TOKYO: As the yen remains soft against major currencies, a growing number of Japanese have begun looking for better-paying jobs overseas, with applications surging for the “working holiday” visa programme.
“I always wanted to work abroad, but the pay levels really surprised me,” said a nurse in Saitama prefecture who plans to go to Australia in October next year. “The weak yen was the deciding factor.”
The programme allows young people to spend six months to a year in other countries while working to support themselves. Japanese applicants for Australia’s working-holiday visa increased 2.4 times to around 4,600 in the year ended June.
Overall applications, many of them for Australia, doubled in the June-October period from the January-May period as the yen plunged to decadeslong lows, according to Tokyo-based study-abroad agency Wish international.
Re-abroad, which helps those looking to work or study overseas, received around 370 inquiries about working holidays in October – a quadrupling from a year earlier and up 2.9 times from October 2019, before the global spread of the coronavirus.
A man who used Re-abroad’s services to go to Canada said he now works 10-hour shifts cooking at a Japanese restaurant there five days a week. He earns 6,000 to 7,000 Canadian dollars (US$4,400 to US$5,140) a month.
“Prices are high too, but I’m planning to send money back to Japan as well,” he said.
Online searches in Japan for jobs overseas increased around 20% in mid-October from three years earlier, before the pandemic, according to job search platform Indeed. Searches tend to increase during extended holidays, such as the New Year’s period. But it is rare for them to surge in October.
Many are looking for positions in the US and Canada, as well as for working holiday placements in Australia. Some are searching for part-time jobs.
“It’s not just highly skilled individuals, who traditionally have been the ones interested in working abroad,” an Indeed staffer said. “There has been more interest among nurses, drivers and other field workers as well.”
Companies abroad are also turning their sights to the relatively cheap talent in Japan.
Wages have fallen 11% in dollar terms for junior workers in Japan and 5% for managers in December compared with two years ago, human resources consultancy Mercer estimates, based on the average July-September exchange rate of ¥135 to the dollar.
Meanwhile, the US saw a 16% jump for both junior workers and managers. Japan’s pay levels are not that much higher than those of such emerging economies as Thailand.
Deel, which helps companies hire remote workers across borders, said it is seeing a surge in interest in Japanese workers from US startups. Around 60% more Japanese nationals were working for companies in the US and elsewhere through the service in the September-November period than in the March-May period before the yen began its historic decline.
“Overseas demand for Japanese workers is growing amid a weak yen,” said Takayuki Nakajima, Deel’s country manager for Japan.
There is concern that the trend could exacerbate the country’s labour shortage. Japan’s working-age population has been trending downward since peaking in the 1990s, and the United Nations forecasts a 3% decrease between 2020 and 2025. Research company Teikoku Databank said 51.1% of Japanese companies were short of full-time employees in October – the highest percentage since the peak of the pandemic.