Japanese seek jobs abroad amid tough home market

Indonesia, other emerging economies luring fresh grads who get turned away by firms here

Kyodo

Miki Hotta, 26, works in Jakarta as a reporter for a local Japanese-language newspaper after failing to land a job back in Japan with any of the firms she contacted.

Hotta started job hunting in September 2008 as a Nagoya college junior, and sent employment applications to about 100 companies, ranging from food makers to apparel trading houses.

But none of them offered her a job amid the severe employment conditions and prevailing economic stagnation.

Some companies were cutting the number of job offers to new graduates, and some even reneged on their promises of employment to students.

Hotta recalled feeling “dumb” at that time, and said the situation shocked her.

But a professor advised her to apply for a job with the Daily Jakarta Shimbun, a newspaper for Japanese living in Indonesia. She landed the job after sitting through an hourlong interview in Tokyo.

The paper was launched in the wake of the dismantling of the authoritarian Suharto regime in 1998 and now prints about 5,000 copies. The newspaper hires about three to four people every year, mostly new graduates, according to Taro Ueno, the chief editor.

After working several years at the company, some reporters return to Japan and are hired by major Japanese newspapers and news agencies.

In Hotta’s case, she was quickly hired after her interview with Yasuo Kusano, the former chief editor of the newspaper and an ex-reporter for the Mainichi Shimbun.

She began working for the Jakarta daily in April 2010, and her beat covered fashion and consumption-related issues.

In Indonesia, people’s purchasing power is increasing rapidly with the rise of the middle class and they have started to embrace affluence, in contrast to Japan, where the prolonged economic downturn has caused a sense of stagnation.

Hotta said she finds her work in Jakarta fulfilling.

“There is a sense of excitement (in Indonesia) that we are going to have some fun,” she said.

Hotta returns about once a year to Japan, where, she said, “I feel it is full of gloomy news and people don’t smile much.”

According to a Japanese human resource consultancy in Jakarta, the number of Japanese youths seeking jobs in Southeast Asia and other emerging countries is increasing.

But a large number of people fail to overcome the language barriers, as well as the differences in cultures and business practices.

Hotta, however, said, “My choice was right.”

As for the Japanese companies that rejected Hotta’s job applications, she said, “I want to say ‘Thank you’ to them for ditching me.

“Thanks to them, I could come to Jakarta,” she said.

  • Jason

    Good on her! Yes, Japan has a lot of problems and most people are gloomy…and the situation will never change! Bring back the work/life balance, stop the ‘service overtime’ and join the 21st century!