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Meeting foreign workers halfway

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Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
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Takashi Kumon is a professor at the Institute for Asian Studies at Asia University in Tokyo and argues that Japanese companies looking for foreign talent have to meet prospective foreign workers halfway.

The biggest difficulty for Japanese companies is their unconscious "Japanization" of their [foreign] workforce. According to a survey conducted by job information provider Disco, while most Japanese companies say they need excellent human resources regardless of nationality, they tend to require foreign workers to have a high level of Japanese language proficiency and to conform to the country's working culture. Both can be points of tension with foreign staff. Many international students and workers come to Japan unaware that a high level of Japanese language ability is often required to work here. They can be rejected for jobs simply because they lack Japanese fluency, regardless of their ability and experience. Many students have told me they thought they could work in an English-language environment in Japan because of the presence of so many multinational companies here. There is also often a mismatch in working styles. This is because Japanese companies are accustomed to having staff stay with them for their whole work life. But many talented foreign employees expect to be promoted or to change jobs for new experiences as often as every three to five years.

Rakuten and Mercari have found new ways to deal with the issue. While Rakuten made English their official language of operations, Mercari started a training program called "easy communication" for teams using English and Japanese.

Staff communicate with expressions from both languages that are easy to understand by all involved. This can be described as creating an inclusive culture in which neither Japanese nor non-Japanese employees need to speak fluent English or fluent Japanese while accepting a diversity of language expression.

Other companies focus on exclusivity:

[quote} The workforce of MenTecWorld, an engineering company based in Hiroshima prefecture, includes foreigners, women and local seniors up to 80. The company's personnel evaluation system is based on performance rather than seniority, as is typical in Japan. A Latvian hired in Japan now serves as the manager of a company subsidiary in Mexico.[/quote]

Paywall alert:

Rakuten Ichiba

Rakuten Ichiba

Rakuten, Inc. (楽天株式会社 Rakuten Kabushiki-gaisha) is a Japanese electronic commerce and Internet company based in Tokyo and founded in 1997 by Hiroshi Mikitani.


Mercari, Inc. (メルカリ株式会社) is a Japanese e-commerce company founded in 2013. Their main product, the Mercari marketplace app, was first launched in Japan in July 2013 and has since grown to become Japan's largest community-powered marketplace with over JPY 10 billion in transactions carried out on...
MenTecWorld Co.,Ltd.

MenTecWorld Co.,Ltd.

MenTecWorld Co., Ltd. is a maintenance company in Higashihiroshima, focusing on environmental protection, environmental business, and duct manufacturing. It has an IT/Robot Division and an Education Division, running a company-led nursery school International Kids Community (nicknamed IKC).
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