1. About JapanJapan
  2. Working conditions
  3. Sectors and companies that are recruiting
  4. Applying for a job
  5. Major recruitment pointers
  6. Recruitment Resources and networks

1. About Japan

Japan’s industrial sector is heavily dependent on imported raw materials and fuels. A tiny agricultural sector is highly subsidized and protected, with crop yields among the highest in the world. Usually self sufficient in rice, Japan imports about 60% of its food on a caloric basis. Japan maintains one of the world’s largest fishing fleets and accounts for nearly 15% of the global catch. For three decades, overall real economic growth had been spectacular – a 10% average in the 1960s, a 5% average in the 1970s, and a 4% average in the 1980s. Growth slowed markedly in the 1990s, averaging just 1.7%, largely because of the after effects of inefficient investment and an asset price bubble in the late 1980s that required a protracted period of time for firms to reduce excess debt, capital, and labor. Measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis that adjusts for price differences, Japan in 2010 stood as the third-largest economy in the world after China, which surpassed Japan in 2001. The Japanese financial sector was not heavily exposed to sub-prime mortgages or their derivative instruments and weathered the initial effect of the recent global credit crunch, but a sharp downturn in business investment and global demand for Japan’s exports in late 2008 pushed Japan further into recession. Government stimulus spending helped the economy recover in late 2009 and 2010. Prime Minister KAN’s government has proposed opening the agricultural and services sectors to greater foreign competition and boosting exports through free-trade agreements, but debate continues on restructuring the economy and funding new stimulus programs in the face of a tight fiscal situation. Japan’s huge government debt, which exceeds 200% of GDP, persistent deflation, reliance on exports to drive growth, and an aging and shrinking population are major long-term challenges for the economy.

Population: 126.4 million

GDP per inhabitant (2010): USD 34.000,-

Unemployment rate (09/10): 5.0 %

2. Working conditions

Japan is a signatory to the International Labor Organization’s conventions on workers’ rights and freedoms. The Japanese Constitution also guarantees the right to form and join trade unions. Its labor laws recognize the right to organize and bargain collectively. With the exception of the military, police officers, and firefighters, all employees have the right to join unions, to bargain collectively, and to strike. Public employees may join unions, but do not have the right to strike, and their collective bargaining rights are also limited. The government determines their pay according to the recommendations of an independent body called the National Personnel Authority. There are many unions in Japan, which operate freely. The largest is the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC), formed when several trade unions merged in 1989. Japanese labor law provides for a 40-hour workweek, but the law is not usually enforced in small enterprises. Thus Japanese employees work long hours. In spite of the Labour Law, it is not unusual for employees to work 60 hours a week. This has led to a phenomenon called karo-shi (death from overwork), where corporate employees have been known to spontaneously drop dead of exhaustion. The Labour Law also prohibits forced or compulsory labor as well as child labor. Children under the age of 15 may not work; children over the age of 15 may be employed for non-hazardous jobs only.

Based on the recommendation of tripartite advisory councils (formed by workers, employers, and public authorities), minimum wages are set that vary from region to region and from industry to industry. On average, minimum wages range between $46 and $53 per day, which are adequate for a decent living standard for a worker and family. Generally speaking, employers usually consult with their respective unions on wage-related issues. The labor law forbids discrimination in the work-force, though it exists in practice. The Burakumin, who are ethnically Japanese but are the offspring of the so-called outcasts of the feudal era, experience both social and employment discrimination. The labor law provides for equal pay for equal work and the right of women to work. Still, women receive less compensation than men in the same age and work groups. They are also poorly represented in managerial positions, accounting for about 9.2 percent of such jobs in 2000. Also, they form a very small portion of local government positions. Unemployment is disproportionately higher among women and foreign workers, especially undocumented ones coming from the Asian Pacific countries like China, South Korea, and Thailand, who are usually denied their labor rights and are subject to abuses. Work-related safety and health regulations are enforced by government inspectors.

Read more: Information about Working conditions in Japan from nationsencyclopedia.com

Legal working hours : 40.0 – 60.0 hours per week.

