Japan Has Plenty of Jobs to Go Around, But Not a Lot of Workers

The country’s aging and shrinking population has resulted in a dearth of workers in high-skilled sectors like tech.

Photo of a Japan Airlines plane at Tokyo Haneda Airport, Japan
Photo by Mos Design via Unsplash

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They’re hanging a giant “Help Wanted” sign over the entire Japanese archipelago. 

With an aging and shrinking population, Japan is struggling to find skilled workers, especially in its tech sector, where three-fourths of employers had a difficult time recruiting last year.

Inquire Within

Software engineers are particularly hard to come by right now. New research from Morgan McKinley found that 76% of hiring managers in the country’s tech sector said recruitment was “very” or “quite” competitive in 2023.

While software engineers are needed to move Japan more fully into the digital era — a goal the government declared just in the past few years — nearly every sector is being impacted by labor shortages: 

  • To fill the gaps in industries like manufacturing, construction, retail, and services, Japan has been relying heavily on foreign workers. As of October, more than 2 million foreigners were working in Japan, a roughly 12.5% increase from 2022 and the most ever on record.
  • Sectors like trucking and freight logistics are about to face a surge of retirements coupled with a government-mandated ban on unlimited overtime. Driver Mayumi Watanabe told The Observer that the traditionally male-dominated trucking space has a larger pool of female workers than it did two decades ago, but companies will need to hire even more to keep up with demand. 

More Eyes for the Skies: The country’s transport union is also pushing for more air traffic controllers in the wake of a deadly accident at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport last month, where two planes collided on the runway, leaving five people dead. Additionally, union president Masato Yamasaki said all airport office staff should be subjected to stress tests and third-party groups should investigate the cause of accidents.