaiJob Inc., indicates that current demand for new staff is running at about the same level as in early 2001, just a bit past the peak of the Internet bubble - but well above the depths of 2002. The main difference between then and now is that although companies have a lot of job openings, they are being much more choosey about who they take and thus applicants have to work harder to get the jobs they want. Furthermore, companies are only hiring the people they actually have needs for - rather than picking up staff who have great backgrounds but who will have to migrate into the business over time. Thus, prior relevant experience, proof of performance and capability, good health, strong interpersonal skills and other such measures are now more important than ever.
The demand for people is across the board, ranging from skilled back office positions in accounting and HR, through to sales and middle management. Naturally, the main demand in the more senior and language-intensive positions is for those fluent in Japanese - which usually means Japanese people. However, for foreign bilinguals, demand is also very good - although some personal networking (not just recruiters) may be in order.
The current up take in the job market has been running since late last year, and I would guess is a result of the improving US economy and its knock-on effects in China and Japan. Certainly, the demand for Japanese technology and products from both China and the USA directly has created a strong Japan-based capital investment environment for companies, even if consumers are still slow to spend their cash.
The attraction of selling to Japanese firms continuing to want technology and services has increased the will of foreign firms to in turn invest in their operations here - and of course it is these firms which are the main hirers of bilinguals. Competition in technical and technical sales job categories in particular is helping to push up salaries at the high end. These positions include senior sales people, software developers, network engineers, and senior managers. My guess is that the increased demand is pushing salaries up by 15-20%. However, please bear in mind that before you go running after a raise from your current boss, that these increases are really only targeted at proven performers and in narrow segments. Play your cards carefully.
Will the current job market continue? Much to the surprise of many, the US economy is still gathering strength, despite the massive deficits, and so long as things stay this way, your opportunities in the job market should be good. Personally I do worry about both the public sector and private debt ratios in the US, however, and I'm not placing any bets after August this year.