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Japan targets int’l workers with PSW boost

Japan has implemented measures to create more opportunities for international students to find work in the country, government ministers have announced, as stakeholders warn current policies are not helping the country meet its demand for highly-skilled workers.

Around half of APU's almost 6,000 students are international. Photo: Wikimedia

Updated measures include creating an environment for international students to find work efficiently

In a package that was adopted at a ministerial meeting in Tokyo last month, the government agreed to revise its 2018 “inclusive society” strategy.

“The government support for international students looking for work is… a strategy to increase the highly-skilled”

Updated measures include creating an environment for international students to find work efficiently, while policies should expand the scope for students to obtain new types of work visas via additional tests, Jiji Press reported.

The government will also work with companies to clarify which students are permitted to stay if there is a gap between graduation and employment, and students will be urged to apply for internships.

Speaking in December 2019, prime minister Shinzō Abe reminded of the country’s need to overcome population decline, and of the “opportunity of rising interest in migration” within the country.

The number of international students gaining work visas in Japan after graduating hit a record high of 25,942 in 2018 – up from 22,419 the previous year.

The 2018 figure marked more than a tripling of 2006 numbers, according to Yuriko Sato of the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Additionally, a Revitalisation Strategy in 2016 set a goal of raising the international student employment rate in Japan from the current 30% to 50%, Sato explained.

“The government support for international students in looking for work in Japan is not an option for filling jobs lost by population decline but a strategy to increase the highly-skilled,” Sato told The PIE News.

However, research has indicated that Japan’s initiative to retain international graduates has “not been very successful”. Nearly 40% of international graduates working in Japanese companies plan to leave the workplace within five years, a survey by Ernst & Young Japan found.

According to Sato’s research, international graduates return home to find work due to better promotion prospects, less work stress and graduates are closer to their families.

“Though the government has promoted the acceptance of international students as a strategy to increase the highly-skilled, the recent increase of international students owes to the increase of those who study at specialised training colleges and Japanese language schools,” Sato explained.

Previously, the administration warned it would make it more difficult for Japanese-language school students to finish courses quickly to access the jobs market.

“Those who graduate from specialised training colleges will be regarded as a source of middle-skilled workers, not the highly-skilled,” Sato said.

With 50% of its student cohort coming from over 90 countries, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University sees the country’s work opportunities as an important point for recruiting students.

While the majority are attracted to APU’s vibrant, multicultural and multilingual environment, for many “the possibility of finding work in Japan is one of the most attractive points of our university,” Jerry Pietrzak, media and communications manager at APU noted.

Students from Korea, Vietnam, and China are interested in working in Japan due to geographical proximity, although APU has seen many students from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan graduate before joining the Japanese workforce, Pietrzak explained.

He added that the government has relaxed some requirements for those wanting to start a business in Japan.

“Working during their studies – up to 28 hours a week – means students gain valuable work experience,” Pietrzak said.

“Most of the companies hiring our international graduates have done so with an eye towards globalisation”

But despite the focus on revitalisation and adding to the highly-skilled workforce, international graduates are typically recruited for reasons around “globalisation and diversity” according to APU career office counsellor Mei Chhan Chau.

The “relatively simple process” of converting student visas to a work visa – as long as the student has secured a job offer – is in contrast to countries like the US or UK where it can be much more difficult, she told The PIE.

“It has been our experience that most of the companies hiring our international graduates have done so with an eye towards globalisation and building a multicultural work environment, as well as for the skills that our graduates can bring to the workplace,” Chhan Chau said.

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