TT-582 -- Who Wants to Work Abroad? Almost No-one, e-biz news from Japan

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A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, September 19 2010 Issue No. 582


- What's New
- News
- Candidate Roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News Credits

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The Sanno Institute of Management introduced some great
fodder for cocktail party chatter this last week, when they
released survey results showing that 67% of Japanese
business people want to stay in Japan for work and have no
desire to be posted abroad. In fact, the survey showed that
only 16.3% of businesspeople had a strong desire to work

For those who think Japan is becoming evermore inward
looking, this is proof positive that the country is in
terminal decline and that insecure worker attitudes are
just going to hasten that decline. The survey in fact
resonates with the many surveys over the last few years
pointing out the dramatic drop in the number of young
people wanting to study abroad. There has been a 50%
decline in the number of students studying in American
universities, since 2001, and last year the trend
continued with another 7% decline over 2008.

So is Japan so depressed that people are giving up? Is it
becoming a nation of submissive, hedonistic "grass

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

Certainly the authorities seem to think so. They remember
the good old days when people were grateful for what little
they had, and workers saw overseas postings as a door
to a consumer paradise (the USA) and a brighter future
career. Of course this was also the age of central
government and a recognition by the general population that
everyone had to conform so as to build up Team Japan.
Although the world has moved on, the bureaucrats are still
thinking, "Uh oh, our robots are malfunctioning, we need to
reprogram them."

Unfortunately for Kasumigaseki, the robots are no longer as
cooperative as they once were. People have enough to eat
and these days salarymen are more concerned about mortgages
and wives and kids who don't think living in China and
India is particularly attractive. There is no particular
reason for them to want to go live abroad, and if they do
go, it's likely that they will have to go by themselves.
Who wants to do that?

But if you were a government type and were into social
engineering of your robot population, then it stands to
reason that you would come up with some nifty programs to
change things back to the way they were. And, you'd start
with the most impressionable segment of the population --
students. To that end, the government has come up with a
program to increase the number of foreign students in
Japan, presumably so as to increase the number of young
Japanese stimulated to reach outwards themselves. The
program involves increasing the number of foreign students
from 130,000 in 2009 to 300,000 by 2020.

In doing so, they will also increase the number of foreign
teachers. Currently only 3.5% of teachers in Japanese
universities are foreigners, versus 25% (Harvard) to 40%
(Cambridge) in the U.S. and U.K. Todai seems to recognize
this and has said that it will increase its foreign teacher
ratio to 10% by 2020. However, knowing what Todai is like
today, the epitomy of Japanese inward looking-ness, it's
hard to imagine that this will be possible.

In any case, what is going on isn't unique to Japan, other
mature societies are also seeing less students reaching out
abroad. A recent commentary out of Australia's RMIT
(Melbourne) noted that not just Japan but also students
from Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore are
declining significantly, while those for China and India
are on the uptick. The RMIT spokesperson's analysis is that
those countries with big economic gaps and where there is a
large and active export/import sector, it is only natural
for young people from those countries to be drawn to being
part of that success.

Therefore, we believe that the answer to reversing the
trend of looking inwards and the decline of ambition in
Japan is not really about how we try to program our kids
and salarymen, but rather addressing the pragmatic issue
of economics and well-being. If there is a financial
incentive for students and workers to go abroad, they will
go. But if the environment in China and India, where
Japanese companies have the greatest demand for expats, is
considered both difficult in terms of living standards AND
there is no economic incentive, of course they will want to
stay home. One solution, then, in absence of paying "overseas
posting hardship allowances," is to send Japanese-speaking
natives of those target countries back to their homelands
to do the work that companies are struggling to find
Japanese for.

This is in fact happening. We know of a number of rapidly
expanding service industry companies that are employing
hundreds of Japanese-speaking Chinese and other
nationalities, so as to be able to deliver services to the
nation's export machine. In one instance, a friend of ours
started an IT company just ten years ago and now has sales
of over JPY9bn, by supplying foreign nationals from Japan
back to their home markets to look after the IT needs of
major Japanese manufacturers who want Japanese service and
quality outside Japan.

