Transferring Talent
Illustration: Phil Couzens

Transferring Talent

A challenge and opportunity for Japan

Japan’s shrinking population is nothing new, and with one in three people set to be over 65 by 2025, it can’t be ignored. Simply put, the difficulty is in keeping the economy moving as the work force shrinks and the number of domestic consumers drops.

And this is really about replacing those leaving. In many ways, the choices out there are a great fit with Japan’s goals for its economy. Working in the recruiting industry, we see growing demand for international talent here as Japanese companies switch their focus from the domestic economy to the global–in fact, we already run a Japan desk in the U.S. for placements here.

Companies such as Uniqlo and Rakuten have already moved down this path in making English their official “operating language” and bringing on foreign talent. Other companies will follow along to seize this opportunity.

Without a doubt, organizations looking to foreign markets for growth benefit from the diverse backgrounds overseas talent brings. Often, these people have firsthand and in depth knowledge of the markets their Japanese employers are looking to enter–and it goes without saying that this is an incredibly valuable insight toward succeeding in those markets.

Even solely looking at the domestic economy, there are clearly key functions within local organizations for which there is a real shortage, and this will develop into a weakness for the economy if not addressed. Particularly for specializations such as accounting, there is a need for those with the right background to help Japanese companies work on achieving global standards.

For example, there aren’t enough Certified Public Accountants (CPA) in Japan to meet existing needs, and with the progression of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), the necessity of people with relevant backgrounds is going to grow.

Faced with increasing openings as older employees retire, Japanese companies now have a real opportunity to attract experienced professionals from overseas to guide them in their process of globalization. And now is the time to grab them, before the competition heats up.

Essentially, in a globalizing Japan country of origin and language can no longer act as base standards for judgment in hiring. The priority needs to be getting people who can do the job, regardless of where they are from. This applies in many ways to both the domestic economy, and to those Japanese companies looking to become more active overseas. In either case, now is the time to act.

(David Price is a Senior Manager for specialized recruitment firm Robert Half International)

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