Show me the numbers!

Monday February 1st, 2016 · by Murray Clarke

Your work as a talent acquisition practitioner is cut out for you in Japan but you are in good company.

MPG survey 83

Yes, 83% of companies cite Japan as “difficult” to hire in. Given this, we thought we would play around with some numbers and see why this may be the case.

Here is a pile of numbers that may help you get your head around Japan:

  • In all there are 1.88 million people working in “Information & Communications”. This is approximately 2.9% of the total working population of 62 million.
  • Approximately 28% people (526,400) are qualified with “high level of knowledge and skill” as graded by the Japanese ITSS model at Level 4 or higher. This grading is determined by exams or relevant work experience and Level 4 essentially represents the level for which agencies like us get paid to introduce.
  • The median age in Japan is 46.9 and more than 1/3 of the population is over 60 years old. There are 12.7 million Japanese workers aged 30 to 39 years of age.
  • Based on our 2.9% figure above, of those 30-39 year olds, only 370,000 are likely to work in “Information & Communications” sector.
  • 1 in 10 people in Japan speak “Business English” with confidence according to the limited research we could find. TOEIC test takers actively studying the language produce 1 in 5 people at this level (Score 795 or higher). [NB: This was the hardest figure to qualify!]
  • By the way, just over 1.3% of Japanese people are on LinkedIn. Wait. What?!? Yes, 1.3%. That is, 1.6 million out of a population of 125 million. Not much when compared to the US (approx. 38% penetration) or Singapore (approx. 18% penetration).
  • And, the reality is that few people are ready to change jobs at any given point in time. In fact 44% of Japanese have not changed jobs in 10 years. [Lots more data around this “attitude to job change”, if you need convincing]
  • As at 2008 just 17.5% of Japanese feel that it is “better to change jobs if unsatisfied” (compared to 54.5% of Americans). Old data at the height of the GFC but useful as a comparison of attitudes.

Meaning, now that you have found your qualified, English speaking target person at the right “experience” level (is that legal!!?! Hmm. Yet we do get asked!), the chances of them being ready to move complicates things further. You need to have a compelling story to catch their attention, that is for sure.

You may have to expand your horizons and get comfortable with giving someone a shot, even if they are not a perfect match, even if they are more “senior” or junior than you initially plannedAt the same time we recommend doing all you can to look after the people in your space: candidate experience should have a (positive!) “wow” factor because word travels fast.

Writing Japan off as “too hard” and using that logic to continue along the “status quo” path is pointless. The opportunity exists to look after your talent pools, build an employer brand and enjoy success if you are brave enough to step off the beaten track.

Build “employer brand”, identify and curate your talent pool

Essentially what we are saying is that you need a magnifying glass to be successful or you need someone plugged in, on ground, who knows how to use it. Arm them with the support they need to build “employer brand”, identify and curate your talent pool. Surround them with support from the right agencies and away you go. You will be in the 17% in no time.

See a VISUAL SUMMARY of these numbers.


Sources: Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training (2014), Statistics Japan, Education First, ManpowerGroup, IBC, TOEIC, METI, LinkedIn.

Murray Clarke

Murray is the Founder and President of Experis Executive. As a recruiter he has recruited exclusively for global technology companies building their businesses in Japan…

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