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Major firms in Japan ramp up foreign hires

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Major firms in Japan ramp up foreign hires

LARGE companies in Japan hired 20 per cent more foreign workers in fiscal 2018 compared to the previous year, a survey by the Yomiuri Shimbun and Nippon TV network has found.

The survey involved 100 major companies, 59 of which provided figures on foreign hires. Released on Saturday, the results show that the 59 firms hired a total of 636 foreign nationals. Thirty firms, about half of them, said they hired more foreign nationals than the previous fiscal year.

This indicates that big companies are intensifying their competition over human resources with advanced technical skills and knowledge.

The survey was conducted late in March and early in April. Foreign hiring was done under the existing visa status system. The companies that increased foreign hiring belonged to a wide variety of fields, from distribution to the internet and manufacturing.

Asked why they hired foreign workers, 46 of the 100 companies said it was to “incorporate a wide variety of skills and ideas”, while 41 said it was to “obtain excellent human resources” and 32 said they were “handling overseas business”. Only three companies cited “labour shortages” as the reason. Multiple responses to this question were allowed.

As competition heats up with companies from Europe, the US, China and elsewhere, companies are feeling pressure to secure the best human resources, regardless of nationality.

“We want capable professionals to take an active role, no matter what nationality they are,” said a Toyota Motor Corp official. A Teijin Ltd representative said: “We want to provide opportunities for people of any race or nationality to take an active role.”

Regarding areas where they intend to increase foreign hiring, 32 companies said “specialised jobs that require a certain degree of skill”, 31 said “new graduates” such as foreigners who attended Japanese universities and 12 said “manager-level professionals who can handle management and supervision”. Multiple answers were allowed.

The government is planning to establish a new visa status for “specific skills” this month, which will expand opportunities for hiring foreign workers, including unskilled labourers.

Only 24 firms said they “approved” or “somewhat approved” of the new system, while 56 said they had no opinion. None of the firms were “opposed” or “somewhat opposed”.

Hiring of foreign nationals under the new system is expected to be done mainly by mid-sized and small firms, such as the subcontractors of major companies.

Critics have pointed out potential social issues with the new programme, such as the need to provide more support for workers’ daily lives. The survey’s results indicate that, at the moment, major companies do not have a clearly positive view of the new system. THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ANN

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