The Inside Story of Digital Technology in Japan (2019)

The Inside Story of Digital Technology in Japan (2019)

A recent article in Forbes magazine asked if “digital generals” are now as important as military generals.

For Japan the answer is a resounding ‘yes’ – especially for young consumers and increasingly, younger candidates.

According to a study by the International Telecoms Union, 99.5 per cent of Japanese people aged 15 to 24 are “digital natives” or people who have always interacted with digital technology. Japan is second only to South Korea, where the equivalent figure is 99.6 per cent.

As digital transformation takes hold here and around the world, attracting the best and brightest into Japan’s digital sector is vital.

Companies in Japan are promoting digital technology as a career through seminars and events, more attractive work cultures and internal training and development. For the younger generation, the opportunity to work with constantly evolving technology, use their business English skills and access employer-funded further educational programs is proving of great appeal.

However, as a recruitment expert on the frontline, we can see the high tech sector moving so rapidly that it’s doubtful the local talent pool can stretch far enough in the near future let alone the next decade especially given the aging population in Japan.

Japan has long been a force in the high technology sector but has seen a number of highs and lows with the decade between 2000 and 2010 a particularly bleak period. The sector is currently staging a fight back to supremacy in a number of areas against stiff regional and international competition.

The tech focus is wide ranging. Internet of Things (IoT) including industrial IoT, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics, mobile technologies and even cyber security are all in the game.

In fact, the Japanese Government is funding a pavilion at Interpol World 2017 in July to showcase the work of 10 local cyber security technology companies. The exhibition in Singapore will mark the first time Japan has taken part in a global cyber security technology of such significance.

While the US, UK, Russia, China and Israel currently lead the world in developing cyber technologies; the Japanese industry is serious about making inroads into the market – particularly across Asia.

At the Global Digital Summit held in Tokyo in May this year, the talk was of automated vehicles and aircraft for the transport industry here. Japan’s three leading mobile providers have also announced they will start offering 5G mobile to customers by 2020 with a boom in self driving technology and IoT tipped as a result.

More recent headlines herald the use of blockchain technology to create a massive property register for Japan. And information and communication technologies for the space industry is yet another area of focus receiving plenty of attention.

With advancing technologies also spanning machine learning, robotic process automation, additive manufacturing, sensors, vision systems and smart manufacturing for the auto industry, there is much for Japan to look to when it considers its future.

Closer to the here and now, we are already experiencing huge demand for Internet of Things talent in Japan. However, employers representing a wide range of applications are vying for the same qualified candidates.

Network engineermobile engineers and embedded engineers specialising in IoT at all levels are on employers “most wanted” list. Companies are also hiring high potential junior candidates they can train up to fill senior replacement roles. Jockeying for talent to help ready for the release of the LT5 car engine is particularly intense.

However, mobile engineers (both iPhone and Android) with Objective C/Swift skills and knowledge as well as Java are probably in greatest demand right now. Web engineers, Java, C# as well as CSS3, HTML5 also have their pick of jobs.

In the big data hiring space, data scientists and data analysts with skills and knowledge in SASS, Hadoop, Informatica and similar are highly sought after for e-commerce and financial technology roles.

Ideally, candidates should possess both strong Japanese and English language skills, a master’s degree from a recognised university plus have the appropriate technical skills and experience working in the financial technology sector, gaming or e-commerce arenas.

Competition for quality candidates is huge as the consumer market continues to grow and candidates are inundated with up to four offers at a time.

While speaking Japanese is an obvious advantage, companies are starting to consider casting their net wider to consider overseas candidates with niche technology skills. Such candidates are usually assisted with relocation but are employed on local terms.

We certainly see producing enough quality candidates for the digital technology sector as a significant issue for Japan going forward. Employers do need to think strategically to ensure they can find and secure their preferred candidate and fill the available roles. In one regard, they should consider the transferrable skills of current employees or interviewed candidates who have the potential and capability to thrive in areas where there is a talent shortage. Existing employees have already demonstrated their commitment and ‘fit’ within the organisation so there is opportunity to harness their obvious quality. When considering what skills are transferable, we advise employers to look at what is really essential and what is desirable in a potential candidate. Consider candidates with the right cultural fit, who have the desired behaviours and transferable skills, not just the specific background initially required. In this way, the vacancy will be opened up to a larger pool of candidates who have solid experience, suits the needs of the company, and can become a highly valued asset with little technical training.

If you would like to discuss this report in more depth or you wish to discuss your job search or recruitment needs, please email Victor, digital tech recruiting manager at