Recently the New York Times pointed out that for cost saving purpose more and more large Japanese companies are outsourcing and sending white-collar operations to China and Southeast Asia. Unlike American companies, who focus on outsourcing to India, Japanese companies are hiring Japanese workers to do the jobs overseas. For example Transcosmos and Masterpiece have set up their call centers, data-entry offices and technical support operations staffed by Japanese workers in cities like Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei. At these sites they are paying then the Japanese workers considerably less than if they were working in Japan.
An actual statistic does not exist, but according to the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there was a net outflow of 100,000 Japanese in 2008 (newest available figure), the highest number for the past 20 years. While the number of workers sent overseas by Japanese companies on traditional expatriate packages fell 0.32 percent, the number of “independent businesspeople” and freelance contractors rose 5.69 percent.
For example Bangkok as an operation center is very attractive, because of its low costs, but good amenities. Transcosmos runs the largest Japanese call center in Bangkok, having nearly tripled its staff from 60 workers in late 2008 to now 170 staff. According to the New York Times Transcosmos pays a call center operator in Thailand a starting salary of about 30,000 baht, about less than half of the JPY 220,000 the same employee would get in Tokyo.
Japan lost 240,000 jobs in May as government statistics showed, bringing the seasonally adjusted number of people with work to a two-decade low. The unemployment rate rose to 5.2 percent. The New York times quotes Takumi Fujinami (senior economist at the Japan Research Institute): “Overcapacity and excessive competition haunt domestic Japanese industries that are battling for a shrinking economic pie. That exerts perennial pressures to reduce costs. Japanese companies can’t cut off existing employees on the lifetime roster, so they are squeezing the younger workers ever more tightly.”
According to the New York Times article Misuzu Yara (34) realized in early 2008 that job opportunities in Japan, especially in her native Okinawa were diminishing. Given an opportunity in Jakarta as a local hire, she went abroad. Surprisingly she says: “The salary as a local hire in Indonesia wasn’t very different from what you’d get in Okinawa, actually.” Her observation ist that the number of inquiries to work in Jakarta grew strongly during 2008-2009 from young Japanese workers, who had difficulty finding jobs in Japan. While they are happy at first to have found a job, but local hires do not have the same sense of job security as workers in Japan do according to Yara san.
I have to say I do admire these Japanese who grab a chance to go abroad, although it might not include the same working environment as in Japan. From personal experience I can say every step in a professional career can be an opportunity. I wish them all the best.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)