Business

Entrepreneur group plans internships to lure young Japanese abroad

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Studying and working overseas can be an eye-opening experience, so a group of Japanese entrepreneurs who operate businesses abroad are looking to give younger generations more opportunities to go international.

The World Association of Overseas Japanese Entrepreneurs, which has about 140 members, plans to reach out to young people by providing internship experiences.

“When thinking about getting young Japanese people to go overseas, we thought we could contribute with internships. The WAOJE has its bases in many countries,” said Keiichiro Sako, who heads the organization, at a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday.

Young people, he said, can “expand their horizons” through internships.

The WAOJE has 19 branches — including ones still in the planning stages — mainly in Asian countries like China, Cambodia, Singapore and Vietnam.

While some entrepreneurs have already been taking on student interns at their firms, the WAOJE recently formed an internship committee to create an organized system.

Sako, an architect who runs his own firm in Beijing, said China has seen an increase in young entrepreneurs over the past decade or so, a trend fueled in part by more people studying or working overseas.

“When I went to China for the first time in 2000, Chinese people were really eager to learn from Japanese people there to grow their businesses,” he said.

Since then, many Chinese entrepreneurs have gone abroad to learn about new technologies, pick up business know-how and study the latest trends.

Based on such experiences, “they have started interesting businesses and have been growing correspondingly with China’s economic growth.”

In contrast, some observers say Japan’s younger generations are becoming more inward-looking.

Statistics compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show the number of Japanese students studying abroad each year peaked at 82,945 in 2004. By 2014, it had fallen to 53,197.

But according to the Japan Student Services Organization, the number of Japanese who study abroad for less than a year has been on the rise. The figure was 35,181 in fiscal 2009 but reached 82,051 in fiscal 2015, the government-affiliated organization said.

“It indicates that young Japanese people have motivation to go abroad and learn,” said Sako.

The WAOJE said it plans to formally launch internship programs early next year. The programs will mainly target students or young corporate workers who are interested in starting businesses overseas, though older applicants will also be welcome.

The WAOJE consists of Japanese entrepreneurs who have launched businesses abroad and aims to connect such business leaders and share information.

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