Amid changing demographics and an increasingly connected global economy, Japan’s workforce is undergoing a huge shift. To enable future economic growth, and stay competitive as organizations around the world embrace the multi-channel workforce, organizations and policymakers are challenging long-standing attitudes about how work gets done. In our ongoing series on the future of work in Japan, we take a closer look at the factors driving this transformation.
By 2040, the Japanese population of working-age adults will shrink by 20 million. By 2060, Japan’s 65+ baby boomer generation will grow from an already high 25% of the population to nearly 40%. Faced with an increasingly top-heavy population, the country as a whole is rethinking traditional attitudes about work and considering how to make the workforce more accessible to new sources of talent. Untapped resources such as part time retirees, women re-entering the workforce and candidates who choose not to be engaged on a permanent basis are prime examples.
In both the political and economic spheres, Japan is considering reforms to its current systems to make workforce participation more feasible. As organizations around the world reimagine how they source and manage talent, this leaves Japan in a precarious position. In order to survive and thrive, they must rethink their approach to the external workforce. While boosting engagement among women and retirees and enabling flexible work is necessary, it may not be enough. Japan is also looking to innovation to remain competitive.
While demographics move slowly, innovation can be realized rapidly and will perhaps have a greater impact. In spite of labor laws and cultural norms that are drastically different from most of the industrialized world, the Japanese labor market is extremely well developed. To enable future growth, technology will be a key factor.
In Japan, this broad shift is being often referred to as "Society 5.0 (Super Smart Society)." Like the concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, often referred to in discussions of the future of work in other corners of the word, Society 5.0 brings together technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and big data to drive digital transformation. One key difference in these concepts is cultural. Society 5.0 enlists technology in the service of a larger, aspirational goal of ‘harmony’ in society and at work – enabling people to engage in work on their own terms and minimizing the structural gap between the workforce and the non-working population.
Creating the workforce of the future in Japan will require rethinking traditional ideas around flexible work, a focus on innovation and further investment in technology, education and training. In the weeks ahead, we’ll take a closer look at some of these factors, and explore more ideas around the future of work in Japan.