World Economy

Japan Job Availability Ratio Highest in 44 Years

Some52% see language the most significant hurdle  to working in Japan.Some52% see language the most significant hurdle  to working in Japan.

Japan’s unemployment rate stood at 2.2% in May, improving from 2.5% the previous month, the ministry of internal affairs and communications said Friday.

Job availability stood at 1.60, up from 1.59 in April and hitting the highest level in more than 44 years, the ministry of health, labor and welfare said. The ratio means there were 160 job openings for every 100 workers, Nikkei reported.

Companies in the country are grappling with a deepening labor shortage as the rapidly aging population means fewer working hands. In a bid to tackle the situation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet earlier this month approved a plan to accept more workers from abroad.

Although foreigners make up a small portion of Japan’s total workforce, their numbers have been surging in recent years.

What goes into a decision to work in Japan, a country that presents significant barriers? The Nikkei Asian Review asked readers to tweet their thoughts on the matter. When asked, “What is the most significant hurdle to working in Japan as a foreign national,” 52% cited language, 22% said obtaining a visa and 18% mentioned an uncertain career path.

The results may not be surprising. Consider Singapore, where most people speak either English or Chinese. Working in the city-state is so much easier than in Japan for Chinese, Filipinos, Indians and Bangladeshis.

The numbers bear this out. Singapore has 1.4 million foreign workers among a population of 5.6 million. Japan has 1.3 million foreign workers and a population of 127 million.

Twitter survey suggests that unless the language barrier is addressed, other efforts to increase the number of foreign workers will likely fail.

Meanwhile, Japan’s industrial output in May dropped 0.2% from the previous month, marking the first fall in four months, government data showed Friday.

The seasonally adjusted index of output at factories and mines stood at 104.4 against the base of 100 for 2010, according to a preliminary report by the ministry of economy, trade and industry. The result followed a 0.5% increase in April.

The ministry maintained its basic assessment that industrial production is “picking up slowly”. The index of industrial shipments fell 1.6% to 101.4 and that of inventories increased 0.6% to 113.5.

Manufacturers expect output to increase 0.4% in June and 0.8% in July, according to the ministry’s survey.

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