Written by Joanna Hughes

Good workers can be hard to find. Now comes news that Japan is plugging its labor gap with new talent: International students. Here’s a closer look at the situation, as recently reported by Nikkei Asian Review.

Booming Demand…

Under Japanese immigration law, international students are allowed to work in the jobs of their choosing for up to 28 hours a week. This makes them appealing prospects looking for employers to fill vacant positions. Take leading Japanese convenience store chain Lawson, for example. Part-time international students comprise 10,000 of its total part-time workforce of 190,000. Additionally, Lawson partners with schools to recruit language students.

While their services are particularly in demand in retail, other industries are also benefiting from hiring part-time student workers, including delivery and distribution companies and restaurants.

Benefits for Students, Too

What’s in it for the student workers, meanwhile? While money is a draw, international students are also looking for other perks, such as flexible hours and plenty of opportunities for socialization which allow them to use their Japanese language schools. Additionally, some companies may offer students the opportunity to practice how to interact with Japanese customers.

International students are also hoping that by working they’ll lighten their parents’ loads. Said 21-year-old Chinese student and Lawson worker Zhang Rui Jun, “My parents are paying for my education, but I’m already an adult and can’t keep living off of them.”

More International Hires Ahead

Currently, approximately 260,000 international students -- primarily from China, Vietnam and Nepal -- hold part-time jobs in Japan. This number is expected to rise in the years ahead.

Hiroyuki Chiba,  human resources manager at leading Japanese convenience store chain Lawson, told Nikkei Asian Review, “Their role is only going to grow as foreign visitors are expected to increase toward the 2020 Olympics.”

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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