Length of trial / notice period: Any labour contract may specify a probation period at the beginning of the employment contract. The probation time is not legally limited. Its renewal is also not prohibited by law. A protection against dismissal is nevertheless assured. After the first 14 days of the probation time, the employer is legally forced to consider the normal notice period of 30 days when giving notice (Art. 21 of the LSL). According to court rulings, the employer’s freedom to dismiss is also only merely extended during the probation time.

Employment formalities: You will have to obtain a visa before you travel if you have arrangements in place for:

long-term residence;
long-term study;
employment or other remunerated activities;
volunteer activities.

If you intend to work in Japan but do not have a job offer before you travel, you can get a visitor’s visa on arrival and transfer your status when you become employed. If you are going to work in Japan and already have an offer of employment, your employer will apply on your behalf for a certificate of eligibility from the Ministry of Justice in Japan. For more details, contact the Consulate General at the Embassy of Japan in the UK or see the visa section of their website.

You should check with your country’s embassy about Japanese visa and work permit details.

How do I apply for a visa and/or work permit?

Japan offers a variety of working visas which require a Certificate of Eligibility issued by the Ministry of Justice in Japan. To obtain one of these certificates, applicants must ask a sponsor in Japan (such as an employer, spouse, school, etc.) to contact the local immigration office and make an application on their behalf. The application form and further information can be found online at the Embassy of Japan in the UK.

3. Sectors that are recruiting

Oil and Gas industries, Infrastructure, Bio, Communication technology and Education.

4. Applying for a job

Application documents: CV (Rirekisho) and Cover Letter. You should submit a Japanese-style cover letter, no longer than a page, that outlines your past employment and your goals for the future. The cover letter should demonstrate that you have skills and ideas that will be valuable to the company in the future. As Japanese business culture values corporate loyalty, you may want to state your desire for a long-term future with the company. Both the rirekisho and cover letter should be translated into Japanese.

Advice regarding the CV: Applications to Japanese companies should include a Japanese resume (rirekisho) if at all possible. Rirekisho templates can be purchased at many convenience store stores and almost all book stores. Also, it is now commonplace for companies to accept resumes/CVs/rirekisho over the internet. It is structured in two pages:

Page 1
Name and contact information, including email
Your age, sex, and nationality
Summary of your qualifications (less than three lines)
Academic background in reverse chronological order, including years of study, names of institutions and degrees earned

Page 2
Work history in reverse chronological order, including job skills, position titles, company names and employment dates
Other interests or activities relevant to the job
References, if you like. You may also simply state: ¨References available upon request.¨ If you do choose to list references, make sure that they are relevant to the position for which you are applying, that they have known you for more than two years, and that their contact information is up-to-date

Before submitting, attach a passport-sized photograph to the first page of your resume with a paper clip.

While some foreigners, especially Americans, may be used to ¨padding¨ resumes with as many qualifications as possible (even if some are bit exaggerated), a Japanese resume should stick to the facts. If you are in doubt as to whether you have embellished a qualification, air on the side of caution. Exaggeration could cost you an interview.

5. Major recruitment pointers

Business Etiquette/knowing how to behave during interviews: Once a Japanese company is interested in an applicant, it will request an interview. Interviews vary in character and setting: you may have a single interviewer in an office or a video conference with an entire board of interviewers. Be prepared to adapt to unusual circumstances, and above all, keep your composure. Applicants should arrive at the exact scheduled time of their interview, not early and under no circumstances late. Interview dress is always business formal: dark suits for men and dresses or pant-suits for women. Men should be shaven, with their hair cut, and should not wear piercings. Facial piercings are unacceptable for both men and women, and tattoos should not be visible. Listen to the interview questions carefully and keep your responses brief but appropriate in length. Japanese people do not usually talk with their hands, so interviewees should do their best to keep their hands down, especially if they are from a country where it is normal to gesture while speaking. The Japanese also often avoid direct eye contact when speaking – staring is considered impolite.

Expect questions ranging from the relevant to the bizarre, as Japanese interviewers sometimes use odd or impolite questions to see how applicants react under pressure, and they often want to know information about applicants´ families. If you are asked anything you feel is offensive, you should politely decline to answer the question. Be prepared to discuss your language proficiency and your knowledge of Japanese culture. Employers use these as factors in determining whether you will be able to blend with your Japanese co-workers. Expect to interview more than once for most positions, and do not be surprised if it takes several interviews before you receive an offer or a rejection.

