Though relations between Japan and its neighbors South Korea and China have been less than rosy in recent years, Japanese companies are increasingly looking to hire foreign students from these and other Asian countries who have studied in Japan, according to the Tokyo-based recruitment and consulting firm Disco Inc.

With companies focusing on finding the most talented people to help them expand into foreign markets, the practical necessities of business seem to be overriding political wrangling.

The survey, released this month, found that 35.2 percent of 539 companies across the country said they have hired, or plan to hire, foreign students in the 2013 business year. Looking ahead to 2014, nearly half of these companies say they are planning on hiring foreigners who have studied in Japan. Larger companies with more than 1,000 employees appear even more willing to hire such people. Nearly 70 percent of these firms said they plan to hire such graduates in the next fiscal year.

The reason given by most companies was rather simple — they want the most talented people possible, especially as businesses move into other Asian markets. Around 40 percent of the firms said they were seeking to hire Chinese nationals, and 24.2 percent said they wanted to hire Vietnamese and Thais.

The hiring of more foreign students is a sign that Japanese businesses are increasing their efforts to expand in Asian markets.

While 32.6 percent of foreign students hired during the past year graduated with a master’s degree in the sciences, about half of the students majored in the humanities or the arts, suggesting that firms want employees with a well-rounded perspective and a wide range of interests.

In addition to communicating fluently in two or more languages, foreign students’ cultural knowledge and social know-how are considered valuable assets that bring in relevant viewpoints when Japanese firms enter overseas markets.

The information in the survey is also good news for Japanese universities, which have tried, though not always successfully, to internationalize their campuses.

With the prospect of employment at the end of their studies, more foreign students will be willing to study in Japan. That in turn provides benefits to Japanese students, who will have more opportunities to study alongside students from other countries and to expand their viewpoints.

At the same time, this new hiring trend also highlights the importance of Japanese students’ studying foreign languages. Relying on foreign nationals will not be sufficient for many companies. They will also need Japanese students who have studied abroad and learned important language and cultural skills.

The future of business and education is, from this survey at least, looking more truly international than ever.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.