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Finding a place for young, foreign talent in 'unappealing' Japan

So that's how much we are disliked. According to the recently released 2017 International Institute for Management Development (IMD) World Talent Ranking, for foreign professionals and the highly educated, Japan is the least desirable place to work of all the 11 Asian countries covered. Among the 63 nations listed worldwide, Japan ranks 51st in this category.

IMD is a Lausanne, Switzerland-based business school that compiles talent rankings annually. To produce the rankings, the IMD World Competitiveness Center rates each country in 30 categories considered essential to secure highly skilled personnel.

In the 2017 version, Japan ranked 31 out of 63 overall -- right in the middle of the pack. However, in the "Foreign highly-skilled personnel are attracted to your country's business environment" category, Japan sat in 51st place and dead last in Asia, behind China (34th), India (36th), and South Korea (48th). No. 1 in Asia was Singapore, and Hong Kong was second.

Some might say that there is nothing to worry about, as we have plenty of workers here in Japan.

Sadly, it seems we do need to worry.

As the number of young people in Japan declines, the country will face not a brain drain, but a deepening brain deficit. Some projections forecast that Japan will have labor shortages in the hundreds of thousands across a number of sectors, including the blooming artificial intelligence (AI) field.

In light of the situation, the Japanese government has loosened permanent residency qualifications and made it clear that it is trying to attract top talent from abroad. However, restricting this quick road to permanent residence and other perks to foreigners who the government believes will benefit Japan is a superficial policy, and seems to be far too little, far too late to start attracting world-beating workers to our shores.

Among the IMD rating categories, there was one where Japan ranked 63rd out of 63 countries: "International experience of senior managers is generally significant." For managers with little or no experience outside Japan, it is a Herculean task to get the best out of internationally competitive staff.

It is too late to send company section chiefs and executives overseas to get international experience. That being the case, we must rely on young people to fill the gap. Instead of bowing and scraping to attract foreign talent unlikely to give Japan a second look anyway, the better route may be to turn to the foreign students already in the country, give them work and encourage them to build their careers here.

According to the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO), about 64 percent of foreign students want to find a job and stay in the country. However, only 30 percent are able to secure employment. It seems such a waste to lose so many good people who chose to come to Japan, and indeed wanted to stay. (By Yoko Fukumoto, Editorial Writer)

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