Languages you must be able to speak: Japanese, English

Flagship training: Keio University – Tokyo, Waseda University – Tokyo, The University of Tokyo – Tokyo, Tokyo Institute of Technology – Tokyo, Kyoto University – Kyoto, Osaka University – Suita, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology – Nomi, Tohoku University – Sendai, University of Tsukuba – Tsukuba, Nagoya University – Nagoya

Compensation&Benefits / Taxes: While the remuneration packages for Japanese or locally-hired foreign CEOs are all over the map, there are some basic components and market realities which need to be considered. Firstly, no matter what the mix, compensation for a CEO should always recognize the person’s criticality to the business, and reward the behaviors accordingly. Secondly, those behaviors will be different depending on your company’s own personality. For example, in some cases the key behavior will be for the CEO to be a strong administrator, while for others you will want the person to be entrepreneurial. Let’s divide the main types of foreign companies active in Japan, what type of CEO personality they probably need, and that their compensation is likely to be…

Read more: Terrie´s Job Tips
An example from Toshiba for a permanent full-time employee:
Starting Base Salary
New graduates (Bachelor’s degree) JPY 205,500/mth
New Master’s JPY 228,500/mth~
New Doctorate’s (PhD) JPY 275,000/mth
Overtime Pay
Overtime will be compensated. Overtime pay is payable for holidays, and regular working days when the employee is required to work more than 7.45 hours per day.
Incentive Bonus
Twice a year (July and December), depending on company and individual performance
Commuting allowance (fully covered), housing allowance, child allowance, etc.
Annual Wage Increment
Annual (April), depending on company and individual performance
Paid Annual Leaves
1st year -18 days/12 months (prorated based on date of hire)
2nd year – 22 days
3rd year onwards – 24 days
Medical and Dental Benefits
Toshiba provides several comprehensive and cost-effective medical and dental plans where Toshiba and employees share the costs. In principle, Toshiba Healthcare Association pays 70% of medical and dental fees.
Points Reward System (Flexible Benefits System)
Toshiba offers a “Cafeteria Plan” type benefits program, “TEATIME” that allows employees to select services from a list of choices

6. Recruitment resources and networks

Important business networking sites:

Where to network:
The easy part of networking as a foreigner in Japan is getting together with people of similar backgrounds and cultures, and mixing for social reasons as much as business. Many of us do this without thinking, and without realizing that we’re missing the best part of being in Japan – and that is the chance to mix with our Japanese colleagues. After all, associations and clubs are THE glue that holds Japanese business together and which allows CEOs and others to find new opportunities in this face-to-face culture.

Now I admit that trying to socialize outside your native tongue, and not knowing some of the rituals and procedures of Japanese business groups can be a bit daunting at first, even if you speak Japanese reasonably well. But my experience has been that as a foreigner in a Japanese business group, you may well be the first non-Japanese member they’ve had in quite some time, and thus the other members will treat you with tolerance and interest. And the bonus is that once you get past being an object of curiosity, you really can get some good business leads.

There are zillions of Japanese associations and clubs – pretty much one for anything that covers a business sector, not to mention old boy’s groups, study clubs, etc. It’s easy to get drawn into too many of these groups, so I suggest that you focus in on the following: a) the leading organization representing your sector of business, b) alumni associations of graduates from your college, c) Venture company groups, since these organizations are usually populated by the young and adventurous, and d) Leadership groups which might yield some useful high-end relationships.

As for any networking, the best place to start finding these organizations is on the Web, and perhaps the most prestigious group is the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives). This august 1,400-member organization functions as a think tank for the captains of 900 companies and they prognosticate to the press on a monthly basis. They have a web site at http://www.doyukai.or.jp/. To be honest, I find them a bit too “aerial” for my taste, but some of my friends with loftier ambitions like mixing with them. But I guess if you’d like to polish your keigo while looking to bump into someone famous, then try to attend an event that combines with him or her with a foreign chamber or business group…

Read more: Terrie´s Job Tips