At the same time, how does Japan get more students to go to
the West? In the end, they will either have to make foreign
study cheaper than domestic study, just like the way they
are subsidizing people having more kids, or they will need
to make the jobs in internationalized companies so much
better than domestic ones that people will follow the
money. Actually, this is a trend that we predict will happen
over the next few years. At some point it will become
patently obvious that working as a bilingual for a rapidly
expanding and wealthy exporter like Rakuten or Canon will
be more desirable than pushing downtown apartments for
Sekisui or K-cars to pensioners for Subaru.


Next, M&A advisor extraordinaire, Nick Benes, has launched
a non-profit organization called the Board Director
Training Institute of Japan (BDTI) to educate directors
here of their responsibilities and functions in running a
company. The website is very interesting, and we think this
group will become very influential in the future in how
Japanese laws are developed to govern proper operation of


Lastly, next week's prize in the Metropolis Members Club is
a Laptop computer courtesy of JENET, Tokyo's leading
prepaid phone card and ISP company. Last week's prize was
won by Jeff Soukotta, and was a pair of Adidas mi
Performance customized shoes. All you need to do to to
qualify to win the Laptop computer is to is sign up for the
MMC newsletter. It couldn't be easier. There is one prize a
week scheduled for the next 10 months.

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+++ NEWS

- Conspicuous consumption
- Big price rise for cigarettes
- Haier Group to aggressively target Japanese market
- Green tea drinkers lead tranquil lives
- School violence cases hit new record

-> Conspicuous consumption

We're not sure why Hankyu Hanshin Hotels thinks that people
are ready to spend again, but certainly they are getting
more than their fair share of PR by advertising a "One
Night for One Million Yen" lovebird special. The pair will
get a sightseeing flight over Osaka, a stretch limo, a
French dinner, flowers, champagne, photos, and of course a
night in the 168 sq. m. luxury suite. The company is taking
reservations from November. ***Ed: It will be interesting
to see how many takers they get. Is conspicuous consumption
still legal?** (Source: TT commentary from, Sep
17, 2010)

-> Big price rise for cigarettes

Despite owning one of the world's largest tobacco
companies, Japan Tobacco, you've got to tip your hat to the
government's will to slow down the rate of smoking through
the strategic use of taxes. Prices are due to increase
by at least the 3.5yen tax being levied on every cigarette,
plus whatever extra margin the tobacco companies themselves
want to add. Japan Tobacco says that its products will
increase in price by JPY110 to JPY140 per pack, making a
packet of cigarettes cost around JPY400 or more. ***Ed: In
the meantime, stores selling cigarettes report that sales
are up 20%, as customers stock up with orders of up to 10
cartons (of 10 packets) of their favorite smokes. Further,
as a side note, we are willing to bet that cigarette
smuggling will start to reappear.** (Source: TT comment
from, Sep 17, 2010)

-> Haier Group to aggressively target Japanese market

White goods maker, the Haier Group, based in Qingdao, China,
has announced that it plans to significantly expand its
business in Japan, focusing on high end washer/dryers and
refrigerators. To date, Haier has sold lower end products,
and in 2009 recorded sales of JPY7.5bn (US$87.8m), to
chip out a market share of just 3%. However, the firm has
decided to create products specifically designed and made
for Japan, starting with a washer/dryer that can take a
full 10kg load -- enough to wash a futon. Pricing, however,
will be the main competitive point, set at about 20% less
than comparable Japanese products. (Source: TT commentary
from, Sep 17, 2010)

-> Green tea drinkers lead tranquil lives

A new study by the Tohoku University Graduate School has
found that people aged 70 or older who drink four or more
cups of green tea a day are 44% less likely to suffer from
depression than those who do not. The study involved 1,058
men and women. The researchers posit that the lower
depression rate is due to the presence of Theanine, an
amino acid that is thought to tranquilize the brain.
(Source: TT commentary from, Sep 17, 2010)

-> School violence cases hit new record

Obviously Japan's school kids need to be drinking more
green tea...! According to the Ministry of Education
(MEXT), there were a record number of school violence
incidents last year. In the period April 2009 through March
2010, there were 60,913 violent incidents and 72,228
detected cases of bullying. This resulted in 165 suicides
by school children, up 29 from 2008. (Source: TT
commentary from, Sep 15, 2010)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.



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